Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond's latest book is The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?.

From his Q & A with JP O'Malley for The Spectator:

You describe in the book how deplorable acts of cruelty — such as the strangling of widows, and leaving old people to die — are part of the circumstances people in traditional societies have to deal with?

Yes, traditional societies do things that we disapprove of. Some of them abandon their elderly, and others kill their babies, if they happen to be weak. We in the West think that is terrible. These people do this not because they are evil, but due to particular circumstances. If you have a group of nomads who are going to shift camp every day, and then you have somebody who can no longer walk, the cruel reality is that you cannot carry old people with you. In our modern society we are not shifting camp every day — we are sedentary — so it is possible for us to retain our old people.

You say that 96 percent of the top psychology journals in the world are from Westernized industrial countries. Does that mean that our perceptions of human psychology are deeply flawed?

They are very skewed because they are only based on a narrow section of humanity. Most psychological studies, if they are done in the UK, or the US, are usually only carried out on subjects from that particular country. They are always done with societies that have a state government: where every single person in that state is used to dealing with strangers. You and I have been talking now for three and a half minutes. I can promise you that I have not made a move to kill you yet. I haven’t detected any move on your part to kill me. But in a traditional society, by now either one of us would have killed each other, or else we...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue