Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind By Harari, Yuval N. Book - 2015

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.


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.

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