Or what about John of Salisbury (twelfth-century bishop), the greatest social thinker since Augustine, who bequeathed to us the function of the rule of law and the concept that even the monarch is subject to law and may be removed by the people if he breaks it. Following Cicero he rejected dogmatic claims to certainty and asserted instead that ‘probable truth’ was the best we could aim for, which had to be constantly re-evaluated and revised.
So, historically Harari tends to draw too firm a dividing line between the medieval and modern eras (p285). He is good on the more modern period but the divide is manifest enough without overstating the case as he does.
His passage about human rights not existing in nature is exactly right, but his treatment of the US Declaration of Independence is surely completely mistaken (p123). To ‘translate’ it https://hookupdate.net/de/dating-app-fГјr-teenager/ as he does into a statement about evolution is like ‘translating’ a rainbow into a mere geometric arc, or better, ‘translating’ a landscape into a map. Of course, neither process is a translation for to do so is an impossibility. They are what they are. The one is an inspiration, the other an analysis. It is not a matter of one being untrue, the other true – for both landscapes and maps are capable of conveying truths of different kinds.
The Declaration is an aspirational statement about the rights that ought to be accorded to each individual under the rule of law in a post-Enlightenment nation predicated upon Christian principles. Harari’s ‘translation’ is a statement about what our era (currently) believes in a post-Darwinian culture about humanity’s evolutionary drives and our ‘selfish’ genes. ‘Biology’ may tell us those things but human experience and history tell a different story: there is altruism as well as egoism; there is love as well as fear and hatred; there is morality as well as amorality. The sword is not the only way in which events and epochs have been made. Indeed, to make biology/biochemistry the final irreducible way of perceiving human behaviour, as Harari seems to do, seems tragically short-sighted.
I’m not surprised that the book is a bestseller in a (by and large) religiously illiterate society; and though it has a lot of merit in other areas, its critique of Judaism and Christianity is not historically respectable. A mere six lines of conjecture (p242) on the emergence of monotheism from polytheism – stated as fact – is indefensible. It lacks objectivity. The great world-transforming Abrahamic religion emerging from the deserts in the early Bronze Age period (as it evidently did) with an utterly new understanding of the sole Creator God is such an enormous change. It simply can’t be ignored in this way if the educated reader is to be convinced by his reconstructions.
Harari is also demonstrably very shaky in his representation of what Christians believe. For example, his contention that belief in the Devil makes Christianity dualistic (equal independent good and evil gods) is simply untenable. One of the very earliest biblical texts (Book of Job) shows God allowing Satan to attack Job but irresistibly restricting his methods (Job 1:12). Later, Jesus banishes Satan from individuals (Mark 1:25 et al.) and the final book of the Bible shows God destroying Satan (Revelation ). Not much dualism there! It’s all, of course, a profound mystery – but it’s quite certainly not caused by dualism according to the Bible. Harari either does not know his Bible or is choosing to misrepresent it. He also doesn’t know his Thomas Hardy who believed (some of the time!) precisely what Harari says ‘nobody in history’ believed, namely that God is evil – as evidenced in a novel like Tess of the d’Urbervilles or his poem The Convergence of the Twain.