February 20, 2012

Cochran on Diamond's domestication argument

Jared Diamond's early 1990s book The Third Chimpanzee was a collection of smart magazine-writing at an admirably high level. Thus, the disappointment among his earliest fans over his long, tedious, tendentious and not terribly unpersuasive 1997 follow-up Guns, Germs, and Steel. Not surprisingly, GG&S was a huge hit. Undigested parts of GG&S became globs of the conventional wisdom. For example, one of the book's most popular ideas is that non-Europeans fell behind in global competition because they lacked native animals suitable for exploitation other than as meat. 

At West Hunter, Greg Cochran scratches his head over this: 
He claims that since Africans and Amerindians were happy to adopt Eurasian domesticated animals when they became available, it must be that that suitable local animals just didn’t exist. But that’s a non sequitur: making use of an already-domesticated species is not at all the same thing as the original act of domestication. That’s like equating using a cell phone with inventing one. He also says that people have had only mixed success in recent domestication attempts – but the big problem there is that a newly domesticated species doesn’t just have to be good, it has to be better than already-existing domestic animals. 
Indian elephants, although not truly domesticated, are routinely tamed and used for work in Southern Asia. The locals in Sub-Saharan Africa seem never to have done this with African elephants – but it is possible. The Belgians, in the Congo, hired Indian mahouts to tame African elephants, with success. It’s still done in the Congo, on a very limited scale, and elephants have recently been tamed in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, such as the Okavango delta. Elephants have long generations, which makes true domestication difficult, but people have made domestication attempts with eland, African buffalo, and oryx.  They’re all tameable, and eland have actually been domesticated to some extent.  ... 

It's not exactly a secret that Africa invaded Europe on the backs of elephants in 218 BC under Hannibal of Carthage. Of course, those weren't unusable African elephants, those were useful North African elephants, which, conveniently enough, are said to be extinct. But, obviously, Hannibal's elephants must have been fundamentally genetically different from current African elephants, which proved so useless to sub-Saharan Africans. If only elephants with the right kind of genes had existed in sub-Saharan Africa, then sub-Saharans might have conquered Europe, instead of the other way around.
In fact, in my mind the real question is not why various peoples didn’t domesticate animals that we know were domesticable, but rather how anyone ever managed to domesticate the aurochs. At least twice. Imagine a longhorn on roids: they were big and aggressive, favorites in the Roman arena.

More fundamentally, Diamond is arguing for absolute genetic determinism operating within closely related kinds of animals to deny any relative genetic influence among humans. 

A less extremist view is that nature and nurture both play a role among both animals and humans. But intellectual moderation only gets you in trouble these days.

57 comments:

Acilius said...

"It's not exactly a secret that Africa invaded Europe on the backs of elephants in 218 BC under Hannibal of Carthage." Well, according to Cato the Elder only one of the Carthaginian elephants, Hannibal's personal pet Surus, survived the passage across the Alps. A far more impressive encounter between the Romans and an elephant-borne force had occurred 62 years earlier, when King Pyrrhus of Epirus landed in Italy with some elephants he had borrowed from Egypt's King Ptolemy II. And it is by no means clear that what species of elephants either Pyrrhus' herd or Surus and his companions were. Plenty of scholars think that both groups were likelier to have been Asian elephants sent along from the Hellenized East than to have been African elephants who had somehow been brought north.

Ed said...

Huh? I have no expertise in animal husbandry, but the North African element was very different from the sub-Saharan element, and the species did go extinct. Also they didn't help Hannibal that much (a piece of common wisdom, that turns out to be remarkably accurate, about military history during the Hellenistic period is that the side with the most elephants always loses).

I think Steve is opting to ride a number of his hobby horses re Diamond. Anyway as far as the Western Hemisphere goes, the idea that the lack of domesticated anlmals handicapped the development of Amerindian societies to some extent has a long history, and is not particularly debatable. What is more arguable is whether this also applies to subsaharan Africa. But Diamond's argument isn't that sub-Saharan African animals can't be domesticated, its just that it is harder to do this than in Eurasia (for one thing there is a longer history of coexisting as wild animals with humans), and with these things its the comparative (dis) advantage that counts.

RKU said...

