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How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined. You always insist that the order sustaining society is an objective reality created by the great gods or by the laws of nature. People are unequal, not because Hammurabi said so, but because Enlil and Marduk decreed it. People are equal, not because Thomas Jefferson said so, but because God created them that way. Free markets are the best economic system, not because Adam Smith said so, but because these are the immutable laws of nature.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
most cherished desires of present-day Westerners are shaped by romantic, nationalist, capitalist and humanist myths that have been around for centuries. Friends giving advice often tell each other, ‘Follow your heart.’ But the heart is a double agent that usually takes its instructions from the dominant myths of the day, and the very recommendation to ‘follow your heart’ was implanted in our minds by a combination of nineteenth-century Romantic myths and twentieth-century consumerist myths. The Coca-Cola Company, for example, has marketed Diet Coke around the world under the slogan ‘Diet Coke. Do what feels good.’ Even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order. Let’s consider, for example, the popular desire to take a holiday abroad. There is nothing natural or obvious about this. A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band. The elite of ancient Egypt spent their fortunes building pyramids and having their corpses mummified, but none of them thought of going shopping in Babylon or taking a skiing holiday in Phoenicia. People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism. Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can. We must open ourselves to a wide spectrum of emotions; we must sample various kinds of relationships; we must try different cuisines; we must learn to appreciate different styles of music. One of the best ways to do all that is to break free from our daily routine, leave behind our familiar setting, and go travelling in distant lands, where we can ‘experience’ the culture, the smells, the tastes and the norms of other people. We hear again and again the romantic myths about ‘how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life’. Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible. If we feel that something is missing or not quite right, then we probably need to buy a product (a car, new clothes, organic food) or a service (housekeeping, relationship therapy, yoga classes). Every television commercial is another little legend about how consuming some product or service will make life better. 18. The Great Pyramid of Giza. The kind of thing rich people in ancient Egypt did with their money. Romanticism, which encourages variety, meshes perfectly with consumerism. Their marriage has given birth to the infinite ‘market of experiences’, on which the modern tourism industry is founded. The tourism industry does not sell flight tickets and hotel bedrooms. It sells experiences. Paris is not a city, nor India a country – they are both experiences, the consumption of which is supposed to widen our horizons, fulfil our human potential, and make us happier. Consequently, when the relationship between a millionaire and his wife is going through a rocky patch, he takes her on an expensive trip to Paris. The trip is not a reflection of some independent desire, but rather of an ardent belief in the myths of romantic consumerism. A wealthy man in ancient Egypt would never have dreamed of solving a relationship crisis by taking his wife on holiday to Babylon. Instead, he might have built for her the sumptuous tomb she had always wanted. Like the elite of ancient Egypt, most people in most cultures dedicate their lives to building pyramids. Only the names, shapes and sizes of these pyramids change from one culture to the other. They may take the form, for example, of a suburban cottage with a swimming pool and an evergreen lawn, or a gleaming penthouse with an enviable view. Few question the myths that cause us to desire the pyramid in the first place.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The most common theory points to the fact that men are stronger than women and that they have used their greater physical power to force women into submission. A more subtle version of this claim argues that their strength allows men to monopolize tasks that demand hard manual labor, such as plowing and harvesting. This gives them control of food production, which in turn translates into political clout. There are two problems with this emphasis on muscle power. First, the statement that men are stronger is true only on average and only with regard to certain types of strength. Women are generally more resistant to hunger, disease, and fatigue than men. There are also many women who can run faster and lift heavier weights than many men. Furthermore, and most problematically for this theory, women have, throughout history, mainly been excluded from jobs that required little physical effort, such as the priesthood, law, and politics, while engaging in hard manual labor in the fields....and in the household. If social power were divided in direct relation to physical strength or stamina, women should have got far more of it. Even more importantly, there simply is no direct relation between physical strength and social power among humans. People in their sixties usually exercise power over people in their twenties, even though twenty-somethings are much stronger than their elders. ...Boxing matches were not used to select Egyptian pharaohs or Catholic popes. In forager societies, political dominance generally resides with the person possessing the best social skills rather than the most developed musculature. In fact, human history shows that there is often an inverse relation between physical prowess and social power. In most societies, it’s the lower classes who do the manual labor. Another theory explains that masculine dominance results not from strength but from aggression. Millions of years of evolution have made men far more violent than women. Women can match men as far as hatred, greed, and abuse are concern, but when push comes to shove…men are more willing to engage in raw physical violence. This is why, throughout history, warfare has been a masculine prerogative. In times of war, men’s control of the armed forces has made them the masters of civilian society too. They then use their control of civilian society to fight more and more wars. …Recent studies of the hormonal and cognitive systems of men and women strengthen the assumption that men indeed have more aggressive and violent tendencies and are…on average, better suited to serve as common soldiers. Yet, granted that the common soldiers are all men, does it follow that the ones managing the war and enjoying its fruits must also be men? That makes no sense. It’s like assuming that because all the slaves cultivating cotton fields are all Black, plantation owners will be Black as well. Just as an all-Black workforce might be controlled by an all-White management, why couldn’t an all-male soldiery be controlled by an all-female government?
