All Humans Are a Little Bit Neanderthal, According to New Research

At least they didn’t trash the planet, unlike Homo Sapiens is doing right now.

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I don’t see the racist undertones since he is essentially arguing that if mainland European and Asian people were put in these same environments they wouldn’t have advanced either.

I would also agree with those who say that Diamond only has part of the picture. Rarely do simple explanations give us the full picture within anthropology.

There may very well be a cultural influence on advancements in technology. To give Diamond a fair shake, we would also have to ask if Australia had plants and animals that were conducive to domestication.

I haven’t read the academic criticisms of GGS, but they certainly look to be worth some time. I may peruse them in the future.

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I agree, but some people don’t see it that way. They think he’s saying some people were able to overcome their environments and other people weren’t, or something. Thus.

Other critics say that for all of Diamond’s efforts to combat racism, he has botched discussion of race, especially in Africa.

And when someone writes an article with a title like this, you know what to expect.

Absolutely. I do think his work illuminates an important part of the puzzle.

As far as animals are concerned, I think that’s an overwhelming no. Certainly, and this is a big issue, Australia had no domesticable animals suitable as beasts of burden. In other parts of the world, even a cow was a massive labor multiplier, making a huge contribution to economic development.

As far as plants are concerned, this is a murkier area. There are some arguments for semi-domestication or proto-domestication of some seed crops, but there’s very scanty evidence. Generally speaking I think Diamond is correct; Australia had no native grain crop such as corn, barley, or rice, which produces multiple grain from a single seed. This shortcut to a food surplus definitely had a huge impact on the economies of societies elsewhere in the world.

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Diamond also makes the point that Eurasia benefitted from its East-West orientation that made the spread of crops and animals much simpler. The Americas didn’t have this advantage, and various bands of jungle and desert made any interaction difficult. Australia was wholly on its own.

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Don’t know much about Australia’s natural crops, but for civilization you need to be able to produce grain or rice, something that has a high enough yield to let a sizable portion of the population to not farm. When corn became plentiful in the Americas you saw the rise of impressive empires. After that I agree that access to resources and cultural ideas can sway things considerably.

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Thanks for those links. They are very helpful for understanding the debate—but YIKES. It sure sounds like some people just want to take Diamond down a notch.

I never got the impression that Jared Diamond thought biogeograhy was the only cause of differences in the accumulation of technology, knowledge, and resources in various cultures. I’m all for exploring the many additional factors contributing to differences among cultures but I don’t see any reason for some to think they have to vilify Diamond in order to do that.

I remain a big fan of Diamond—in part because he has been able to communicate some important ideas to so many people outside of his academic field, including some of the general public. I even find myself referring to Diamond’s work in sermons and theology classes, including a recent Wednesday evening series where some of the students’ questions led me to explain the irrational nature of racism.

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That’s a very important point which sometimes get lost in popular summarizations of Diamond’s work. Indeed, I must confess that when I breeze through a description of GGS, I sometimes fail to give that east-to-west geographic factor enough emphasis.

I believe Jared Diamond’s work makes it much easier for me to explain to non-academics why the foolishness of racism ignores so many basic facts of history and geography.

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Some people think that Diamond is explaining (or explaining away, or dismissing, or even justifying), the general north/south wealth divide, which they view as the product of Western colonialization and imperialism. I think this is a misreading of Diamond, and in some cases it seems to be blatantly deliberate. For example, Diamond seeks to explain why the Australian Aborigines had a pre-Neolithic level of technology for around 30,000 years before contact with Westerners. Colonization and imperialism cannot explain this, and they are irrelevant to it.

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I think there’s some good discussion on this through the the thread and climate definitely should come in to play:
http://humanorigins.si.edu/research/climate-and-human-evolution/climate-effects-human-evolution

Apparently some of the periods of biggest average growth of brain size occurred during periods of climate instability. As far as the past 10,000 years, perhaps climate stability has been particularly helpful.

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Is it absolutely conclusive that Neanderthals were cognitively different to us, or is it that they just had a more relaxed attitude to life and didn’t prioritize the same things?

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I’m not sure but climate stability (the most recent period of 10 kya) seems to be important for our species but Neanderthals were gone by this point. I would need to do a lot of looking, but it seems plausible that some technology is driven out of necessity. Basically, there were bigger barriers that neanderthals needed to overcome to advance their hunting and storage techniques to the advance of technology starting with agriculture in homo sapiens. Or I’m just spouting off nonsense so, I’m not really sure.

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