Monday, October 04, 2021

Non-racial Explanations for European Superiority

Jerry Barnett writes in Quillette:
Guns, Germs, and Steel is a Powerful Anti-Racist Book. So Why Doesn’t the Left Love It?

[Jared] Diamond went on, six years later, to publish his best-known book, Guns, Germs, and Steel. It set out to explain in vivid detail, region by region, and era by era, how some branches of humanity came to dominate and even eradicate others. ...

GGS provides an account of the entirety of human history over the past 13,000 years, since humans began to transition from hunting and gathering lifestyles into food-producing ones. ...

GGS opens by considering an apparently simple question that Diamond had been asked years earlier by Yali, a New Guinean politician: Why did Europeans have so much cargo (technologies and manufactured goods), while New Guineans had so little? To extend the question: Why are some societies so much more technologically and economically developed than others? It seems astonishing that such an obvious question about human history should still be either difficult or controversial to answer, but it is both.

The real problem with the book is that its explanations are speculations for things that happened millennia ago, but he has nothing to explain the last 500 years, when Europe leap-frogged way ahead of the rest of the world.

Diamond doesn’t try to deny that there may be marked genetic differences between different branches of humanity—indeed, early in the book, he makes a strong (possibly devil’s advocate) case as to why he believes New Guinean highlanders may have evolved to be more intelligent than Europeans.
Okay, I guess that is why leftists were supposed to like the books. Europeans are less intelligent than the most primitive people on Earth.
If the racist Right believed that global disparities resulted from innate differences in ability, then the anti-racist Left would provide its own counter-explanation. The answer it found was systemic racism—the idea that white success and dominance resulted from oppression by whites of all other groups.

Systemic racism can explain, at least partly, the significant economic gap between blacks and whites in the United States, and also in South Africa, but this idea applies in few other parts of the world.

It does not apply in the USA either, as systemic racism does got explain any of the White/Black gaps.

Barnett goes on to discuss Diamond's theories for what happened 13,000 years ago, but all of the developmental advantages were in China, Persia, Mideast, Africa, and India.

A similar case against white superiority is made by the New Guinea highlanders, who by 9,000 years ago (long before agriculture had reached Europe) had developed one of the most sophisticated systems of agriculture on the planet.
Again, none of this explains why Europe passed up everybody 500 years ago.

There are explanations available, and I have posted some on this blog.

I think that Diam was a big hero to the Left for this book. It won many prizes, in spite of many defects. He has many dubious generalizations about ancient societies lacking a written record.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust and the atrocities committed by European empires, the Western world awoke to the horrors that humans are capable of committing against those they perceived to be inferior.
Barnett is losing me here. XXth century atrocities were not particularly European, as they were also in Russia, China, Cambodia, Turkey, Africa, etc. And they were not against those perceived to be inferior. There were usually ethnic and political reasons.
It is not surprising in this context that postwar liberals set out to eliminate the concept of race from Western thinking.
On the contrary, liberals do everything to try to force everyone into racial thinking. The conservatives are the only ones trying to be race neutral today.
But in doing so, the Left has progressively painted itself into an ideological corner. Guns, Germs, and Steel advanced the discussion by providing a powerful explanation for disparities in outcome that relied neither on racial differences nor on a belief in invisible power structures, and on that basis deserves to be seen as an important contribution to the ongoing battle for equal rights.
Except that Diamond's arguments are scientifically dubious, that they fail to explain modern disparities anyway, and that they do not do anything to support the racial hatred that today's Left is founded on.

I am glad to see Quillette try to address these grand questions of human history, but I don't think the Left of today has much interest in non-racial explanations for European advancement. They would be all about hating Whites, no matter how Whites got where they are.

MIT just canceled a big invited geophysics lecture, because the speaker expressed opinions of race neutrality. So favoring race neutrality does not help with today's Left.

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