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In forager societies, political dominance generally resides with the person possessing the best social skills rather than the most developed musculature.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
There is no basis for thinking that the most successful cultures in history are necessarily the best one for Homo sapiens.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Whatever the correct answer, the Sungir children are among the best pieces of evidence that 30,000 years ago Sapiens could invent sociopolitical codes that went far beyond the dictates of our DNA
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
But the best thing fire did was cook. Foods that humans cannot digest in their natural forms – such as wheat, rice and potatoes – became staples of our diet thanks to cooking. Fire not only changed food’s chemistry, it changed its biology as well. Cooking killed germs and parasites that infested food. Humans also had a far easier time chewing and digesting old favourites such as fruits, nuts, insects and carrion if they were cooked.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can. We must open ourselves to a wide spectrum of emotions; we must sample various kinds of relationships; we must try different cuisines; we must learn to appreciate different styles of music. One of the best ways to do all that is to break free from our daily routine, leave behind our familiar setting, and go travelling in distant lands, where we can ‘experience’ the culture, the smells, the tastes and the norms of other people. We hear again and again the romantic myths about ‘how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life’. Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible. If we feel that something is missing or not quite right, then we probably need to buy a product (a car, new clothes, organic food) or a service (housekeeping, relationship therapy, yoga classes). Every television commercial is another little legend about how consuming some product or service will make life better. Romanticism, which encourages variety, meshes perfectly with consumerism. Their marriage has given birth to the infinite ‘market of experiences’, on which the modern tourism industry is founded.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Even more importantly, there simply is no direct relation between physical strength and social power among humans. People in their sixties usually exercise power over people in their twenties, even though twenty-somethings are much stronger than their elders. The typical plantation owner in Alabama in the mid-nineteenth century could have been wrestled to the ground in seconds by any of the slaves cultivating his cotton fields. Boxing matches were not used to select Egyptian pharaohs or Catholic popes. In forager societies, political dominance generally resides with the person possessing the best social skills rather than the most developed musculature. In organized crime, the big boss is not necessarily the strongest man. He is often an older man who very rarely uses his own fists; he gets younger and fitter men to do the dirty jobs for him. A guy who thinks that the way to take over the syndicate is to beat up the don is unlikely to live long enough to learn from his mistake. Even among chimpanzees, the alpha male wins his position by building a stable coalition with other males and females, not through mindless violence. In fact, human history shows that there is often an inverse relation between physical prowess and social power. In most societies, it’s the lower classes who do the manual labor. This may reflect homo sapiens position in the food chain. If all that counted were raw physical abilities, sapiens would have found themselves on a middle rung of the ladder. But their mental and social skills placed them at the top. It is therefore only natural that the chain of power within the species will also be determined by mental and social abilities more than by brute force. It is therefore hard to believe that the most influential and most stable social hierarchy in history is founded on men's ability to physically coerce women.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
There are even a number of present-day human cultures in which collective fatherhood is practised, as for example among the Barí Indians. According to the beliefs of such societies, a child is not born from the sperm of a single man, but from the accumulation of sperm in a woman’s womb. A good mother will make a point of having sex with several different men, especially when she is pregnant, so that her child will enjoy the qualities (and paternal care) not merely of the best hunter, but also of the best storyteller, the strongest warrior and the most considerate lover.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The late modern era has seen unprecedented levels not only of violence and horror, but also of peace and tranquillity. Charles Dickens wrote of the French Revolution that ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ This may be true not only of the French Revolution, but of the entire era it heralded.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
If you want to keep any human group isolated – women, Jews, Roma, gays, blacks – the best way to do it is convince everyone that these people are a source of pollution
