Human evolution and societal development

NEW YORK CITY – If Ferdinand Magellan and his men used the same biological and weapons technology the Spanish invaders of Peru led by Francisco Pizzaro had used to defeat the Incas in the Battle of Cajamarca in 1532, would Lapu-Lapu and his fellow Cebuano natives perish in a massacre in the Battle of Mactan?

Instead of Lapu-Lapu emerging as Magellan’s conqueror, would history be different or would Magellan be the one slaughtering Lapu-Lapu?

Guns, Germs and Steel author Jared Diamond tells us that in the first 10 minutes in the Battle of Cajamarca (in what is now Peru), there were 7,000 Incas dead.

“When the dust settled, not a single Spaniard was dead. (Spanish conquistador) Francisco Pizarro got a slight wound. That’s because the Spaniards have the steel sword and the Incas have wooden clubs. It really showed the power of military technology,” Diamond explains.

Magellan probably underestimated Lapu-Lapu and the capacity of the natives to withstand the Spaniards’ assaults using superior combat weapons thinking their bolos and spears were no match against the invaders’ guns and cannons.

They forgot to unleash the biological weapon which eviscerated the Incas.

 

DETERMINISM

We will also learn and understand from anthropologist Diamond’s book that geography isn’t environmental determinism, and that poor countries are not doomed to be poor thus they should not just shut up and lie down and play dead.

Once we know what it is that’s making us poor, the author believes we can use the knowledge to make us rich reiterating the famous phrase of Sir Francis Bacon that “knowledge is power.”

“I recognize that there are people who will say geography deals out these immutable cards and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Diamond stresses when interviewed by the National Geographic.

“But one can show the evidence and say there is something we can do about it. Look at Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan. They recognized that their biggest disadvantage was public health. They didn’t say, We got these tropical diseases–it’s inevitable. Instead they said, We have these tropical diseases and they are curable and all it takes is money so let’s invest in curing the diseases. Today they are rich, virtually First World countries. That shows that poverty is something you can do something about.”

 

KEYPOINTS

Diamond believes that some societies are more materially successful than others, attributing societal success to geography, immunity to germs, food production, the domestication of animals, and use of steel.

Some of the book’s keypoints are:

–Farming and domesticating animals provide social stability that is lacking in hunter-gatherer societies. Labor specialization enables certain groups to develop weapons.

–Major portions of Eurasia had a natural advantage in developing agriculture and domesticating animals because of geography and the presence of plants and animals that could be easily domesticated.

–The landmass of Eurasia, laid out on an east-west axis, allowed for the sharing of crops, animals, and ideas. The Americas, stretched out on a north-south axis, traverse various climate zones and geographic boundaries that discourage trade.

–The diversity and density of Eurasian populations created an immunity to germs that would later wipe out the more isolated populations of the Americas.

Diamond emphasizes the effects of food production, writing, technology, government, and religion in defining the differences between developing cultures.

In Diamond’s opinion, he then demonstrates why the differences among various cultures occurred. More important (and one of the reasons for some of the controversy surrounding this book), Diamond concludes that “it is ultimately geography, not biology or race as some other studies have tried to prove, that produced the cultural disparities his friend Yali had pointed out.”

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