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Author Topic: Guns, Germs, and Steel  (Read 5965 times)
frogfactory
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« Reply #15 on: January 05, 2013, 7:31:09 AM »

I don't question the smartness or otherwise of PNGeans, just the loopy logic.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #16 on: January 05, 2013, 9:33:34 AM »

So, Oldfullprof, "macro theory" means "doesn't have to explain all the phenomena nor does it have to address counterarguments"?

I have no idea what a quasiexperiment is because we don't do that in my branches of science.  However, I'm very familiar with observational science, which is what Diamond could have done and should have done.  Observational science involves looking at the data, figuring out what variables matter, and then purposefully looking for situations where the variables have different levels to see what happened.  Then, one makes a model about what should happen in other combinations of variables, searches for new situations, and compares, refining the model as necessary.

Diamond fails on that part because he cherry picked and ignored big factors.  You may not like the anthro piece or other things people here have cited, but pointing out counterexamples or ignored major variables is a valid technique to critique scientific theories in my world.
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spork
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« Reply #17 on: January 05, 2013, 1:40:19 PM »

There is also Yali's Question by Errington and Gewertz, which I haven't read yet but which comes highly recommended.
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a.k.a. gum-chewing monkey in a Tufts University jacket

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oldfullprof
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« Reply #18 on: January 05, 2013, 5:29:07 PM »

So, Oldfullprof, "macro theory" means "doesn't have to explain all the phenomena nor does it have to address counterarguments"?

I'm surprised that you think the arguments on the anthro page are counterarguments.  Look, I'm enough of a Weberian to believe that when we do science, we should operate "value free," at least during the scientific process.  The arguments posed there are wishes for morality to have played more of a role in history than it probably actually played, for "superstructural" institutions to have played more of a role than they played, etc.  To a materialist, GGS is compelling.  Here's an unattributed quote from the Inside Higher Ed page that discusses why academics often put their wishes ahead of "science" in reference to GGS:

"Both Savage Minds pieces seem to exhibit one of the worst tics of the academic left -- a tendency to evaluate arguments exclusively with reference to whether or not they might, in some distorted form, serve the rhetorical purposes of one’s political opponents."

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/08/03/ggs#ixzz2H8ZKskOA
Inside Higher Ed

Quote
I have no idea what a quasiexperiment is because we don't do that in my branches of science.  However, I'm very familiar with observational science, which is what Diamond could have done and should have done.  Observational science involves looking at the data, figuring out what variables matter, and then purposefully looking for situations where the variables have different levels to see what happened.  Then, one makes a model about what should happen in other combinations of variables, searches for new situations, and compares, refining the model as necessary.

Diamond fails on that part because he cherry picked and ignored big factors. 

So after Diamond figures out what variables matter (check,) looks for situations that have different levels of them (check,) makes a model (check,) and applies it to new situations (check,) he's still not practicing "observational science," whatever that is?  One person's "cherry picking," by the way, is another person's model creating.  What I especially like about GGS is that it omits ideational, moral, and cultural factors.

It's a quasi-experiment (one that occurs naturalistically,) by the way, because the researcher looks for places where most, some, or none of the independent variables occured, and sees whether or not they produced the result.  Expansion and domination <- large domestic animals + multiple usable grains + ...

I do have to say that I'm amazed that you are taking the anthro critique page you affixed seriously.  It's about 180 degrees from your usual point of view.
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Taste o' the Sixties
spork
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« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2013, 8:47:20 PM »

Ok, here's a critique, though it's not specifically about Guns, Germs, and Steel:

He makes stuff up and gets his facts wrong.

http://www.imediaethics.org/News/149/Jared_diamonds_factual_collapse__.php
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a.k.a. gum-chewing monkey in a Tufts University jacket

"There are no bad ideas, only great ideas that go horribly wrong."

"Please do not force people who are exhausted to take medication for hallucinations." -- Memo from the Chair, Department of White Privilege Studies, Fiork University
oldfullprof
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« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2013, 9:20:04 PM »

I doubt that anyone in New Guinea is named "Mandingo."  Now, Tampa, yes.  Also, there was a film by that name.
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Taste o' the Sixties
marlborough
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« Reply #21 on: January 07, 2013, 8:26:09 PM »

One of my international students gave one the best Diamond critiques after reading it for another class and complaining to me--white people love this book because it tells them that they get to rule the world, not despite being nasty and brutish, but because they are. 
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oldfullprof
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« Reply #22 on: January 07, 2013, 9:46:00 PM »

Gee, some of those "white people" were Chinese too, some Japanese.  Seriously, I do think modernity starts to put paid to "white people get to rule the world."  Yes, there are the problems that such as Gunder-Frank and Wallerstein raise.  They'll be overcome in time.  And everyone, at least historically, has been nasty and brutish.  It just varies as to scale.  I have a real problem with history as frustrated wish-fulfillment.

