Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It’s books like this that made me hate history in college. The author is an historian and suffers from the same arrogance and condescension of every history professor or teacher I’ve ever had. Sure, most of what he writes is well-established as true, but he is constantly going beyond the factual and asserting that such and such happened when really it’s speculative at best. He certainly gets a number of things wrong about American History. The author is Israeli and seems to have a picture of American history taken from tabloids, not historical documents. Like most people, he fits history into his world view, ignoring inconvenient facts. For example, he describes how happy hunter gatherers were tens of thousands of years ago. Happy, really? How about all those parasites and infectious diseases and animal attacks that killed their children at alarming rates. How frightened were they of unexplained natural phenomena like lightning, floods, forest fires, earthquakes. They may have been in constant terror of the gods they worshiped. We don’t really know, but modern-day hunter-gatherers who have recently joined the civilized world seem very happy to have left behind the brutally difficult life they led. He predicts the future as though it is already fact. I appreciate the fact that he thoroughly debunked religions and other modern day self-righteous value systems in favor of scientific knowledge, but he then proceeded to paint his own value system as the only correct one, falling prey to the same false premises.