Isn't one of the main arguments that since people and large mammals had co-evolved in the Old World, most of those mammals survived by gradually getting smarter or more cautious, hence they were still available for domestication once people started getting smart enough to do that. But in the New World, the large mammals were totally unadapted to man, so something like 95% or 99% of all the species were rapidly exterminated once people arrived. There were still some species available for possible domestication, but far, far fewer than on the other landmass, making the process much more difficult. After all, merely a handful of Old World species were ever domesticated over tens of thousands of years.

Since it's been so many years, I can't remember whether this argument came from Diamond or someone else entirely.

Henry Canaday said...

At a very primitive level, the first step toward domesticating a wild animal is to avoid eating every single member of the species that is trustful or curious enough to come near you or let you approach it.

beowulf said...

The locals in Sub-Saharan Africa seem never to have done this with African elephants – but it is possible. The Belgians, in the Congo, hired Indian mahouts to tame African elephants, with success.

Just as the point of The Dog Whisperer is watching Cesar Millan retrain incompetent owners and not their dogs, the parsiminous explanation here is that the elephants weren't the problem. Perhaps Indians simply had a greater aptitude (call it the Cesar factor) for animal handling than Africans.

Olave d'Estienne said...

Jared Diamond said people from New Guinea are smarter than people from North America, because the former can stay on trails in dense jungle while the latter watch too much TV.

Diamond is a sniveling leftist anti-white bigot, simple as that.

Marlowe said...

I immediately thought: Hannibal must have been fundamentally genetically different from current Africans and indeed he was a Phoenician. Interestingly, the whole invade Rome across the Alps scheme originated with his brother-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair who suffered assassination before he could put it into play. Saying Africa invaded Europe is a little like claiming the Americas invaded Europe on June 6, 1944.

Marlowe said...

Keep turning the wheel and look to windward, now & then, Mr. Sailer. To Carthage then I came burning burning burning burning

Anonymous said...

elephants are cool; the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind, according to Aristotle.

Anonymous said...

Egypt and Libya--civilized parts of North Africa--had contacts with Sudan and other parts of Africa, so Egyptian/Libyan use of cows and other animals could have been adopted and spread south to Subsaharan Africa. But it didn't happen. That is the real question that should be asked. For 1000s of yrs, part of black Africa had greater/closer access to North Africa than Europeans did. Why was civilization able to spread up north but not down south? Even if there were no domesticatable animals in black Africa, cattle and horses in North Africa could have spread south. Why didn't that happen?

Anonymous said...

Timbuktu was a black library filled with Arab books. But blacks burned it down to the ground, and that was that. So, literary culture didn't spread through black Africa. Too many blacks acted like 'youths'.

jewamongyou said...

If anybody's interested, here's my critique of Guns, Germs and Steel:

http://jewamongyou.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/guns-germs-and-steel/

Rachelle said...

I think the elephants used by the Carthaginians probably were North African elephants. For one thing, Carthaginian coins showing elephants depict slightly smaller animals than Indian elephants.

On the other hand, the elephants Pyrrhus used to terrorize the Romans [and Carthaginians] were likely Indian elephants since the Greek world had been making use of them at least since the time of Alexander.

In any event, Indians, Greeks, and Carthaginians were able to tame elephants enough to use them in battle. Sub-Saharan Africans have had little success taming anything.

The problem probably does not lie with the elephant genome wherever it is found.

Anonymous said...

Diamond is wrong, wrong, wrong (although he is absoultly pollitically correct)!

Africa is/was the perfect place to domesticate animals and plants, because of it's massive size, extremely varried clmates, geography, altitude, and latitude, and great diversity of potentially useful wild species.

But, alas, domestication requires high human IQ, future time orientation, patience, sacrifice, and hard work. These traits are unequally distributed among human populations.

Birdman said...

"More fundamentally, Diamond is arguing for absolute genetic determinism operating within closely related kinds of animals to deny any relative genetic influence among humans. "

That's a helluva sentence.

Anonymous said...

Can we domesticate whim?

B├ębert said...

Africa is/was the perfect place to domesticate animals and plants, because of it's massive size, extremely varried clmates, geography, altitude, and latitude, and great diversity of potentially useful wild species.

And this is exactly the reason, I suspect, that sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants in the West as a group have never accomplished... anything. With such perfect conditions, there is no incentive to adapt, no environmental selection pressures compelling groups to either master their environment or go extinct, no sieve through which only the most genetically fit pass.

