Why the West Rules--For Now by Ian Morris is a fascinating read; its place undoubtedly is among the most interesting contemporary works on history of humanity. Some would argue though that the West does not rule anymore. Nonetheless, the title is provocative, makes the reader curious about the book’s content, and once you start reading it, likely you won’t stop.
Rules or not, the West is still a leader in intellectual progress and innovations, in production and consumption, in art and entertainment, and social governance. Was it always this way? Can we accept the easiest explanation that the white race is biologically superior, and that’s why… whatever it is? Some did, in one form or another. As Morris said, “The most popular version was that Europeans were simply culturally superior to everyone else.”
Morris begins his analysis with overview of biology. Its latest discoveries are breathtaking. DNA research traces homo sapience to one mother, Eve if you will, who lived in Africa about 150,000 years ago, and one father, our Adam, who lived about 60,000 years ago. There are other findings, no less impressive, proving that we are all the same people with the same identity factors. Therefore, Morris concludes, “Biology by itself cannot explain why the West rules.” It took to tap information of other sources to conduct analysis, “..on the time scale of evolutionary history,” as the author put it. Summing up, he says: “I will conclude that biology and sociology explain the global similarities, while geography explains regional differences.”
Archaeology and historical documents provide the author material evidence about different societies around the globe, using which he restores the picture of their way of life and history of their development and decay. Contemporary technology helps estimate duration of their existence, affect of climate changes and geography on their rise and downfall, and obtain other information, which was impossible to discover even in the recent past.
One of the most important indicators of social progress is energy consumption per person. How can we find it out for human entities, living millenniums ago? Climatology solves this seemingly unsolvable puzzle. Analysis of air, trapped in the ice cover of Antarctica and other parts of polar areas, gives evidence of how much carbon dioxide was emitted by humans in different periods of history. As Morris put it: “These layers are like a chronicle of ancient weather. By separating them, climatologists can measure their thickness, telling us how much snow fell; establish the balance between isotopes of oxygen, revealing temperatures; and compare the amount of carbon dioxide and methane, illuminating green house effects.”