In 2011, Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian, published the book Sapiens, which will soon become an international bestseller. This book was translated into English in 2014 and in French in 2015. The French version would have sold more than 650 000 copies in France.
Even though Sapiens has been a popular success, it has already been criticized by academics. After reading it, I can make it a constructive critique.
First, this book has the immense merit of disseminating to a large number of people some key ideas:
• Man is above all an animal (Homo sapiens).
• The importance of the agricultural and industrial revolution in the history of the world.
• The importance of capitalism as a means to concentrate and grow capital.
• The human brain generates a high energy expenditure (25%), about three times more than the other great apes (PAGE19).
• Control of Fire 300 000 years ago and the impact of cooking on the brain.
• The presence of Neanderthal DNA in Homo sapiens DNA.
• Our brains are still adapted to hunter-gatherer life.
After the flowers, here is the pot: first, this book does not bring anything new.
The author's main thesis relates to the cognitive revolution that would have occurred about 70 000 years ago. It was at this time that culture and history appeared. Without too much explanation, he hypothesized that according to: "The most widespread theory, accidental genetic mutations changed the internal wiring of the Homo sapiens brain, allowing them to think in unprecedented ways and to communicate in Using languages of a whole new species» Page 33. This cognitive revolution brings new faculties to transmit large amounts of information about the world, about social relations and about things that do not really exist.
This cognitive revolution would have allowed Homo Sapiens to acquire the technology, the organizational skills and perhaps the vision needed to get out of Africa. The cognitive superiority of Homo sapiens would have allowed them to replace the Neanderthals.
The author talks about the scientific revolution as the third major revolution after the cognitive revolution and the agricultural revolution. According to him, the developments in history since 1500 are explained because Europeans have developed science to fill their ignorance. That's a reductive explanation. He speaks of the scientific revolution in Chapter 14, but of capitalism as in Chapter 16. It does not mention that it is the commercial capitalism developed by the Italian republics in the Middle Ages (Venice, Florence, Genoa) that allowed the development of humanism and science.
It defines religion as a system of norms and human values based on belief in the existence of a superhuman order. It includes Buddhism, communism, humanism, epicureanismism and Capitalism in Religions (Chapter 12). It is a reductive definition that encompasses all religions, philosophies and social organizations in the concept of religion.
In my opinion, the greatest flaw in this book is that it totally ignores the importance of technology. Indeed, the technology defined as the planned ability to transform matter and energy for utilitarian purposes is above all what distinguishes humans from other animals. Without technology, man would be only one species of mammal among many. That is what we will be presenting in future articles.