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Liberal politics is based on the idea that the voters know best, and there is no need for Big Brother to tell us what is good for us. Liberal economics is based on the idea that the customer is always right. Liberal art declares that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Students in liberal schools and universities are taught to think for themselves. Commercials urge us to ‘Just do it.’ Action films, stage dramas, soap operas, novels and catchy pop songs indoctrinate us constantly: ‘Be true to yourself’, ‘Listen to yourself’, ‘Follow your heart’. Jean-Jacques Rousseau stated this view most classically: ‘What I feel to be good – is good. What I feel to be bad – is bad.’ People who have been raised from infancy on a diet of such slogans are prone to believe that happiness is a subjective feeling and that each individual best knows whether she is happy or miserable. Yet this view is unique to liberalism. Most religions and ideologies throughout history stated that there are objective yardsticks for goodness and beauty, and for how things ought to be. They were suspicious of the feelings and preferences of the ordinary person. At the entrance of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, pilgrims were greeted by the inscription: ‘Know thyself!’ The implication was that the average person is ignorant of his true self, and is therefore likely to be ignorant of true happiness. Freud would probably concur.fn1 And so would Christian theologians. St Paul and St Augustine knew perfectly well that if you asked people about it, most of them would prefer to have sex than pray to God. Does that prove that having sex is the key to happiness? Not according to Paul and Augustine. It proves only that humankind is sinful by nature, and that people are easily seduced by Satan. From a Christian viewpoint, the vast majority of people are in more or less the same situation as heroin addicts. Imagine that a psychologist embarks on a study of happiness among drug users. He polls them and finds that they declare, every single one of them, that they are only happy when they shoot up. Would the psychologist publish a paper declaring that heroin is the key to happiness? The idea that feelings are not to be trusted is not restricted to Christianity. At least when it comes to the value of feelings, even Darwin and Dawkins might find common ground with St Paul and St Augustine. According to the selfish gene theory, natural selection makes people, like other organisms, choose what is good for the reproduction of their genes, even if it is bad for them as individuals. Most males spend their lives toiling, worrying, competing and fighting, instead of enjoying peaceful bliss, because their DNA manipulates them for its own selfish aims. Like Satan, DNA uses fleeting pleasures to tempt people and place them in its power.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
There are schools of thought and political movements that seek to purge human culture of imperialism, leaving behind what they claim is a pure, authentic civilisation, untainted by sin. These ideologies are at best naive; at worst they serve as disingenuous window-dressing for crude nationalism and bigotry.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
No matter what you call it – game theory, postmodernism or memetics – the dynamics of history are not directed towards enhancing human well-being. There is no basis for thinking that the most successful cultures in history are necessarily the best ones for Homo sapiens. Like evolution, history disregards the happiness of individual organisms. And individual humans, for their part, are usually far too ignorant and weak to influence the course of history to their own advantage.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
No matter what you call it - game theory, postmodernism or memetics - the dynamics of history are not directed towards enhancing human well-being. There is no basis for thinking that the most successful cultures in history are necessarily the best ones for Homo sapiens. Like evolution, history disregards the happiness of individual organisms. And individual humans, for their part, are usually far too ignorant and weak to influence the course of history to their own advantage. (p. 271)
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The most important military invention in the history of China was gunpowder. Yet to the best of our knowledge, gunpowder was invented accidentally, by Daoist alchemists searching for the elixir of life. Gunpowder’s subsequent career is even more telling. One might have thought that the Daoist alchemists would have made China master of the world. In fact, the Chinese used the new compound mainly for firecrackers. Even as the Song Empire collapsed in the face of a Mongol invasion, no emperor set up a medieval Manhattan Project to save the empire by inventing a doomsday weapon. Only in the fifteenth century – about 600 years after the invention of gunpowder – did cannons become a decisive factor on Afro-Asian battlefields. Why did it take so long for the deadly potential of this substance to be put to military use? Because it appeared at a time when neither kings, scholars, nor merchants thought that new military technology could save them or make them rich.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