By the way, the page disputing Jared Diamond as to facts starts with the announcement of a $10M lawsuit.  Draw your own conclusions. 
« Last Edit: January 07, 2013, 9:50:18 PM by oldfullprof » Logged

Taste o' the Sixties
msparticularity
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« Reply #23 on: January 27, 2013, 11:31:03 PM »

Joining the conversation late, I know--and furthermore I haven't read the entire book (just excerpts), but still, some things about it and about this discussion occur to me:

  • To begin with the discussion, we seem to have a (probably disciplinary) difference of understandings of "quasi-experimental" going on here. The definition of it, across the social science fields that I work in, is that it is experimental in the sense of being able to manipulate certain variables in the present, but it fails to meet the standards for true experimental design in one or more ways. For example, educational research is always a quasi-experimental design because we can't keep the students in cages while they're not in class and control for diet, sleep, and environmental influences. Also, we're typically dealing with samples of convenience. The term I would use for this study is (sort of) causal-comparative, where, post hoc, you take a bunch of data and do a really robust job of factoring out the confounding variables to arrive at something resembling causation, even though you really only have correlational data. /
  • It appears to me from what I have read that Diamond relied upon data that has now been thrown into question and/or actually disproved to arrive at his model. For example, it appears from the excerpts I have read and for the reviews that he makes assumptions about the "primitive" nature of  indigenous American societies that developments over the past decade have comprehensively disproved. Among these are the recent discoveries about the sophistication of the domestication and breeding processes for maize, potatoes, and a number of other staple food items. He also is unaware that recent scholarship indicates that ancient Andean civilizations may have gained a form of literacy before literacy was developed in Sumer--but it was textile-based, so archaeologists failed to recognize the early evidence of it.

And no--it doesn't appear that anyone has published on this topic. The closest you can get to a counterpoint is to read Charles Mann's 1491 and 1493. They are written for a reasonably educated popular audience, and I think would provide a nice way to critique Diamond's work in light of recent progress.
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reener06
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« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2013, 1:15:48 AM »

Nice way to identify the big picture, Ms.P, especially with your second point.

This is a good post about the topic, although it argues that Eric Wolf did it first and better: http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2013/01/26/eric-wolf-europe-and-people-without-history/h

He also has earlier posts about Diamond as well.
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phlegmatic_affect
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« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2013, 12:48:24 PM »

The problem I have with Diamond is the same problem I have with his main critics: they both over-privilege a particular explanatory resolution. They both suffer from strains of nothing-butism, they just differ on where they think "real" causal explanation in history can be found.

Nonetheless, large-scale processes have been unduly neglected for some time, especially in history of tech, so I do think Diamond brings some valuable balance, even if he needs to lose the chip on his shoulder.
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oldadjunct
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LIFO. Enough said.


« Reply #26 on: March 15, 2013, 1:03:57 AM »

The book is some 16 years old.  I read it back when it came out and, as a non-specialist, enjoyed it well enough... But if it has not sparked a discussion in all these years, there might be a reason (formulaic, simplistic, reductive, deterministic?).

Try Kaplan's Revenge of Geography (2012), which in it's historic contextualization, sweep and nuance is an implicit critique of all things Diamond.
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larryc
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« Reply #27 on: March 15, 2013, 1:08:57 AM »

The book is some 16 years old ... it has not sparked a discussion in all these years

I hadn't thought of it that way, but that is really striking isn't it?
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oldadjunct
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LIFO. Enough said.


« Reply #28 on: March 15, 2013, 1:26:32 AM »

The book is some 16 years old ... it has not sparked a discussion in all these years

I hadn't thought of it that way, but that is really striking isn't it?

Shrug, why show up once, twice a year if not to be striking?  Have you read Kaplan?  He is really very, very good as he reviews the literature while marching around the globe.  I found his take on the US-Mexican boarder in the last chapter eye opening.
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Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

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spork
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« Reply #29 on: March 15, 2013, 2:06:43 PM »

The book is some 16 years old.  I read it back when it came out and, as a non-specialist, enjoyed it well enough... But if it has not sparked a discussion in all these years, there might be a reason (formulaic, simplistic, reductive, deterministic?).


It sparks a discussion in the media, by idiots like Thomas L. Friedman, because Diamond comes out with a book containing the same argument every 5+ years.

Quote
Try Kaplan's Revenge of Geography (2012), which in it's historic contextualization, sweep and nuance is an implicit critique of all things Diamond.

Is this a rehash of his Ends of the Earth?

Kaplan's argument in Balkan Ghosts was terrible.
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a.k.a. gum-chewing monkey in a Tufts University jacket

"There are no bad ideas, only great ideas that go horribly wrong."

"Please do not force people who are exhausted to take medication for hallucinations." -- Memo from the Chair, Department of White Privilege Studies, Fiork University
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