Is the balance of power in the world, the essentially unequal distribution of wealth and clout that has shaped civilization for centuries, a matter of survival of the fittest… or merely of the luckiest? In Guns, Germs, and Steel, UCLA professor (and author of the best-seller bearing the same title) Jared Diamond makes a compelling case for the latter. Diamond's theory is that the predominance of white Europeans (and Americans of European descent) over other cultures has nothing to do with racial superiority, as many have claimed, but is instead the result of nothing more, or less, than geographical coincidence. His argument, in a nutshell, is that the people who populated the Middle East's "fertile crescent" thousands of years ago were the first farmers, blessed with abundant natural resources (native crops such as wheat and barley, domesticable animals like pigs, goats, sheep, and cows). When their descendents migrated to Europe and northern Africa, climates similar to the crescent's, those same assets, which were unavailable in most of the rest of the world, led to the flourishing of advanced civilizations in those places as well. Add to that their ability to control fire, and Europeans eventually developed the guns and steel (swords, trains, etc.) they used to conquer the planet (the devastating diseases they brought with them, like smallpox, were an unplanned "benefit" to their subjugation of, for instance, Peru's native Incas). Spread out over three episodes and two discs and presented with National Geographic's usual style and thoroughness, the program uses location footage (from New Guinea, South America, Africa, and elsewhere), interviews, reenactments, maps, and Diamond's own participation to support his thesis. And while one might disagree with his conclusions, there is no doubt that Guns, Germs, and Steel is a provocative, classy piece of work. --Sam Graham
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book and national best seller, Guns, Germs, and Steel is an epic detective story that offers a gripping expose on why the world is so unequal. Professor Jared Diamond traveled the globe for over 30 years trying to answer the biggest question of world history. Why is the world so unequal? The answers he found were simple yet extraordinary. Our destiny depends on geography and access to: Guns, Germs, and Steel. Weaving together anthropology and science with epic historical reenactments, Guns, Germs, and Steel brings Diamond's fascinating theories to life, and moves beyond the book to bring his ideas into the present day.