good mother will make a point of having sex with several different men, especially when she is pregnant, so that her child will enjoy the qualities (and paternal care) not merely of the best hunter, but also of the best storyteller, the strongest warrior and the most considerate lover. If this sounds silly, bear in mind that before the development of modern embryological studies, people had no solid evidence that babies are always sired by a single father rather than by many.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari 4.24 avg rating — 13,866 ratings published 2011 From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and en ...more It is the best of my books I resently read...
Yuval Harari
There are schools of thought and political movements that seek to purge human culture of imperialism, leaving behind what they claim is a pure, authentic civilisation, untainted by sin. These ideologies are at best naïve; at worst they serve as disingenuous window-dressing for crude nationalism and bigotry.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
How can myths sustain entire empires? We have already discussed one such example: Peugeot. Now let’s examine two of the best-known myths of history: the Code of Hammurabi of c.1776 BC, which served as a cooperation manual for hundreds of thousands of ancient Babylonians; and the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 AD, which today still serves as a cooperation manual for hundreds of millions of modern Americans.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Over those 20,000 years humankind moved from hunting mammoth with stone-tipped spears to exploring the solar system with spaceships not thanks to the evolution of more dexterous hands or bigger brains (our brains today seem actually to be smaller). 17 Instead, the crucial factor in our conquest of the world was our ability to connect many humans to one another. 18 Humans nowadays completely dominate the planet not because the individual human is far smarter and more nimble-fingered than the individual chimp or wolf, but because Homo sapiens is the only species on earth capable of co-operating flexibly in large numbers. Intelligence and toolmaking were obviously very important as well. But if humans had not learned to cooperate flexibly in large numbers, our crafty brains and deft hands would still be splitting flint stones rather than uranium atoms. If cooperation is the key, how come the ants and bees did not beat us to the nuclear bomb even though they learned to cooperate en masse millions of years before us? Because their cooperation lacks flexibility. Bees cooperate in very sophisticated ways, but they cannot reinvent their social system overnight. If a hive faces a new threat or a new opportunity, the bees cannot, for example, guillotine the queen and establish a republic. Social mammals such as elephants and chimpanzees cooperate far more flexibly than bees, but they do so only with small numbers of friends and family members. Their cooperation is based on personal acquaintance. If I am a chimpanzee and you are a chimpanzee and I want to cooperate with you, I must know you personally: what kind of chimp are you? Are you a nice chimp? Are you an evil chimp? How can I cooperate with you if I don’t know you? To the best of our knowledge, only Sapiens can cooperate in very flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. This concrete capability–rather than an eternal soul or some unique kind of consciousness–explains our mastery of planet Earth.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
The best-known religions of history, such as Islam and Buddhism, are universal and missionary. Consequently
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
We focus too much on the puddles and forget about the dry land separating them. The late modern era has seen unprecedented levels not only of violence and horror, but also of peace and tranquillity. Charles Dickens wrote of the French Revolution that ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ This may be true not only of the French Revolution, but of the entire era it heralded.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
To the best of our knowledge, Eleanor and Edward I were a healthy couple and passed no fatal hereditary illnesses on to their children. Nevertheless, ten out of the sixteen – 62 per cent – died during childhood. Only six managed to live beyond the age of eleven, and only three – just 18 per cent – lived beyond the age of forty. In addition to these births, Eleanor most likely had a number of pregnancies that ended in miscarriage. On average, Edward and Eleanor lost a child every three years, ten children one after another.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
