Discuss how convincing you find William H. McNeill’s criticism of Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

In this paper you will analyze and compare (not simply summarize) the two assigned articles (see attached) in the context of the book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. The prompt is intended to guide your analysis of the documents: INTRODUCTION: The assignment will require you to compare and evaluate the two assigned articles – “History Upside Down” and “Jared Diamond, reply by William H. McNeill” (a historian of European science, technology, and military power) – first discuss the articles in terms of what you have learned in the class and your own opinion. You must then compare the two source’s historical arguments.


Discuss how convincing you find William H. McNeill’s criticism of Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. In your discussion, you should analyze his argument’s line of historical reasoning and use of historical evidence. It may be appropriate in your analysis to call into question certain assumptions underlying his argument and/or to indicate what evidence might weaken or strengthen the argument. It will also be appropriate to discuss how your own understanding of Diamond’s argument. This assignment is a critical thinking task requiring a well thought out response. Consequently, the analytical skills displayed in your paper carry great weight in determining your score; however, the clarity with which you convey ideas is also important to your overall score. You are being asked to evaluate the logical soundness of an argument of another writer and, in doing so, to demonstrate the critical thinking, perceptive reading and analytical writing skills. This paper will demonstrate your ability to understand, analyze and evaluate historical arguments and convey your evaluation clearly in your writing. There is no “right” or “wrong” opinion. But your evaluation must be backed up by evidence and a logical argument. You will also need to use the Strayer text and/or the class lectures to provide evidence to support your evaluation and final judgement. Your task is to discuss the logical soundness of the McNeill’s case (and Diamond’s response) by critically examining the line of reasoning and the use of evidence. This task requires you to read his argument carefully, but construct your own response in terms of your own reading of Diamond’s book (which you should also have read). I highly recommend you read the argument more than once and make brief notes about points you want to develop more fully in your evaluation. In addition, you should consider the structure of his argument — the way in which these elements are linked together to form his line of reasoning; i.e., you should recognize the separate, sometimes implicit steps in the thinking process and consider whether the movement from each step to the next is logically sound. In tracing this line, look for transition words and phrases that suggest the author is attempting to make a logical connection (e.g., however, thus, therefore, evidently, hence, in conclusion). Here are some questions that you will need to address in writing your essay:


• What is Diamond’s main argument? • What is McNeill’s main criticism of Diamond’s argument? 2 • What parts of Diamond’s argument does McNeill agree with? • McNeill implies that Diamond’s argument is reductionist (McNeill 5). Others have criticized Diamond’s book for being an overly “deterministic” explanation of history? Think about how these terms are related? Is Diamond’s argument “reductionist” or “deterministic”? If so how? • Why or how would the accusation of being “reductionist” or “deterministic” be negative? • What does McNeill mean by “Cultural Autonomy”? • Is “Cultural Autonomy” important? Why or why not? • Are McNeill’s concerns and criticism of Diamond’s argument valid? • What is your overall impression of McNeill’s and Diamond’s respective interpretations? Are they convincing? • What questions rise in these different interpretations? • Find evidence from the Strayer text and/or the class lectures that supports your evaluation and final judgement.

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