The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, January 31, 2005

Easterbrook takes a spill

I often enjoy the work that Easterbrook writes in The New Republic. But in this review of Jared Diamond's latest ("Collapse"), he demonstrates an alarming ability to get some things dead wrong. Disappointing.

"[Jared Diamond's book] "Guns [Germs, and Steel]" asked why the West is atop the food chain of nations. Its conclusion, that Western success was a coincidence driven by good luck, has proven extremely influential in academia, as the view is quintessentially postmodern.... [E]nvironmental coincidences are the principal factor in human history. Diamond contends it was chance, not culture or brainpower, that brought industrial power first to Europe; Western civilization has nothing to boast about."

Where to begin? This is a complete misrepresentation of the book's thesis. It raises that most reviled of rightie boogeymen, the radical professor. In fact, the view is not at all postmodern. And professors of the humanities are far from titans of academic opinion-- many are fighting for their very future by a newly-corporatist academic environment that prizes cash over all else. I could go on at great length about these two issues.-- and believe me, I have no truck with "postmodernism," which is far from a united academic movement to begin with. I'll just leave it at that. And maybe right the Times a letter about quality control...