People in their sixties usually exercise power over people in their twenties, even though twentysomethings are much stronger than their elders. The typical plantation owner in Alabama in the mid-nineteenth century could have been wrestled to the ground in seconds by any of the slaves cultivating his cotton fields. Boxing matches were not used to select Egyptian pharaohs or Catholic popes. In forager societies, political dominance generally resides with the person possessing the best social skills rather than the most developed musculature. In organised crime, the big boss is not necessarily the strongest man. He is often an older man who very rarely uses his own fists; he gets younger and fitter men to do the dirty jobs for him. A guy who thinks that the way to take over the syndicate is to beat up the don is unlikely to live long enough to learn from his mistake. Even among chimpanzees, the alpha male wins his position by building a stable coalition with other males and females, not through mindless violence. In fact, human history shows that there is often an inverse relation between physical prowess and social power. In most societies, it’s the lower classes who do the manual labour. This may reflect Homo sapiens’ position in the food chain. If all that counted were raw physical abilities, Sapiens would have found themselves on a middle rung of the ladder. But their mental and social skills placed them at the top. It is therefore only natural that the chain of power within the species will also be determined by mental and social abilities more than by brute force. It is therefore hard to believe that the most influential and most stable social hierarchy in history is founded on men’s ability physically to coerce women.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The Industrial Revolution brought about dozens of major upheavals in human society. Adapting to industrial time is just one of them. Other notable examples include urbanisation, the disappearance of the peasantry, the rise of the industrial proletariat, the empowerment of the common person, democratisation, youth culture and the disintegration of patriarchy. Yet all of these upheavals are dwarfed by the most momentous social revolution that ever befell humankind: the collapse of the family and the local community and their replacement by the state and the market. As best we can tell, from the earliest times, more than a million years ago, humans lived in small, intimate communities, most of whose members were kin. The Cognitive Revolution and the Agricultural Revolution did not change that. They glued together families and communities to create tribes, cities, kingdoms and empires, but families and communities remained the basic building blocks of all human societies. The Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, managed within little more than two centuries to break these building blocks into atoms. Most of the traditional functions of families and communities were handed over to states and markets.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
We seek comfort in the fantasy that Dr Frankenstein can create only terrible monsters, whom we would have to destroy in order to save the world. We like to tell the story that way because it implies that we are the best of all beings, that there never was and never will be something better than us. Any attempt to improve us will inevitably fail, because even if our bodies might be improved, you cannot touch the human spirit.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Each of us bears billions of one-celled creatures within us, and not just as free-riders. They are our best friends, and deadliest enemies. Some of them digest our food and clean our guts, while others cause illnesses and epidemics. Yet it was only in 1674 that a human eye first saw a microorganism, when Anton van Leeuwenhoek took a peek through his home-made microscope and was startled to see an entire world of tiny creatures milling about in a drop of water.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Yet what happens if the greedy shoemaker increases his profits by paying employees less and increasing their work hours? The standard answer is that the free market would protect the employees. If our shoemaker pays too little and demands too much, the best employees would naturally abandon him and go to work for his competitors. The tyrant shoemaker would find himself left with the worst labourers, or with no labourers at all. He would have to mend his ways or go out of business. His own greed would compel him to treat his employees well.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
There are schools of thought and political movements that seek to purge human culture of imperialism, leaving behind what they claim is a pure, authentic civilisation, untainted by sin. These ideologies are at best naive; at worst they serve as disingenuous window-dressing for crude nationalism and bigotry. Perhaps
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism. Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can. We must open ourselves to a wide spectrum of emotions; we must sample various kinds of relationships; we must try different cuisines; we must learn to appreciate different styles of music. One of the best ways to do all that is to break free from our daily routine, leave behind our familiar setting, and go travelling in distant lands, where we can ‘experience’ the culture, the smells, the tastes and the norms of other people. We hear again and again the romantic myths about ‘how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life’. Consumerism
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
