When Science Turns to Selling

Sapiens book reviewSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Haran is to me, another horrible example of pop science books masquerading as fact. Haran jumps to wild conclusions that fit his agenda at the expense of real facts or evidence. On the surface, the book reads as an intelligent treatise on anthropology but the conclusions are just too much of a stretch.

The book is written very well and is a lot of fun to read but it is clearly agenda-driven. Haran is apologetic about everything that he personally finds distasteful – religion, meat-eating, monogamy and even heterosexual pairings. His self-hate is aimed at us as “Sapiens” but excludes him personally.  He tends to identify more with the foragers of his book – who he heap praise upon at every turn.

The one interesting takeaway is how homo-sapiens succeeded through their ability to create fictions. We convince ourselves that a slip of green paper (money) has great value just because it has $100 printed on it. We also convince ourselves that our laws are real rather than just a fiction we have agreed upon. By doing so, we can work together in much greater numbers than our competitors. Because of this use of language and ability to “see” and “believe” in something unseen we can do more collectively.

From there he slams religion as another collective “fiction”- something he does just about every tenth sentence throughout the book, regardless of the subject. He is quick to deride previous scientific research as “at best, guesses” but makes his assertions as fact throughout.

The book reminds me of an old saying “most dogs have fleas, but not all fleas have dogs.” Haran sees a lot of dogs underneath his relatively non-scientific search for fleas. This is just the latest example of agenda-driven “science.”

by Chris Doelle