Sapiens

Sapiens

A Brief History of Humankind

Book - 2015
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"From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity's creation and evolution--a #1 international bestseller--that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be "human." One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one--homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us? Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas .Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become? Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem"-- Provided by publisher
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, 2015
ISBN: 9780062316110
9780062316097
0062316095
Characteristics: 443 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Kitsur toldot ha-enoshut

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#11 Most checked out Adult Non-Fiction title in 2019 at MCFL

Finally! An explanation for humankind’s proclivity toward fierce religiousity, xenophobia and gluten intolerance. ---Mary, circulation staff


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danielestes
Nov 11, 2020

The scope of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is vast and strikes a tone not limited to just history. For example, the opening chapters discuss how the caveman lived while the closing chapters discuss the biological possibility of everlasting happiness. This is an extraordinary book.

"There are no lawyer bees."

This is the author's humorous way of illustrating one of the most profound chapters in the entire book. In effect, for homo sapiens to band together in functionally larger and larger groups, we need to collectively subscribe to ever-increasingly complex belief systems. The Rule of Law, as implied from the above bee example, is one of those shared belief systems. Our civilization's legal system is so complex as to require entire professions of lawyers to help resolve the inevitable conflicts. Bees need no such designation because their group, while highly complex, is not nearly complex by a long stretch as to require it.

"Religions have a shared belief in a supreme power and so do political systems."

As the author argues and continuing on the theme from above, the definition of religion is much closer to the definition of a political system, such as democracy, than we care to comfortably admit. We're loathe to concede this because we want to believe our modern democratic institutions are leagues ahead, intellectually, of thousand-year-old religions. While I do believe our political systems are better, I also see the author's point in that both are simply large, complex belief systems governed by a shared subservience to a central higher power. The God of Abraham for the Christian/Jewish/Muslim faiths, for example, and the will of the people and checks and balances for a modern democracy. Both are ideologies that bind a culture together. This is a brilliant revelation, and it's altered my view the world for the better.

"How do religions solve the problem of evil AND the expectation of an all-powerful god?"

This problem has been vexing religious scholars for centuries. It's one of the central critiques of religion in general. The author offers his own solution to the problem, both a serious challenge and just as likely not to be taken seriously. It's so elegant and dastardly that I laughed out loud when I heard it. I won't spoil it for the reader but it's a good bit of irreverent philosophical humor in a book of straightforward scientific facts.

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I don't recall ever describing a non-fiction book as epic, but that's one of the best single descriptors I can offer up for this remarkable journey through history. My remarks above barely scratch the surface. Go read it.

n
naturalist
Aug 24, 2020

AQUILEA777, please sermonize elsewhere.

p
pateljh
Jul 25, 2020

This is one of the best books I have read on human history. I highly recommend to anyone interested in our own evolution as humans. It is remarkable that the author can fit the entire history in a single book and make it very readable and enjoyable.

d
dirtbag1
Jul 23, 2020

Brilliant on so many levels. Should be a text in grades 11 and 12 if we aspire to a better informed citizenry.

mryanhess Jun 22, 2020

And now for something completely different. One of the freshest explorations of human history I've found. A witty and thought-provoking read!

d
dirtbag
May 04, 2020

Aquilea777 if you haven't read a book, please don't comment.

This is an easy to read history of man from the beginning of time, with some variance in the usual interpretation of same. He has many interesting insights.

I'm surprised at the number of people who take the author to task for arguing for his own opinions. That's how books work. He doesn't have to give a presentation of other opinions or even to be fair to them.

I agree with the review by Marcus Paul...."the book is deeply flawed in places and Harari is a much better social scientist than he is philosopher, logician or historian. His critique of modern social ills is very refreshing and objective, his piecing together of the shards of pre-history imaginative and appear to the non-specialist convincing, but his understanding of some historical periods and documents is much less impressive..."
Having read a several popular books on economics ( e.g. Filthy Lucre) and on the devastation of the environment by humans ( e.g., Guns, Germs, and Steel ) amongst others, I feel this book is a good starter book for high school students or readers who have no background in the area but it is an over-simplification and a less constructive read for the better informed reader.

c
carolwu96
Feb 14, 2020

Harari divides world history into four sections: the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, the Unification of Humankind, and the Scientific Revolution. These are roughly arranged in chronological order, but their effects overlap and still heavily influence us today. ⁣⁣
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This is a horrendous oversimplification of his ideas but: ⁣⁣
🍍The Cognitive Revolution allowed humans to believe in things that do not physically exist (myths, religions, government, money, etc) which encouraged us to work in bigger groups. Although humans are physically weak, we can hunt bigger animals and increase our population because we collaborate more. ⁣⁣
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🍍The Agricultural Revolution changed our diet for the worse but tied us to our lands, which further allowed social systems to evolve. We also began to heavily alter the surrounding environment to our benefit. ⁣⁣
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🍍 The Unification of Humankind through global trade systems, colonization and capitalism assimilated the lifestyles of distinct communities. ⁣⁣
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🍍 The Scientific Revolution started with a curious mindset that admitted ignorance and believed in progress. It was such a one that pushed European sailors to go “explore” and one that still powers our experiments today. Since capitalism pushes science to spur technological advances, our lives are also guided by such changes. ⁣⁣
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Harari not only delineates these revolutions but also consistently returns to two questions: ⁣⁣
🐋 Where does the future of humankind lie?⁣⁣
🐋 Did we actually increase human happiness through these revolutions? ⁣⁣
⁣⁣
Unfortunately, these questions are very difficult to answer, and after evaluating both sides of the argument I just want to say that prospering as a species does not mean increased happiness for individuals, and vice versa. ⁣⁣
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Since the book’s publication, many of the ideas in this book have seeped into our daily thoughts and conversations, but it is still enlightening to read and understand the context behind them. An eloquent writer, Harari makes reading this book both an inspiration and a pleasure. ⁣
⁣⁣
Highly recommended.

For more book and movie reviews, visit me on Instagram @ RandomStuffIRead !

r
ritamarie29
Feb 07, 2020

I thoroughly enjoyed this version of history. It was fascinating and intelligently-written.

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SMariko
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dano62
Nov 05, 2015

Both scientist and conqueror began by admitting ignorance - they both said 'I don't know what's out there.' They both felt compelled to go out and make new discoveries.

SFPL_ReadersAdvisory Aug 18, 2015

"We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us."

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