“Evolution moulded our minds and bodies to the life of hunter-gatherers” (p. 378) — then there’s no reason to expect that we should need to evolve the ability to build cathedrals, compose symphonies, ponder the deep physics mysteries of the universe, or write entertaining (or even imaginative) books about human history. Why should these things evolve? He said it, not me: “Frankly, we don’t know.”
Here’s something else we don’t know: the genetic pathway by which all of these cognitive abilities evolved (supposedly). Now you probably won’t appreciate this fact if you read Sapiens, because Harari gives a veneer of evolutionary explanation which really amounts to no explanation at all. Here’s what he says:
“The appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating, between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, constitutes the Cognitive Revolution. What caused it? We’re not sure. The most commonly believed theory argues 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. We might call it the Tree of Knowledge mutation. Why did it occur in Sapiens DNA rather than in that of Neanderthals? It was a matter of pure chance, as far as we can tell. But it’s more important to understand the consequences of the Tree of Knowledge mutation than its causes. What was so special about the new Sapiens language that it enabled us to conquer the world?”
True, Harari admits that “We’re not sure” how all this happened. But he then proceeds to confidently assert that human cognitive abilities arose via “accidental genetic mutations” that “changed the inner wiring of the brains of Sapiens.” No discussion is attempted and no citation is given for exactly what these mutations were, what exactly they did, how many mutations were necessary, and whether they would be likely to arise via the neo-Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection in the available time periods.Casey Luskin, “A Scientifically Weak and Ethically Uninspiring Vision of Human Origins: Review of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens” at Discovery Institute (October 25, 2021)
Hey, where’s the turtleneck and the mike?
You may also wish to read: Michael Egnor’s take on Harari’s denial of free will: Is free will a dangerous myth? The denial of free will is a much more dangerous myth. It is the denial of free will, rather than the affirmation of it, that serves as the fundamental philosophical pretext for totalitarian oppression.