It is thus only in higher latitudes, where the punishment for lack of abstract thought, planning for the future and all that, is certain death, where you see true advancement.

A good, albeit rough, analogy is comparing a rich kid and a poor one. Assuming they start life with the same IQ, you will see a much greater depth of character in the final analysis of the latter. Why? It all comes down to incentives.

For the former, life is handed to him on a silver platter. Why should he improve himself, work hard in school, attain satisfaction with himself? There is no incentive.

With the latter, however, nothing is given. He must undertake the project of his existence, as Ortega observed, with nothing to aid him but his own will and his own conscience.

People only develop and improve under adverse circumstances, not comfortable ones. Ignorance of this fact is the gaping hole in the progressive worldview. I would use Frederick Douglass as an example. Given nothing, he strove to become, and eventually succeeding in being, the artificer of himself. He had an incentive to change, exemplified by his realization of the benefits of literacy, and thus he did. It was do or die for him.

Now, I'm not suggesting that blacks ought to be enslaved, as some wiseacre might comment, but simply pointing out that--and this is one thing at least that holds true for all people anywhere and at any time--people don't improve themselves because it's virtuous to do so, they improve because it's advantageous to do so. If there's no advantage in self-improvement, if the results are the same either way, why bother?

Anonymous said...

"Can we domesticate whim?"

You can moderate it.

Abe Fauxman said...

Your racist stance aimed at our darker brothers reaches a new low today.

What are you going to argue next?

Where there is a will, there is a way to tame what, zebras, maybe?

Anonymous said...

The Diamond position boils down to a basic "Whites folks caught all the breaks, those other guys, they coulda been contenders - but for their shitty luck."

And thus its up to the wise & benevolent to share out that luck, to punish those white cheaters - then everything will be OK.

Anonymous said...

"For the former, life is handed to him on a silver platter. Why should he improve himself, work hard in school, attain satisfaction with himself? There is no incentive.

There might be some truth to that, but Bill Gates came from a pretty wealthy family and he did well. His father was a pretty big lawyer. Sure, he was not super rich, but they were upper 2-3% at least.

the literate llama said...

You're ignoring the circus elephant in the room: quantities of feed required and maintenance of elephant stables. Think about it.

T. O . Meehan said...

In the Americas camelids were domesticated but never bred for size, so there was no Aztec Camel Corps. I don't think the Indians of the North ever domesticated reindeer (Caribou) in the way Lapps and Siberians did. Was there ever an attempt to domesticate Musk Oxen? I see no evidence of it. The American Indians mined copper and other metals in a limited way but never developed metal working technology to any great extent. This despite some sedentary cultures with plenty of time on their hands. American Indians used dogs for both food and transport via travois but never thought to add wheels/rollers.

No, a paucity of animals or minerals cannot account for retarded development in these regions.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question.
The dry grasslands of east Africa have supported herds of domesticated hoofed animals (intially imported from elsewhere) for centuries.
The tseste fly is said to big destroyer of hoofed animals there.
On the other hand tropical west Africa where most American blacks originated has a very unhealthy hot, humid climate that is simply unconducive to the health of any large domestic beast.

Anonymous said...

The Carthaginians originated from Lebanon.They were 'Africans' in name only.
Hence 'Punic' as in 'Punic wars' - punic is a corruption of Phoenician.
The modern inhabitants of Malta are believed to be the direct descendants of the ancient Carthaginians.

dearieme said...

They can show a bit of fortitude, your Maltese: the only country in the British Empire to be awarded a collective George Cross.

David said...

>More fundamentally, Diamond is arguing for absolute genetic determinism operating within closely related kinds of animals to deny any relative genetic influence among humans.<

Although animals are still fun to talk about, Steve here delivered a knockout blow to Diamond's thesis.

Anonymous said...

People don't make bad continents, wildlife does.

Gilbert Pinfold

Chicago said...

Diamond seemed reasonable early on but then later went off the deep end with his hero-worship of the Papua New Guineans as the greatest, smartest folks in the universe. No question, he's contaminated scientific inquiry with his politics and is thus an unreliable source of information.

Peter said...

It is thus only in higher latitudes, where the punishment for lack of abstract thought, planning for the future and all that, is certain death, where you see true advancement.

