Patt Morrison for February 26, 2010

Jared Diamond’s Natural Experiments of History

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Experiments in History

The case of Haiti and the Dominican Republic has long perplexed the world; the two countries share the island of Hispaniola, both are former colonies, and yet, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere while the D.R. is a wealthier developing nation with a growing economy. How does one determine why a nation has evolved into its present state? Why do two otherwise similar societies diverge radically or why do two very different societies evolve along similar lines? These social science questions can’t be answered by controlled lab experiments because lab experiments can’t accurately account for being colonized by the Spanish versus the French, or having a country’s land entirely deforested. That scientific shortcoming led Pulitzer-prize winning author of “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” Jared Diamond, in search of models complex enough to tackle these questions. He joins Patt to talk about those findings and his latest book, “Natural Experiments in History.”

Guest:

Jared Diamond, Pulitzer-prize winning author of “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” and is a professor of Geography at UCLA; most recently, he’s the editor of “Natural Experiments of History”


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