Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond, takes on the tough questions of "Why are some human societies less materially developed than others?", "Why did some societies reach high levels of social organization such as the nation state while others remain as nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers?", "Why did some societies develop writing and literature while others did not?"
Too often, in the common imagination, such discrepancies have been explained by biology: Aboriginal Australians and Amazonian Indians are just not naturally as intelligent as the English or the Japanese. And too often, avowed non-racists who reject these ideas secretly fear that they are true, for a plethora of pseudo-scientific "evidence" for "black and brown inferiority" exists out there, and while their critics are many, there are few who offer strong scientific evidence to the contrary.
Author Jared Diamond, a professor of physiology at UCLA, believes that Australians, New Guineans, Africans and indigenous Americans are not genetically inferior to or less intelligent than Europeans and Asians.
Why, then, do New Guineans and other peoples have less materially developed societies than Europeans and Asians? Diamond examines how societies are molded by geography. Drawing from his knowledge of plant and animal biology, Diamond constructs a model for understanding how natural conditions affecting population density, plant growth and domesticable animal species can influence everything from the evolution of germs to the development of writing and the organization of government.
The author's credentials as a scientist and a university professor should not distance the contents of this book from the general audience. Guns, Germs and Steel is neither boring nor pedantic. In fact, Diamond enlivens the text with engaging anecdotes from his field work in countries such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea .
Guns, Germs, and Steel was first published in 1997 by W. W. Norton and Co. It became a national bestseller, and Professor Diamond received many awards, including the 1998 Pulitzer Prize.
Although the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel has been interviewed on National Public Radio, most everyday people are still unfamiliar with his ideas. It is unfortunate that not more people are reading Guns, Germs, and Steel because this great book has the explanatory power to challenge and dispel the modern racist ideas many of us hold so dear but yet are afraid even to admit to ourselves that we believe them.