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October 25, 2003

West and the Rest

Discussion between Jared Diamond & Victor Davis Hanson about why the West beat the Rest (you need Real Player to listen to the audio file). From Plato to Nato by David Gress is a great book about the West that I recommend to all who find the above interview interesting.

Related reading: Guns, Germs and Steel (Jared Diamond), Carnage and Culture (Victor Davis Hanson), The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (David Landes) and Thomas Sowell's trilogy, Race and Culture, Migrations and Cultures and Conquests and Cultures.

Posted by razib at 09:21 PM

Here's Charles Murray's perspective:

Sailer. You argue that one big reason that most of humanity's highest achievers came from what used to be called Christendom was ... Christianity (specifically, rationalist, optimistic Western Christianity -- Thomas Aquinas is a major hero of Murray's book "Human Accomplishment.") Did you expect to reach that conclusion?

A. Michael Novak foretold I would come to that conclusion, but I didn't agree at the time. I didn't think you needed anything except the Greek heritage and some secular social and economic trends to explain the Renaissance.

On this score, I have plenty of witnesses in the form of my colleagues who were getting nervous as the years went by. They kept asking me what the thesis of the book was, and I kept saying, "Beats the hell out of me."

The last chapters of the book were all written in the last nine months of work, and at the beginning of those nine months, I still didn't know what was going to be in them.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at October 27, 2003 12:20 PM

steve-well, as you probably know, plato to nato/i> tried to address will durant's excessive focus on the pre-christian greeks. i am pretty interested to see that vic davis is so helleno-centric in his conception, as if he hasn't read david gress' analysis (which i think fareed zakaria ripped off without attribution in future of freedom).

as for christianity-i've addressed it before on that blog. i haven't read murray's book, but my problem with the christian ~ science thesis is many people get an unclear version-since i'm sure murray is implying christianity is perhaps a contingent condition necessary for scientific advancement, but not the only one needed (ie; most christian societies did not develop science in both most ages). additionally, i would assume that murray goes into the the details that it seems protestant nonconformists, and earlier heterodox catholics, contribute disproportionately to the scientific advancement in europe (i remember reading a vignette on james clerk maxwell's life, and one thing that was noted as peculiar was that he was conventially religious-a practicing anglican in good standing, rather than a nonconformist like priestly or faraday or what not).

Posted by: razib at October 27, 2003 12:43 PM