What should I ask Jared Diamond?

It now seems there will be a Conversations with Tyler with him, no associated public event.  So what should I ask him?


Is he interested in doing any more research into racial differences in testis size? https://web.archive.org/web/20080117045314/https://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/003206.html

What would it take to convince you that genetic and/or cultural differences between societies are what play a driving role in economic growth, and not just random conditions each society individually faces?

What does Diamond think about the falling status of science in America (commensurate with the rising status of religious belief)? An aside, I've been reading some of Molly Worthen's work and have a greater appreciation that a large swath of America does not have the same frame of reference as Diamond does: a rise in faith in God has occurred simultaneously with a fall in faith in science. There's a whole structure of education, from home schooling to fundamentalist Christian colleges, that promote a "classical Christian education" to save civilization.

Worthen's course History of Christianity II course (Reformation to current) offered by the Great Courses is fantastic.

Pew polls have shown a clear downward trend in religiousness in the U.S. for many years.

Yes, there's been a downward trend in religiousness but a rise, a very large rise, in religiousness that is anathema to science and tied to the "Christian world view". Old line Methodists (as an example) actually believed in science, but the new religious don't.

"but a rise, a very large rise, in religiousness that is anathema to science and tied to the "Christian world view""

Is there any definitive evidence for this?

The rise in christian anti-science is in response to progressive secular anti-science. 2018 was the year nature-nurture was put to bed. 2019-2020 will put group differences to bed. Ethnocentrism, nationalism, homogeneity are the optimum models, and bringing capital to nations rather than antionals to capital the last phase of correction of the 20th century's social pseudoscience.

If progressivism and its anti science positions on GMOs, nuclear energy, and climate change count as religion, then yes.

Religious belief is rising in status? Are you living in a different time band?

I've worked on this subject quite a bit, and what's occurring is that people are choosing between agnosticism and fundamentalism - so the evangelicals are expanding while the catholics and mainstream protestants are decreasing. So the great 'divergence' continues.

Would he rather have been born before the Neolithic revolution?

In all his books, Diamond advances sweeping, original, and influential answers to some of our biggest questions. What is his method to develop these findings? Does he start with a hunch and then prove it, does he start with the empirical data, or some other approach?

Who are his main interlocutors? How he prunes bad or inadequate answers?

What are his writing habits and routines, and how does he recruit others to help (assistants, editors, etc)?

why isn't glass steagall a reasonable policy?

David Deutsch levied a criticism of Diamond’s thesis in “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by saying that ideas - not environmental differences - explain why civilizations had different trajectories. How does he respond to this criticism? (For background, see chapter 17 of Deutsch’s “The Beginning of Infinity”)

Similarly - almost all of western technology is now freely available, such as how to farm efficiently, how to manufacture, etc. Why, if by his thesis, the rise of the west was simply due to luck, have these technologies not been adapted worldwide? Many (most?) people in the world are still farming according to the way their ancestors lived, and if they use any tools they are made elsewhere. Is it that they just don't want these technologies and prefer to live a more simple life?

Is the people from Papua New Guinea the master race? https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/guns-germs-and-steel-revisited/

How can we defeat them?

So this is what has become of Bolsanaro's Brazil - a nation trying to wipe out the poor Paupauans.

Only if they attack first.

The truth about Red Papua New Guinea has been revealed.

Yes, it has been.

Harsher environments do not allow very stupid people to survive.

Then the most advanced societies should be the ones with the highest fraction of stupid people (i.e. Americans and Western Europeans should be the world's most stupid people by this model, which conforms to my personal impression).

If he were to write a future-looking (next 200 years) sequel to Guns, Germs, and Steel, what would the three words in the title be?

This is how the future will be:

Guns = Laserguns
Germs = Lasergerms
Steel = Lasersteel

Nukes, Semi-conductors, and Morbid Obesity.

Okay, it's not three words, exactly, and I switched up the order, but I think that's the most marketable title.

Migration, fecundity, gene-editing

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Guns, Trump, and Covfefe

What does he think of McCloskey’s trilogy?

Question: The diabetes pandemic was recently described by health experts as more devastating to health than the Black Plague. Do you believe that the advent of man’s processing of food, which largely causes this disease, could ultimately change the course of civilization? If so, how would you compare this to the epidemics you described in “Guns, Germs and Steel?”

Does he really believe the natives of Papua New Guinea have the highest IQs in the world?

Anyone who has worked there knows the answer to that.

Did he say that? I thought he said they applied intelligence to different problems.

He assumes that other races would not have found solutions to the problems Melanesian found in PNG, he's fantasying of course, like any people who mastered their environment they succeeded, but then stopped improving.

Not a question, but I just ran into a National Geographic documentary on Guns, Germs, and Steel.


I liked the book more, but this is pretty good for people who would rather watch a video than read a book.