If you want to keep any human group isolated – women, Jews, Roma, gays, blacks – the best way to do it is convince everyone that these people are a source of pollution. The
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
If, say, a Christian really wants to understand the Muslims who attend that mosque down the street, he shouldn’t look for a pristine set of values that every Muslim holds dear. Rather, he should enquire into the catch-22s of Muslim culture, those places where rules are at war and standards scuffle. It’s at the very spot where the Muslims teeter between two imperatives that you’ll understand them best.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Credit arrangements of one kind or another have existed in all known human cultures, going back at least to ancient Sumer. The problem in previous eras was not that no one had the idea or knew how to use it. It was that people seldom wanted to extend much credit because they didn’t trust that the future would be better than the present. They generally believed that times past had been better than their own times and that the future would be worse, or at best much the same. To put that in economic terms, they believed that the total amount of wealth was limited, if not dwindling. People therefore considered it a bad bet to assume that they personally, or their kingdom, or the entire world, would be producing more wealth ten years down the line. Business looked like a zero-sum game. Of course, the profits of one particular bakery might rise, but only at the expense of the bakery next door. Venice might flourish, but only by impoverishing Genoa. The king of England might enrich himself, but only by robbing the king of France. You could cut the pie in many different ways, but it never got any bigger. That’s why many cultures concluded that making bundles of money was sinful.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Our best minds are not wasting their time trying to give meaning to death. Instead, they are busy investigating the physiological, hormonal and genetic systems responsible for disease and old age. They are developing new medicines, revolutionary treatments and artificial organs that will lengthen our lives and might one day vanquish the Grim Reaper himself.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
There simply is no direct relation between physical strength and social power among humans. People in their sixties usually exercise power over people in their twenties, even though twentysomethings are much stronger than their elders. The typical plantation owner in Alabama in the mid-nineteenth century could have been wrestled to the ground in seconds by any of the slaves cultivating his cotton fields. Boxing matches were not used to select Egyptian pharaohs or Catholic popes. In forager societies, political dominance generally resides with the person possessing the best social skills rather than the most developed musculature. In organised crime, the big boss is not necessarily the strongest man. He is often an older man who very rarely uses his own fists; he gets younger and fitter men to do the dirty jobs for him. A guy who thinks that the way to take over the syndicate is to beat up the don is unlikely to live long enough to learn from his mistake. Even among chimpanzees, the alpha male wins his position by building a stable coalition with other males and females, not through mindless violence.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens - A brief history of humankind (Marathi))
Archaeologists are familiar with such monumental structures from sites around the world – the best-known example is Stonehenge in Britain. Yet as they studied Göbekli Tepe, they discovered an amazing fact. Stonehenge dates to 2500 BC, and was built by a developed agricultural society. The structures at Göbekli Tepe are dated to about 9500 BC, and all available evidence indicates that they were built by hunter-gatherers. The archaeological community initially found it difficult to credit these findings, but one test after another confirmed both the early date of the structures and the pre-agricultural society of their builders. The capabilities of ancient foragers, and the complexity of their cultures, seem to be far more impressive than was previously suspected.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
understand the Muslims who attend that mosque down the street, he shouldn’t look for a pristine set of values that every Muslim holds dear. Rather, he should enquire into the catch-22s of Muslim culture, those places where rules are at war and standards scuffle. It’s at the very spot where the Muslims teeter between two imperatives that you’ll understand them best.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
