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"THE BOOK OF THE MONTH"
BOOK REVIEW BY JERRY E. POURNELLE
October 30, 2007
The book of the month is Understanding Human History, by Michael H. Hart. This is a very Politically Incorrect book. Hart’s central thesis is that one must take evolution seriously, and evolution happens fairly quickly. His corollary is that history is best understood as a contest won by the most intelligent peoples; and that those who evolved in cold climates evolved the most intelligence. Living in cold climates requires skinning animals, making clothes, building fires; developing sewing instruments; cooperation and language. Those who develop such techniques have offspring. Those who don’t die off without children. In tropical climates other factors (including resistance to diseases) are more important for having children. Since different races evolved in different places, Hart explicitly ranks the races of man by intelligence. Needless to say this is not a popular view.
Hart explicitly discusses Jarred Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel as an alternate theory of human history, and confronts Diamond directly. He also addresses the Flynn Effect.
Understanding Human History covers the entire sweep of human history in 480 pages including footnotes, bibliography, and index. The entire history of Rome from founding to Fall takes only fifteen pages. Needless to say this is not a book rich in details. It’s not an intellectual or military or even economic history of the world. It does attempt to assess the contributions of various civilizations and peoples to modern civilization. You may or may not agree with the assessments. It is certain that academia will disagree violently with just about every aspect of Hart’s thesis.
If you’re wondering what all the shouting about IQ and History is over, this is a readable way to find out what a strict evolutionist makes of the development of human civilization.