In the Introduction to Guns, Germs &Steel, Diamond dismisses the idea that IQ could have caused the whole migration/evolution he details, rather than geography, in less than a paragraph. Why does he so cavalierly dismiss the idea?

1. Does he have any hope for a book that synthesizes and attempts to attribute causal shares to the different theories of development?

2. Does he think theories of development in 200 years will be very different than they are now?

Patents. Does he think inventors are born, or made? If born, which is the expected answer I imagine, does he think inventors naturally innovate and society adopts their inventions, given that adoption of an invention entails societal risk if the invention goes bad (from primitive foraging people trying a new technology to the tried-and-true, to modern society and rogue "recombinant DNA" organisms accidentally released to the wild)? Or do such born inventors simply do conventional things that society wants, like become a gatekeeper, doctor, lawyer, businessman?

Bonus trivia: I'm reading a book he edited in 2010, "Natural Experiments of History", pretty good. You learn among other things, Spanish banks made loans equaling 131% of GDP in 2005, while Mexican banks made loans equaling 15% in the same time period.

If environment is so potent, wouldn't evolution craft a genetic response to it?

@TAG - I think in fact that's Darwinian evolution (creatures thrive in the environment given to them). Besides Darwin's moth and some bird bills, evolution in 'real time' in response to changes in the environment have been found in Costa Rica guppies.

genetic response vary based on migration patterns, perhaps the subtlest human trait, but travel is the oldest toe stub, and it is odd because 13 is an odd number. you'd have to go from the micro survival to the Hobbesian "societal," and once you trace community to city or whatever, you've made your first mistake.

Humans evolve culturally and technologically must faster, and often by deliberate plan, often onviating a need for genetic evolution. Example: clothing and fire enabled us to move out of tropical climates with no need for somatic changes.

That's what I was going to say! Humans! Took long enough though.

Ask him how often a Chernobyl-scale nuclear accident would be acceptable to eliminate anthropogenic climate change. Once a decade?
Follow up: Ask him if he would slap a man to save the world.

@Ethan Bernard - why did you pick a decade? It turns out, at present accident rates, a "Chernobyl" or "Three Mile Island" or "JP nuclear disaster" happens about in fact once a decades (on average). They are trying to bring this rate down to make nuclear power more appealing to the masses.

1) Because I suspect with proper designs and administration a factor of ten scale-up in fission could produce this failure rate.

2) Because we seem to be doing ok at the present failure rate, which is nearly once a decade, so we don't have to imagine what this is like.

We grant that Ray Lopez is the Cliff from Cheers commenter here but why do you pipe in? Three Mile Island and Fukushima were nothing and no one will die of radiation. Chernobyl has caused 60 deaths and maybe 100 eventually.

Three mile island was nothing. The rent on the unusable land around Fukishima is not nothing and it took a lot of heroics to keep it from getting worse.

I guess it wasn't obvious to you that I think a Chernobyl a decade is a bargain.

remember this ---- it is no small thing to be a friend to a creature who never had a friend in this world.

I remember.

For the record, I posted a fairly long reply which was deleted.

This is not my website, other people worked to make it a good website, and I have no right to expect what I say to remain on this website.

That being said, I posted a comment, of a couple hundred words,
and it was eloquent, and relevant,

and it was deleted.

I guess it was deleted because it seemed a little loco.

But trust me, it wasn't.

It is not easy to explain to people who go to average or above average schools and who learn average philosophy that average is not good enough, and even the best schools are completely average, trust me, I used to pal around with friends of Wittgenstein and his ilk, and no they were not all that good at philosophy, when the rubber hit the runway.

Trust me on that.

There are only two things that are good enough, one is to be a friend of God's, if you are one of the lucky people who knows how to do that, the other is to be kind to God, even if God does not offer his friendship to you all that much.

Trust me it does not make a difference, option A and option B are both spectacularly good.

And remember that you really need to be kind to creatures who never had a friend in this world.

Trust me, even if I am the sort of person whose comments are deleted.

(For the record I am actually a real poet and words are my friends. not some of them, all of them.

I will never waste your time by misusing words. Trust me.)

you who are reading this need to know this one thing:

don't think for a second that I think that you could not have been a supremely gifted psychologist (if you wanted to be and as God is my witness I know you wanted to be) and that, if there was a moment where you tried to understand, that I did not know I was talking to you

heart to heart

as I said to my wife yesterday

"your name and mine inside a heart upon a wall
still finds a way to help me
though they're so small"

try and understand

God loves you more than me

I have not had a pain free hour since 1980, July, to be exact

July, the month of such beauty in nature, July the month of Faith

I remember.

Proverbs 8. I did not write it, but ...

I remember.

Try and remember too.

If I can remember you can remember too, and probably better.

July 1980 was a long time ago.

