‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari

 

Vintage, 2015

ISBN: 978-0099590088

Reviewed by Ian Mowll

________________________________________________________

This book is about our human experience on this planet, from when Homo sapiens first emerged in Africa through to today. For anyone interested in the Universe Story, this book is full of insights. The writer’s gift is to explain wide ranging subject matters including spirituality, science, society and economics with clarity.

He starts by saying humans have made a hasty jump to being the top predator on the planet, so Nature has not had time to build in checks and balances. Later on, he traces the evolution of human spirituality from animism to polytheism and onto monotheism. He looks at the rise of capitalism and the effects of science and why we are experiencing an extended period (largely) of peace on our planet.

He says that myths help us to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. On this point, he quotes the French Prince Talleyrand (1754 – 1838) who said that a single priest can often do the job of 100 soldiers far more cheaply and effectively. And he says that good myths help to create good societies.

He thinks that we are moving towards unity on Earth in that we are coalescing into one unified culture. Furthermore, he says that no one sovereign state can solve the problem of global warming alone. He thinks that the colour of the global empire might well be ‘green’. It is my view that the Universe Story could be a connecting ‘myth’ across all societies.

It is heartening to read that he is against the terrible treatment of animals in the farming industry due to over consumerism. However, he says that life sciences show that our behaviours are determined by hormones, genes and synapses rather than free will. On this point, I disagree. My view is that consciousness and with it, free will, are emergent properties of our human form.

Whilst I do not agree with some of his conclusions, if you are interested in learning more about how we came to be in the situation we find ourselves, I would recommend this book.

2018-12-12T14:55:06+00:00