Friday, February 16, 2018

This Guy Is Brilliant

I refer, of course, to Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens, my current read.  I'm currently on page 24.  I've got 392 more pages to read but I'm in no hurry to finish it.  I'm stunned by the information and inspiration I find on every page.  Let's start with the basic premise that a hundred thousand years or so ago there were at least six human species inhabiting the earth.  The question then becomes how of all the Homos did we the Sapiens become the only humans around today?  Our first encounter with our neighbors the Neanderthals didn't go too well for us.  About thirty thousand years later, though, we, the Sapiens, began doing different things.  We returned to our Neanderthal neighbors and drove them and all other human species off the face of the earth.  About fifteen thousand years after that we crossed an ocean to Australia.  And then we invented boats and oil lamps and bows and arrows.  We created art and religion and commerce and social stratification.  Harari calls this the Cognitive Revolution.  Many scientists attribute this Revolution to accidental genetic mutations that changed the wiring of our brains.  Whatever the reason, one of the first things we did with this mutation was develop an altogether new type of language.  It wasn't the first language because every animal has some kind of language.  But our early language proved to be incredibly supple and with it we could share information about each other.  Put in the basest possible terms, one of the first things we did with our amazing new language was gossip.  Research indicates that we've been gossipping for about seventy million years.  The other amazing thing we do with language is talk about things we have never seen, touched or smelled.  With that ability we create myths and legends and gods and religions.  These creations are not individual to each Homo Sapien.  Our fictions become the collective myths of nationalism and religion shared by millions.
I'll keep you posted.

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