Tropical parts of Southeast Asia and India, and the subtropical parts of southern China, all saw a decent degree of advancement.

Matt Weber said...

Diamond's problem in his book seems to be that his politics get in the way of his thesis, which has merit but can't be the smoking gun explanation he wants it to be. Just as the IQ thesis probably has something to it but can't explain everything. In general, you can't boil something complex like human society down to one or two factors.

In any case, it should be a moot point. Whatever the past travails of Africans vis-a-vis domestication of native animals, they have access to all sorts of domesticated animals these days so if that were the controlling factor then Africa should be doing just fine now. Obviously something else is going on.

Jack Quinn said...

T.O. Meehan wrote:

"This despite some sedentary[Indian] cultures with plenty of time on their hands."

Yes, the Apaches preferred to eat their horses while the badass Comanches boasted the most skilled cavalry and horse breeding skills on the western Plains.

The Spanish abandoned their horses when they lost their territory and these horses reentered the wild and were re-domesticated by the Comanches. Not until the Texas Rangers, post-Civil War cavalry(Mackenzie), disease and repeating longarms plus revolvers were the Comanche bands finally brought to heel. 40 years of brutal guerrilla warfare against the technologically advanced White tribe...not bad for an estimated 20 - 25 thousand primitives.

Oh yes - and some late stage White inbreeding (Quanah Parker) prolonged things a bit.

http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Summer-Moon-ebook/dp/B003KN3MDG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329836652&sr=8-1

Bill said...

Birdman said...
"More fundamentally, Diamond is arguing for absolute genetic determinism operating within closely related kinds of animals to deny any relative genetic influence among humans. "

That's a helluva sentence.


Years ago, a commenter on this site, I think, had a wonderful coinage which went something like:

Shorter Diamond:
Differences among races are caused by genes, plant genes.

Anonymous said...

If African environment made the African elephant more difficult to handle than the Asian elephant, why couldn't it made the black African more difficult to handle--and domesticate--than other races evolved elsewhere?

Anonymous said...

This is why Buchanan, for all his good qualities, is an idiot. In this day and age, he's still arguing for the prosecution in the Scopes Trial. Funny considering he just got 'blacklisted' for dangerous ideas.

Marlowe said...

Mr. Diamond got himself into a spot of bother a few years back with his lefty brothers when he wrote an New York Magazine article describing one of his Papua New Guinean assistants as involved in a murder brought about by clan rivalry and feuding. The man objected strongly to his characterization and Mr. Diamond had a lot of dancing on the spot to do when the left decided he had painted an evil, racist, Heart of Darkness picture of the 'natives'. It does seem as if he played fast and loose with the facts however and added a measure of imaginative embellishment. Staying PC involves walking a razor's edge; at any time, one may stand revealed as a counter-revolutionary wrecker & saboteur.

Marlowe said...

I also wonder a propos of the Diamond controversy quite how Mr. Pinker in his most recent work (Better Angels) has evaded similar denunciation (if he has suffered condemnation, I've not seen it) for stating that primitive cultures engage in far more lethal violence than the more civilized. Mr. Diamond illustrated the proposition with an example drawn from life and found himself in very hot water. Whereas Mr. Pinker remains cool. Has he escaped censure because his argument relegates the primitive violence to historic cultures long since departed the worldly stage? How did he deal with the survival of living fossils such as the Papuans - something Mr. Diamond described in Third Chimpanzee as I recall when he discussed the discovery of the occluded highlands of the island during the 1930s and the opportunity it afforded his profession to study a pristine example of early man, preserved from the ancient past and unsullied by modern developments. The conclusion one might draw from Mr. Pinker's argument is that peoples only newly emerged from the primitive condition into the modern world may retain, purely on cultural grounds, a propensity to violent resolution of personal difficulties uncommon among civilized men.

Propeller Island said...

"American Indians used dogs for both food and transport via travois but never thought to add wheels/rollers."

Wheels are quite useless in almost all natural terrains. Travois works better. The original inventors of the wheel must have already had roads (well, wide packed-dirt trails) before they invented the wheel.

rob said...

The black track record with animals domesticated by others is not very good. There are African dog breeds, but none were bred by Black Africans. In the US, blacks are breeding a wide variety of dogs into a relatively uniform mix: big stocky dog, savage. That's closer to un-domesticating.

