Christopher Taylor

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  • 22 Mar 2010

    From the Editors of Questioning Collapse: Requesting Full Disclosure and Correction of Factual Errors

    A few weeks ago, Jared Diamond, author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, wrote a (rather negative) book review of Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire - a critique of his own book - for Nature... without mentioning that Questioning Collapse was, well, questioning Collapse. StinkyJournalism.org laid out this conflict of interest, starting a good ol’ fashion media ethics debate. Today, the controversy comes to a head and the collected contributors of Questioning Collapse have formulated a response. -------- Requesting Full Disclosure and Correction of Factual Errors Patricia A. McAnany, Norman Yoffee, Joel Berglund, David Cahill, Frederick Errington, Deborah Gewertz, Terry Hunt, Timothy Murray, Kenneth Pomeranz, Christopher Taylor, Michael Wilcox, and Drexel Woodson. -------- The 18 February 2010 (Vol 463) issue of Nature contains a response to our recently published book entitled Questioning Collapse. Called “Two Views of Collapse,” it masquerades as an impartial book review in which the reviewer (Jared Diamond) alleges that the edited book contains serious errors of fact. This justifies his devaluation of our emphasis on human resilience and allows him to discount the importance of culture and history, including the facts of 18th-19th century colonialism. Throughout the “review”, Diamond fails to disclose that our book critically examines two of his publications: Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The lack of full disclosure brings forth troubling questions. Readers of Nature expect a book review to include a description and evaluation of a book but not an author’s rebuttal to criticism of his own publications. We are disappointed that Nature would ask Jared Diamond to review our book. Nature is of course free to solicit an article by Diamond that considers the evidence presented in our book and/or to present new evidence. We are further surprised that the editorial team at Nature allowed the review to be published in its current form with unsubstantiated allegations of “errors and implausible extremes.” Here, we take pains to correct, once again, the errors perpetrated by the “reviewer” that again repeat over-determined and simplistic theses regarding both societal “collapse” and current global inequities in power and wealth. Read on as they dissect Diamond's argument, point by point. . . We emphasize that Questioning Collapse presents ample archaeological and historical data that contextualize how societies moved through periods of crisis. The goal of our book is to provide students and lay persons alike with an understanding of historical processes that is based upon up-to-date research. Questioning Collapse is more than a critical evaluation of Diamond’s scholarship: it is about how we understand change in the past, how we grapple with the legacy of colonialism and with inequalities in the present, and how we can move forward productively and resiliently into the future.

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