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DIAMOND, Jared



Guns, Germs and Steel

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Despite being depicted in innumerable cartoons as apelike brutes living in caves, Neanderthals had brains slightly larger than our own. They were also the first humans to leave behind strong evidence of burying their dead and caring for their sick.
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Thanks to this availability of suitable wild mammals and plants, early peoples of the Fertile Crescent could quickly assemble a potent and balanced biological package for intensive food production. That package comprised three cereals, as the main carbohydrate sources; four pulses, with 20—25 percent protein, and four domestic animals, as the main protein sources, supplemented by the generous protein content of wheat; and flax as a source of fiber and oil (termed linseed oil: flax seeds are about 40 percent oil). Eventually, thousands of years after the beginnings of animal domestication and food production, the animals also began to be used for milk, wool, plowing, and transport. Thus, the crops and animals of the Fertile Crescent's first farmers came to meet humanity's basic economic needs: carbohydrate, protein, fat, clothing, traction, and transport.

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Besides justifying the transfer of wealth to kleptocrats, institutionalized religion brings two other important benefits to centralized societies. First, shared ideology or religion helps solve the problem of how unrelated individuals are to live together without killing each other—by providing them with a bond not based on kinship. Second, it gives people a motive, other than genetic self-interest, for sacrificing their lives on behalf of others.

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Not until the beginning of the 20th century did Europe's urban populations finally become self-sustaining: before then, constant immigration of healthy peasants from the countryside was necessary to make up for the constant deaths of city dwellers from crowd diseases.

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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.

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Another four suggested explanations ( for differences in receptivity to inventions ) are ideological, rather than economic or organizational: (1) Risk-taking behavior, essential for efforts at innovation, is more widespread in some societies than in others. (2) The scientific outlook is a unique feature of post-Renaissance European society that has contributed heavily to its modern technological preeminence. (3) Tolerance of diverse views and of heretics fosters innovation, whereas a strongly traditional outlook (as in China’s emphasis on ancient Chinese classics) stifles it. (4) Religions vary greatly in their relation to technological innovation: some branches of Judaism and Christianity are claimed to be especially compatible with it, while some branches of Islam, Hinduism, and Brahmanism may be especially incompatible with it.

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