Camlost said...

Tropical parts of Southeast Asia and India, and the subtropical parts of southern China, all saw a decent degree of advancement.

With that advancement primarily powered by those who migrated from more northerly latitudes.

Anonymous said...

Hyenas are being domesticated in Ethiopia & used to clear markets at night.

ben tillman said...

Diamond's problem in his book seems to be that his politics get in the way of his thesis, which has merit but can't be the smoking gun explanation he wants it to be.

His thesis does not have merit. In fact, it's virtually self-refuting.

Diamond’s thesis stated at page 25 of Guns, Germs & Steel:

Authors are regularly asked by journalists to summarize a long book in one sentence. For this book, here is such a sentence: ‘History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.”

The rather obvious hole in this thesis: environmental differences produce biological differences.

Diamond posits geological differentiation as causing cultural differentiation. Of course, this differentiation results in different selective pressures and, therefore, biological differences.

Humans migrated out of Africa many thousands of years before the advent of agriculture 13,000 years ago (to use Diamond’s date). Thus, if the first migration of homo sapiens out of Africa occurred roughly 110,000 years ago, humans had several thousand generations in which to adapt to new and different environments, even before the advent of agriculture, which accelerated changes in population size, social organization, and technology. And, thereafter, humans had another 500 generations to adapt to their diverse geographic environments and their continually diversifying cultural environments. (See Cochran & Harpending's The 10000 Year Explosion.)

Although environmental differences started this “feedback loop” (as Rushton terms it), biological differences must have arisen long before the historical events Diamond discusses and have continued to be shaped up to the present.

Thus, Diamond concedes all the facts necessary to refute it as long as we accept the law of natural selection.

If Diamond's thesis were a legal claim, it would lose on summary judgment.

Paul Mendez said...

Where there is a will, there is a way to tame what, zebras, maybe?

IIRC, Diamond said that Africans did not domesticate the zebra because they are mean, and they instinctively duck when you try to throw a lasso over their heads.

When I read that passage, I remember wondering how Diamond knew that the extinct early ponies the Eurasians domesticated were any less mean or any more amenable to having ropes thrown over their heads. For all we know, those wild horses may have been twice as ornery as zebras.

Steve Sailer said...

If you are ever at the San Diego zoo, check out the herd of wild horses from Mongolia (they have a Polish name). They're terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Steve, this is great stuff. How can we make a donation to you? Your Paypal link doesn't work, and the Vdare link redirects to their general non-Steve donation page.

Anonymous said...

Mr Diamond did have this neat paragraph on mating in PNG. I don't know if marrying your husband's murderer equals maximum hypergamy, but it has a respectable European pedigree (Hamlet's mum, Isabella of France, Mary Queen of Scots and Peggy Gordon of Brackley):


"Woman after woman, when asked to name her husband, named several sequential husbands who had died violent deaths. A typical answer went like this: "My first husband was killed by Elopi raiders. My second husband was killed by a man who wanted me, and who became my third husband. That husband was killed by the brother of my second husband, seeking to avenge his murder."

Laban

Marlowe said...

When is a horse not a horse? When he's the famous Mr. Ed:

During the filming of the pilot episode, production costs mounted as the recalcitrant horse cast as Mister Ed refused to perform on cue (if it performed at all), resulting in large expenditures to cover the costs of additional training fees and wasted footage.

The producers of the show were ready to throw in the towel and write off the venture when one of the putative Mister Ed's trainers came up with a solution: the nearby Jungleland animal park in Thousand Oaks, California, had a trained Grevy's zebra that was being used in live shows for the park's daily tour visitors. The zebra (a female, called "Amelia" by its Jungleland handlers) was trained to perform many of the same actions (e.g. opening and closing its mouth, stamping its feet on cue) required in the Mr. Ed role, and Jungleland consented to let her out for a few days' filming.

Amelia worked out fantastically well, exceeding everyone's expectations, and the pilot was quickly wrapped up and sold to the syndication market. The producers made generous donations to Jungleland in exchange for continued use of Amelia, and she appeared in all the syndicated episodes as well as all the shows comprising the series' entire five year run on CBS. Amelia retired to Jungleland when Mr. Ed was canceled after the 1965-66 season, where she lived for three years before being sold at auction when Jungleland closed in 1969.


