simply stating a theory
Sunday, February 18 2007
Though I didn't have a hangover, I spent the day much like I'd spent yesterday, sitting by the fire with a slowly-changing cast of cats sitting on my lap, reading Jared Diamond's the Third Chimpanzee. It's Diamond's first non-fiction book, the one before Guns, Germs, and Steel put him (and his brilliant theory of geographic determinism) on the map. The core of that theory had actually first been presented in the Third Chimpanzee, along with several other, less well-substantiated theories. The fact that the Third Chimpanzee didn't catch fire for Diamond is proof that simply stating a theory in book form is not quite enough. Evidently the book presenting a theory must be focused on that theory exclusively, and not present the many other musings (brilliant or otherwise) that the author may have to offer. For my part, I've been mostly enjoying the constant theory-spinning of the Third Chimpanzee. I was particularly drawn to his theory that the spread of Indo-European peoples was a consequence of their domestication of the horse. Less impressive was Diamond's theory for why people drink booze, smoke cigarettes, and take drugs. He hypothesizes that this is the human equivalent of a stotting gazelle, a demonstration of strength by voluntary handicap, thereby showing the drinker or smoker to be more fit than his or her possibly-Mormon peers. This hypothesis bore the toolmarks of someone who, while he may have explored the remote valleys of the New Guinea highlands and paddled a canoe between islands in Polynesia, has never once gone on a bender (or spent much time with anyone who has).
In anticipation of another extremely cold day, perhaps the last of the season, today I went on another firewood gathering and cutting jihad in the neighboring forest. This was the first time I'd actually cut up wood with an appreciable accumulation of snow on the ground, it made for something of a mess as snow packed itself onto the logs that then had to be thawed out and dried beside the fire for many hours before there was even a remote chance that they could be burned.
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