You are welcome.

Welcome for what?

For this.

I told you that July 1980 was a long time ago.

It is no small thing to be a friend to a creature who never had a friend in this world.

July 1980 was a long time ago, and you are welcome for the good advice.
Seriously, I do not want you to know what I know about what it feels like to not have had a pain free hour for almost 40 years.

Try and remember every time you were kind.

Then do it again.

Seriously, I know what I am talking about.

(and yes lots of what I said was relevant to the question: what should I ask Jared Diamond. Trust me.)

For scale, its interesting to note that there have been more than 500 above ground nuclear explosions, with over 500 Megatons total yield.

At what level does he believe natural selection's pressures are strongest? Genes? (Dawkins) Individuals? (Mayr) Multiple levels? (Jay Gould)

And in particular what is his view on selection at group level?

My wife's thesis adviser knew him well and said he was a crazy birding enthusiast and in fact his interest in birding led to a lot of his work; in the Diamond I have read that doesn't show up much but I'd be interested in hearing that idea fleshed out.

You a birder, SanJAY? San-Jay, without a jay, get it? A good site for lazy bird enthusiasts is here: https://ebird.org/home You can 'bird watch' online, saving the environment.

Bonus trivia: The Big Year, The Thing With Feathers, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, not to mention the original, hand-colored, Audubon's The Birds of America, which cost in today's money over $2M to produce, priceless!

Should I

Wash my hands


I shake your hands?

How, if at all, has his study of the gall bladder and/or ornithology influenced his views on the development of societies? Or more generally, how does he apply the various models from a respective discipline upon seemingly unconnected problems in another?

Overrated/underrated: Daron Acemoglu

Yes, just revisiting the geography vs institutions and growth debate would be interesting. It seems to me that his more recent work would support the institutions hypothesis, but it'd be great to know if his views have changed in light of new research

I'm fascinated with Yali who Diamond describes as a remarkable local politician https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yali_(politician)#Guns,_Germs,_and_Steel
who asks the famous question "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?"

Question: Did Diamond know that Yali was the main focus of the Peter Lawrence book "Road Belong Cargo: A Study of the Cargo Movement in the Southern Madang District, New Guinea"?

Would he make any revisions to GG&S in light of widespread academic dismissal of his work?

Another question from the intro of Guns, Germs, and Steel. He seems to be indirectly referring to Charles Murray's "The Bell Curve" in his comments on IQ: “An enormous effort by cognitive psychologists has gone into the search for differences in IQ between peoples of different geographic origins now living in the same country.”

Where does he fall in the nature vs nurture debate? How does he feel about the intellectual attacks on Charles Murray and E. O. Wilson?

If you were a god and were looking down on a people you just created on a planet and wanted to give them one natural resource or geographic advantage to help them thrive and develop, what would it be?


Which is the greater cause of the us’s lack of social democracy, slavery or geography?

Does vaping signal inferior genes?

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari promotes the idea that ideas, rather than geographical differences, drive a cvilization's trajectory. How does that fit in with what Diamond developed in guns germs and steel ? Also, more generally, what's his take on Harari's work ?

Ideas are in part a function of and limited by geographical and environmental differences, at least prior to industrialization.

For example, I'm sure many Apache Indians dreamed of making boats, but never did because they had nowhere to sail them. :) By the same token the NW tribes hardly used horses at all and weren't known for their riding skill.

Why have the some regions continued to underperform economically [Africa, South America, Middle East] while others outperform [ Asia]?

Guns, Germs and Steel had some great insights, but I found it to be way too deterministic. In particular, I found that the central insights were belied by the example of China, which he tried - not very convincingly - to dismiss in a chapter. What role does he think that culture (and the institutions and ideas it produces) plays in the relative success of societies?

Ask if here's familiar with Jaredia. An experiment in modeling a rotated version of the Earth that optimises the growth of civilisation by aligning the pacific rim with the equator:


In Collapse, Mr. Diamond demonstrated next-to-no understanding of social scientific research on the commons (Ostrom, etc.). His assessment of the collapse of Easter Island seems ideological rather than scientific, whereas there is both ecological and anthropoligical evidence for a more complex and more interesting explanation. Also in Collapse, he would use an argument until it didn't work, then switch to a new argument, and when that didn't work, he'd switch again. Has he developed a more systematic and coherent approach to his work?

What do you make of the recent popularity of the paleo diet?

Does he believe his theories apply beyond the confines of Earth? For example, if we are visited by aliens, that would demonstrate their superior technology. Would this imply earlier food production, leading to larger populations, leading to more ideas, leading to better technology as he proposes for Earth? Would it also imply that our first encounters with aliens will lead to widespread death from alien disease? Perhaps he could speculate on what planetary advantages would lead to humans being visited by aliens instead of aliens being visited by humans.

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