Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is an ambitious attempt to explain in under 500 pages the manifold forces that transformed the unassuming genus Homo into the bodacious Homo sapiens. In the pursuit of this noble goal, the author presents his readers the smorgasbord of counterfactual conditionals – what could have and might have been. Although the speculative reconstruction of human history makes for an interesting read, it is anything but new. There are scores of books like Sapiens; however, unlike dull treatises written by Christian or crudely materialistic authors, Harari’s work has become an overnight success. Despite countless negative scholarly reviews of Sapiens, the book occupies millions of coffee tables around the world. Its popularity can be attributed to a simple reason, and that is simplicity. People love it. The author moves the plot of his swashbuckling story along using far-fetched and reductionists claims about the earliest humans and their surroundings. For example, in a manner similar to that employed by sensationalistic online publications, the author proffers that wheat domesticated ancient agrarians “rather than vice versa” (Harari, 2014, p. 79). There is little surprise, then, that the book has garnered a fair share of carping and harsh academic criticism.

The aim of this paper is to review Sapiens and discuss its most egregious drawbacks and problems with Harari’s reasoning. The review will also address two questions: “What is the book Sapiens about?” and “What lessons does the book Sapiens give?” It will be argued that the history of sapiens eloquently recounted by Harari should be recognized for what it is: science-fiction rather than a serious scholarly work.

Discussion for the Book Sapiens Raises Stinging Questions

In the book, which is often found among college reading materials and lesson plans high school, the historian broaches the themes of geography, sociology, Christianity, in particular, and religion, in general. Naturally, Harari’s work is a welter of book club questions. To the author’s credit, it should be mentioned that research behind Sapiens book is immense; this fact notwithstanding, there are many issues with its application. Is Sapiens an authentic book on evolution? Hardly. Although many propositions put forward by the author are based in scientific evidences, the drawn conclusions are of dubious validity. For example, when trying to answer the question of “How did homo sapiens develop?”, Harari resorts to religion. No, he does not use religious teaching as a basis for his arguments. Instead, he echoes Genesis stories to illustrate relationships between evolution, humans and morality, as well as, pass judgment on the human race. Specifically, agricultural revolution from Sapiens book reverberates with the story of Cain and Abel. The historian posits that the first agrarian who tilled the soil committed a crime the results of which are only overshadowed by that of animal husbandry. In an excerpt animal farming Harari asserts that the practice “might well be the greatest crime in history” (Harari, 2014, p. 112). He makes similarly sweeping moral judgments by comparing cognitive revolution to the original sin and the scientific revolution to the Tower of Babel. The writer bemoans certain aspects of the technological progress and their wider social implications. Specifically, he points to the blurred boundaries between therapeutic and enhancement applications of pharmaceutical drugs arguing against the latter. At the same time, Harari claims that ethical and moral frameworks are fundamentally fictional and should be regarded as such. If at this point, it is not abundantly clear why the book is not a convincing academic analysis, consider the author’s opinion on the information society: “irresponsible” and “discontented” “self-made gods” (Harari, 2014, p. 314). Such comments account for unfavorable reception by anthropology and downgrade the book to the science-fiction category.


Is Wrong to Heed Sapiens Criticism?

Is Sapiens accurate? No. The book’s flawed claims have been debunked numerous times. The large number of errors has been surpassed by the even larger number of negative responses to the book Sapiens. Academic critiques and controversy notwithstanding, it is wrong to call the Harari’s work bad. It seems that cynical readers leaving depressing reviews on Goodreads have been sidetracked by sensationalism and exaggeration and missed the author’s main point: the evolutionary arc is long, but it bends toward progress. And in his treatise, Harari makes strained efforts to point the yesterday’s nomadic tribes toward it. Even though a Brief History of Humankind critical book analysis exposes severe inconsistencies in the author’s reasoning, one should not be dissuaded by it. The book is overhyped, but it is extremely illuminating and mordantly funny, which is why it is still worthy of one’s time.

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Sapiens Book Best Quotes

Sapiens is awash with brainy quotes one could use to open a speech or cite in an essay. In one of many quotes on capitalism, Harari notes that the system is a social construct: “How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined” (2014, p. 179). Another memorable Sapiens book quote on the matter is “money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – none of these will bring you happiness” (Harari, 2014, p. 184).