Anthropologist C.R.Hallpike, reviews Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and finds it wanting:

The biological title Sapiens is intended to give the impression of a work of hard-nosed science in the Darwinian tradition. Human history is presented as ‘the next stage in the continuum of physics to chemistry to biology’, and our ultimate destiny, and not so very ultimate either, is to be replaced by intelligent machines. It is a summary of human cultural and social evolution from stone age foraging bands through the agricultural revolution, writing and the rise of the state and large-scale societies, through the gradual process of global unification through empires, money, and the world religions, to the scientific revolution that began the modern world and its consequences.

[…]

Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as ‘infotainment’, a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.

You can read the whole thing here.

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