with this line of reasoning. If it makes you feel better, you are free to go on calling Communism an ideology rather than a religion. It makes no difference. We can divide creeds into god-centred religions and godless ideologies that claim to be based on natural laws. But then, to be consistent, we would need to catalogue at least some Buddhist, Daoist and Stoic sects as ideologies rather than religions. Conversely, we should note that belief in gods persists within many modern ideologies, and that some of them, most notably liberalism, make little sense without this belief. It would be impossible to survey here the history of all the new modern creeds, especially because there are no clear boundaries between them. They are no less syncretic than monotheism and popular Buddhism. Just as a Buddhist could worship Hindu deities, and just as a monotheist could believe in the existence of Satan, so the typical American nowadays is simultaneously a nationalist (she believes in the existence of an American nation with a special role to play in history), a free-market capitalist (she believes that open competition and the pursuit of self-interest are the best ways to create a prosperous society), and a liberal humanist (she believes that humans have been endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights). Nationalism will be discussed in Chapter 18. Capitalism – the most successful of the modern religions – gets a whole chapter, Chapter 16, which expounds its principal beliefs and rituals. In the remaining pages of this chapter I will address the humanist religions. Theist religions focus on the worship of gods. Humanist religions worship humanity, or more correctly, Homo sapiens. Humanism is a belief that Homo sapiens has a unique and sacred nature, which is fundamentally different from the nature of all other animals and of all other phenomena. Humanists believe that the unique nature of Homo sapiens is the most important thing in the world, and it determines the meaning of everything that happens in the universe. The supreme good is the good of Homo sapiens. The rest of the world and all other beings exist solely for the benefit of this species. All humanists worship humanity, but they do not agree on its definition. Humanism has split into three rival sects that fight over the exact definition of ‘humanity’, just as rival Christian sects fought over the exact definition of God. Today, the most important humanist sect is liberal humanism, which believes that ‘humanity’ is a quality of individual humans, and that the liberty of individuals is therefore sacrosanct. According to liberals, the sacred nature of humanity resides within each and every individual Homo sapiens. The inner core of individual humans gives meaning to the world, and is the source for all ethical and political authority. If we encounter an ethical or political dilemma, we should look inside and listen to our inner voice – the voice of humanity. The chief commandments of liberal humanism are meant to protect the liberty of this inner voice against intrusion or harm. These commandments are collectively known as ‘human rights’. This, for example, is why liberals object to torture and the death penalty. In early modern Europe, murderers were thought to violate and destabilise the cosmic order. To bring the cosmos back to balance, it was necessary to torture and publicly execute the criminal, so that everyone could see the order re-established. Attending gruesome executions was a favourite pastime for Londoners and Parisians in the era of Shakespeare and Molière. In today’s Europe, murder is seen as a violation of the sacred nature of humanity. In order to restore order, present-day Europeans do not torture and execute criminals. Instead, they punish a murderer in what they see as the most ‘humane
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
If you want to keep any human group isolated – women, Jews, Roma, gays, blacks – the best way to do it is convince everyone that these people are a source of pollution.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
There are schools of thought and political movements that seek to purge human culture of imperialism, leaving behind what they claim is a pure, authentic civilisation, untainted by sin. These ideologies are at best naïve; at worst they serve as disingenuous window-dressing for crude nationalism and bigotry. Perhaps you could make a case that some of the myriad cultures that emerged at the dawn of recorded history were pure, untouched by sin and unadulterated by other societies. But no culture since that dawn can reasonably make that claim, certainly no culture that exists now on earth. All human cultures are at least in part the legacy of empires and imperial civilisations, and no academic or political surgery can cut out the imperial legacies without killing the patient.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Whatever the correct answer, the Sungir children are among the best pieces of evidence that 30,000 years ago Sapiens could invent sociopolitical codes that went far beyond the dictates of our DNA and the behaviour patterns of other human and animal species.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Hence according to our best scientific knowledge, the Leviticus injunctions against homosexuality reflect nothing grander than the biases of a few priests and scholars in ancient Jerusalem.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens and Homo Deus: The E-book Collection: A Brief History of Humankind and A Brief History of Tomorrow)
No matter what you call it – game theory, postmodernism or memetics – the dynamics of history are not directed towards enhancing human well-being. There is no basis for thinking that the most successful cultures in history are necessarily the best ones for Homo sapiens. Like evolution, history disregards the happiness of individual organisms.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)