This is one of those rare books which challenge the reader’s perspectives again and again unabashedly. Every chapter (there are 20 of them in all) wages a war with some of our pet beliefs and concepts. Religious people who are particularly sensitive about their faith and religious sentiments will find this book highly disturbing. The rational thinkers and those who are guided by the scientific temper will find their perspectives being reinforced.
The author is a historian by education and profession. But the book is multidisciplinary drawing copiously on various subjects such as biology, psychology and anthropology. Starting with the evolution of man from the ape, the history of mankind moves on through the myths and gods our ancestors created, the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and so on, to “The End of Homo Sapiens.”
Man is a myth-making animal. Myths have enormous powers. Myths can bring millions of homo sapiens together and make them work towards common goals. This is how religions succeed in getting a lot of things done (most of which may be silly by scientific standards).
However, myths are not the prerogative of religions alone. In fact, quite a lot of human actions are founded on myths. Nationalism is a myth, for example. It is founded on certain stories we make and convince ourselves with. The nationalist believes that his country is superior to other countries and takes pride in that belief. It is a belief, however, which will not stand up to objective analysis most of the times.
|Yuval Noah Harari|
Harari goes on to show that quite a lot of things we hold sacred are mere myths. But these myths are very powerful. They are usually deeply entrenched in people’s psyche. All large-scale human cooperation is based on myths, says Harari. If you want to change the way people cooperate, then change their myths.
The book goes on to question a lot of our myths. The author knows very well that he can only present the scientifically objective facts before the reader. Ultimately most homo sapiens stick to some myths. Science is too boring to engage us outside the school or workplace.
The homo sapiens is a self-made god who has created supernatural gods for his own convenience. “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?” That’s the question with which the book ends. There is a lot of indictment of the human species before that question is thrust into the psyche of the reader.
I highly recommend this book to everyone who is mature enough to understand it. We think we are a great species. The book will show us what we really are. Perhaps, it can make us feel humble. More importantly, it can open our eyes to a lot of truths, vital truths.