Yuval Noah Harari – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Early on I developed an aversion for the content in this book due to the following representative statements and more:
P5—“Like it or not, we are members of a large and particularly noisy family called the great apes. Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.”
P17—“It is unsettling—and perhaps thrilling—to think that we Sapiens could at one time have sex with an animal from a different species, and produce children together.”
P19—“Homo sapiens, the last human species.”
P25—“If you spend hours praying to non-existent guardian spirits, aren’t you wasting precious time, time better spent foraging, fighting, and fornicating.”
P25—“But fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. We can weave common myths such as the biblical creation story.”
P81—“Remember that humans are omnivorous apes who thrive on a wide variety of foods.”
P110—Harari’s biological perspective of the American Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men evolved differently, that they are born with certain mutable characteristics, and that among these are life and the pursuit of pleasure.”
Harari makes categorical statements about human evolutionary processes throughout history as though he is providing proven factual information. In reality, he offers no proofs, empirical or scientific evidence about anything to back up his arguments. Then again how can he when his treatise is based on evolutionary theories. Harari himself sheds some enlightenment in his statement, “The real test of knowledge is not whether it is true, but whether it empowers us. Scientists assume that no theory is 100 per cent correct. A theory that enables us to do new things constitutes knowledge.” 
In this work he makes the case for the emergence and history of humankind based on theories in the evolutionary sciences. Harari states, “About 13.5 billion years ago, matter, energy, time, and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang and about 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms.” He informs us that the word human denotes “an animal belonging to the genus Homo (man),” and that there were a variety of human species of this genus up until about 10,000 years ago. He describes in detail three significant stages of evolution that shaped the course of human history: The Cognitive Revolution (about 70,000 years ago); The Agricultural Revolution (about 12,000 years ago); and the Scientific Revolution (about 500 years ago).
According to Harari, humans first evolved in East Africa about 2.5 million years ago from an earlier genus of apes called Australopithecus. Some of these archaic peoples migrated to North Africa, Europe and Asia, causing human populations to evolve in different tangents and resulting in the formation of several distinct species of humans. The Cognitive Revolution gave rise to the species Sapiens (wise) within the genus Homo (man). The theory is that “accidental genetic mutations changed the inner wiring of the brains of Sapiens, enabling them to think in unprecedented ways and to communicate using an altogether new type of language. Legends, myths, gods, and religion appeared for the first time with the Cognitive Revolution.” 
Harari’s most cogent argument pertains to his discussion of imagined communities which is in much the same vein as Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. Anderson defines “the nation as an imagined political community. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them or ever hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.” Harari says “Any large scale human cooperation . . . is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination. Churches are rooted in common religious myths; states are rooted in common national myths; and judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths.”  “An imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world.” Harari claims “we believe in a particular order not because it is objectively true, but because believing in it enables us to cooperate effectively and forge a better society. Imagined orders are the only way large numbers of humans can cooperate effectively.”
Along those lines Harari states, “Markets and states foster ‘imagined communities’ that contain millions of strangers, and which are tailored to national and commercial needs. The nation is the imagined community of the state and the consumer tribe is the imagined community of the market.”
Getting beyond the offensive material in the book to Christian sentiment and theology, one can appreciate Harari’s critical analysis of the performance of Homo Sapiens over several millennia. He observes that Sapiens have moved from relatively insignificance “into the master of the entire planet and the terror of the ecosystem.” They are currently in a positon to becoming a god with divine capabilities of creation and destruction, accountable to no one. Sapiens have more power than they know what to do with, and they have failed to alleviate suffering in the world and to improve the well-being of themselves and other animals. It is obvious to the Christian reader that throughout this book the Supreme Ruler and Creator of all things has been left out of the equation of human origin, intelligence, and destiny. Devoid of biblical absolutes, moral consciousness, and spiritual principles, Sapiens will always be confused and discontent no matter how much they accumulate or what they accomplish.
My takeaway is that as global leaders we not only need analytical intelligence, cultural intelligence, and emotional intelligence, we also need moral/ethical intelligence. This affords us the ability to utilize power entrusted by God with humility and discretion to His glory and for the spiritual and material well-being of those we serve.
- Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 259.
- Ibid., 3.
- Ibid., 5.
- Ibid., 21.
- Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London:Verso, 2006), 6.
- Harari, Sapiens, 27.
- Ibid., 32.
- Ibid., 110.
- Ibid., 362.
- Ibid., 415.