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Brief book review: Sapiens: A (not so) Brief (not so good) History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

May 21, 2020

Recommendation: Don’t waste your time

Well written drivel … with a good bibliography!

In the tradition of Robert Ardrey, Konrad Lorenz, Desmond Morris, Jean Auel and other half-baked writers who made a career – and a fortune – on sharing their warped theories of human nature. Not worth a hoot from a serious scientific view point, but popularized by publishing companies and the media for their own self-serving reasons.

You’re better off seeing daytime soaps, going out photographing birds or getting stoned – thinking about the meaning of life and of course, immediately thereafter forgetting it.

But well written drivel, occasionally interesting. But even where it is (early chapter on the rise of food production, some thoughts on religion) frankly no new insights – most stuff has been discussed by and borrowed from others. For much better critique of modernism that Harari claims to be read Jared Diamond – more insightful, more human, much better scientific grounding.

This guy does too much yoga and thinks he’s a philosopher; my sense – he’s little more than an articulate phony. Thinks empires are fine and dandy and someday humans will merge with robots. No place for social movements in his scenario because nothing really changes as far as he is concerned. Insists that all humans regardless of race are genetically pretty much the same but that social stratification – the cast system in India by way of example is almost eternal. Reminds me of Charles Murray’s writings. Not original in the least, cherry picking facts and has an ax to grind. Chapter on “Happiness” towards the end particularly shallow and pathetic – but that’s true for most of the book. Not surprised that Bill Gates and the Davos folk connect to it.

Recommendation: Don’t waste your time and get seduced by an occasional insight, nugget, amidst the shit pile. If  you’re interested in the subject, read Jared Diamond (anything – but The Third Chimpanzee is a good place to start) or on Human Evolution John Pfeiffer’s The Creative Explosion, the different collections of Stephen Jay Gould’s articles from Nature.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. William Watts permalink
    May 21, 2020 12:21 pm

    So, what do you really think? 😀 Will save till library opens to read recommendations. Which is the simplest?

    • May 21, 2020 12:25 pm

      Diamond – The Third Chimpanzee… I have some of the articles from it in pdf which I used as required readings. Can send them to you if you are interested.

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