Perhaps the young Mr. Diamond was taken in by the TV show?

Hunsdon said...

Steve said: If you are ever at the San Diego zoo, check out the herd of wild horses from Mongolia (they have a Polish name). They're terrifying.

Hunsdon replied: Przewalski's horse! On one of my favorite trips ever, I went to Mongolia. We finished up our work early one week and went to the national park where the "taki" (Mongolian for their indigenous horse) was being reintroduced. Marmots bigger than a linebacker's thigh, golden eagles wheeling high overhead, and these stocky, stiff maned horses running loose. It was incredible. The whole trip reinforced, doubly redoubled, my enthusiasm for Central Asia.

Marlowe said...

The Diamond quote about the high mortality rate among husbands on Papua New Guinea suggests a potential explanation for why women divorce more readily than men: lifelong marriage was highly unusual from the female point of view in the human ancestral environment. If most women enjoyed multiple husbands in prehistory the trait may have survived into the modern population despite the development of a kinder, gentler, less violent civilized world as described by Mr. Pinker. Men now live too long and women still move to an ancient rhythm.

Heavy D said...

So what? Firstly what are the natural fauna or possible domesticates of west africa? Secondly what animals were domesticated in europe? draw the correct conclusions from the facts!

Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

The Russians managed to domesticate an animal that was considered completely wild.. the Silver Fox

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesticated_silver_fox

It took 50 years.

You can now buy them as pets.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Someone commented derisively:L

"Jared Diamond said people from New Guinea are smarter than people from North America, because the former can stay on trails in dense jungle while the latter watch too much TV."

That is quite sensible, though, if we think of "smarter" as "wiser" or "making a better use of their time".

Nielson said...


"Jared Diamond said people from New Guinea are smarter than people from North America, because the former can stay on trails in dense jungle while the latter watch too much TV."

That is quite sensible, though, if we think of "smarter" as "wiser" or "making a better use of their time".


You make the mistake of assuming the good peoples of New Guinea are making a free and well-informed choice to orienteer in the jungle rather than watch crap America TV.

No doubt, given the choice of a lazy boy, case of beer and 200 channel of DirecTV, the New Guinea peoples would prove even more idiotic than their boob tube addicted American analogs.

Anonymous said...

But, obviously, Hannibal's elephants must have been fundamentally genetically different from current African elephants, which proved so useless to sub-Saharan Africans.

Human biodiversity, not elephant biodiversity? ;P

For all that Diamond's assertions are basically not tested and he has never expressed genuine interest in doing so.

Matt said...

RKU:Isn't one of the main arguments that since people and large mammals had co-evolved in the Old World, most of those mammals survived by gradually getting smarter or more cautious, hence they were still available for domestication once people started getting smart enough to do that. But in the New World, the large mammals were totally unadapted to man, so something like 95% or 99% of all the species were rapidly exterminated once people arrived.

I think Diamond makes this argument, and also a kind of argument that Eurasia is "Goldilocks" territory in that the animals are just familiar enough to man to survive, but not too familiar to be aggressive.

Which is a weird argument to make and then make the argument that Bison and Bighorn Sheep are too aggressive to be tamed. And it's a weirder argument to make that African animals are more familiar with man when Homo Erectus and its descendents was pretty much everywhere in the world at a similar time depth (the radiation of HE was extremely rapid), unless you want to pin everything on animals being familar with H Sap, which is weird again as H Sap radiated very rapidly as well.

Anonymous said...

"More fundamentally, Diamond is arguing for absolute genetic determinism operating within closely related kinds of animals to deny any relative genetic influence among humans."

10/10

.
"Hyenas are being domesticated in Ethiopia & used to clear markets at night."

Ethiopians also tamed elephants apparently. The only ones in SSA it seems.

.
"I don't know if marrying your husband's murderer equals maximum hypergamy"

It's not hypergamy it's fear.

Anonymous said...

Diamond left me cold. Too many ludicrous claims. Possible domestic African animals aside, at one point he claims China's geography made political centralisation more likely there than in Europe. I realised then he had no more idea of Europe's geography than he did China's. I came across one example after another of dubious -- sometimes obviously false -- statements.
It's incredible that such an obviously ridiculous work gained all the kudos that it did...
...or else, this is your brain on political correctness.