The Point of Inquiry Weekly Wrap-up: Jared Diamond

May 14, 2013

On last week’s very special Point of Inquiry, co-hosts Chris Mooney and Indre Viskontas teamed up to interview Pulitzer prize-winning author and UCLA professor of geography Jared Diamond. Dr. Diamond is perhaps best known for his 1997 popular science book, ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, an expansive look at the influence of environment and technology in shaping the rise of civilizations.

Now with the release of his new work, ‘The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?’, Diamond sat down with the POI team to delve into some of the finer points and controversies of his book, a look back at the variety of past hunter-gatherer societies and the implications they hold for our world today.

From crib-bilingualism to the role of religion in nearly every society, here are some highlights.

– On being asked by Chris why some researchers look to downplay the prevalence of violence in hunter-gatherer societies of the past, as well as their present-day counterparts:

“Their concern is that if it comes out that traditional people are violent, then that will be used as an excuse by some governments to dispossess the traditional people, take them off the land because they’re violent. Well, the real reason for not mistreating traditional people is an ethical reason. That you shouldn’t mistreat any people. The reason is not that they’re supposedly peaceful.”

– Why some traditional practices like on-demand breastfeeding don’t need to be co-opted by our modern world:

“My wife is a clinical psychologist. It’s inappropriate for my wife to breastfeed on demand in front of her patients, while she was breastfeeding. So one has to make compromises and adopt those things that fit into our society.”

– And last but certainly not least, the stupidest question to ask a religious believer:

“Let’s be clear here, if we’re being listened to by a religious person, who believes in a religion. To say to a religious person, ‘Why does religion exist?’ is the stupidest question imaginable. Because the person will answer, ‘Religion exists because it’s true!’ Why do we believe in God? Because there really is God, so of course we’re gonna believe in God.'”

Of course, there’s plenty more juicy tidbits to catch during the full episode, available both as a mp3 and on YouTube.

For more Jared Diamond, check out the 2005 PBS documentary on Diamond’s bestselling ‘Guns, Germs and Steel.’ You can also check out and buy his new book through the POI website.

If you want to keep up-to date on the latest POI has to offer, make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Not to mention Indre’s and Chris’s own Twitter feed. And keep an eye out on our co-host Chris Mooney’s weekly column at Mother Jones.

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