Although I think there is much to Jared Diamond's book-cum-documentary, I take exception to his unqualified use of "progress" and "civilization." His assumption is that the way "primitive peoples" continue to live is not "thriving" (in spite of those annoying little facts about lack of protein in the diet, etc.). I think that the fact that we still have "primitive peoples" who have managed to survive off the land alone (although some have died out because of their inevitable depletion of their world) is important. Now as we "progressive, civilized" people deplete the ENTIRE world, we're going to need some of these peoples' wisdom of how to live simply in harmony with the environment around us. HOWEVER i do believe we CAN do that and reverse the tide, which is already happening: recycling, eating locally grown food, alternative energy sources (wind, sun, etc.)etc., but we have long way to go.
The premise of Guns, Germs and Steel:
hunting is trumped by farming
farming is trumpted by farming/storage
farming/storage is trumped by the types of crops (Europe had more nutritious crops)
types of crops don't stand alone, it's also about domestication of the right kind of animals (Europe had animals not just for meat but milk, clothing, plowing as "machines," etc.).
the Fertile Crescent (Middle East) had the right climate, crops, animals.
the Europeans then brought the same crops and animals to the USA. (There were no cows in the USA till the Europeans came.)
I love that Jared Diamond believes in the fundamental equality of all humans. This is a big part of his premise. It's not that anyone was smarter, they just had better opportunities, land, etc.
It's not politics, religion, culture. It's the raw materials people have around them, the hand they've been dealt. People are pretty much the same and have ingenuity. It's geography.
Religion: However, God gave the Fertile Crescent to His chosen people! Ha ha!