Jared Diamond


American Scientist, Civilization Scholar, Geographer and Author

Author Quotes

With the MacArthur grant, I realized that people have high expectations of me, that they were placing me in this group of achievers. I compared what I'd actually achieved in my life with what I would like to achieve and what other people have achieved, and I found that comparison depressing.

With the rise of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them.

Within six weeks, an estimated 800,000 Tutsi, representing about three-quarters of the Tutsi then remaining in Rwanda, or 11% of Rwanda's total population, had been killed.

What did the last Easter Islander say as he chopped down the last tree? The Easter Islanders didn't have anthropologists.

What makes patriotic and religious fanatics such dangerous opponents is not the deaths of the fanatics themselves, but their willingness to accept the deaths of a fraction of their number in order to annihilate or crush their infidel enemy.

When I visited Nike and asked whether they were using organic and sustainable cotton, they told me they were careful not to use too much organic cotton, because they knew that Patagonia needs to use organic cotton, and they didn't want to drive Patagonia out of the market.

Why did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents for the last 13,000 years?

Why were there far more species of domesticated animals in Eurasia than in the Americas? The Americas harbor over a thousand native wild mammal species, so you might initially suppose that the Americas offered plenty of starting material for domestication.

Why you white man have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little? (asked Yali)

Why, for instance, only 2 per cent of Europeans contract the disease as opposed to 13 per cent of African Americans, 17 per cent of U.S. Latinos and up to 50 per cent of Native Americans

Australia is the most isolated continent.

Globalization makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation, as did Easter Island and the Greenland Norse in the past. Any society in turmoil today, no matter how remote ... can cause trouble for prosperous societies on other continents and is also subject to their influence (whether helpful or destabilizing). For the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline. But we also are the first to enjoy the opportunity of learning quickly from developments in societies anywhere else in the world today, and from what has unfolded in societies at any time in the past. That's why I wrote this book.

In contrast [to trees and fish], oil, metals, and coal are not renewable; they don't reproduce, sprout, or have sex to produce baby oil droplets or coal nuggets.

Measles and TB evolved from diseases of our cattle, influenza from a disease of pigs, and smallpox possibly from a disease of camels. The Americas had very few native domesticated animal species from which humans could acquire such diseases.

Rhino-mounted Bantu shock troops could have overthrown the Roman Empire. It never happened.

The Great Leap Forward coincides with the first proven major extension of human geographic range since our ancestors? colonization of Eurasia. That extension consisted of the occupation of Australia and New Guinea, joined at that time into a single continent. Many radiocarbon dated sites attest to human presence in Australia/New Guinea between 40 000 and 30 000 years ago. Within a short time of that initial peopling, humans had expanded over the whole continent and adapted to its diverse habitats.

To us today, it is tempting to ask why societies with early writing systems accepted the ambiguities that restricted writing to a few functions and a few scribes. But even to pose that question is illustrate the gap between ancient perspectives and our own expectations of mass literacy. The intended restricted uses of early writing provided a positive disincentive for devising less ambiguous writing systems. The kings and priests of ancient Sumer wanted writing to be used by professional scribes to recorded numbers of sheep owed in taxes, not by the masses to write poetry and hatch plots. As the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss put it, ancients writing?s main function was to facilitate the enslavement of other human beings. Personal uses of writing by nonprofessionals came only much later, as writing systems grew simpler and more expressive

Australia is the smallest continent, and most of it can support only small human populations because of low rainfall and productivity.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.

In modern times, Australia was the sole continent still inhabited only by hunter-gatherers... Native Australia had no farmers or herders, no writing, no metal tools, and no political organization beyond the level of the tribe or band.

Most people are explicitly racists. In parts of the world - so called educated, so-called western society - we've learned that it is not polite to be racist, and so often we don't express racist views, but... Racism is one of the big issues in the world today. Racism is the big social problem in the United States.

Science is often misrepresented as the body of knowledge acquired by performing replicated controlled experiments in the laboratory. Actually, science is something broader: the acquisition of reliable knowledge about the world.

The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics and genocide. Those collisions created reverberations that have still not died down after many centuries, and that are actively continuing in some of the world?s most troubled areas.

Twelve thousand years ago, everybody on earth was a hunter-gatherer; now almost all of us are farmers or else are fed by farmers. The spread of farming from those few sites of origin usually did not occur as a result of the hunter-gatherers' elsewhere adopting farming; hunter-gatherers tend to be conservative.... Instead, farming spread mainly through farmers' outbreeding hunters, developing more potent technology, and then killing the hunters or driving them off of all lands suitable for agriculture.

Biology is the science. Evolution is the concept that makes biology unique.

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American Scientist, Civilization Scholar, Geographer and Author