Sapiens, from Jim Sogi

June 10, 2015 |

 I'm reading an interesting book, Sapiens by Yuval Harari. In making rather blunt conclusions he theorizes that it was the new ability of Sapiens developed only about 70,000 to imagine non existent things that allowed the development of larger organizations of humans such as large tribes, countries, corporations and religions. It is through the larger organizations based on myth that man's accomplishments occurred only recently rather than in the 2.5 million prior years of homonid history. The conclusions are speculative because there is virtually no record and the very scant archeological evidence shows little of what and how ancient prehistory man thought, did, acted, believed. He discounts the importance of tools on the basis that man had tools for 2.5 million years and did not accomplish much and was no more distinguished an animal than the other apes.

In an interesting take on agriculture, he discusses how foraging man spent 4-5 hours a day working to survive, then hung out the rest of the day. Contrast modern man's long work week. He explains some of the stress comes from the fact that man is designed for 2.5 million years as a forager, and that his reactions built in haven't evolved to accommodate recent civilization only in the last 5000 years.

The timeline is interesting with 2.5 million years of not doing much. Then fire was discovered and has been used for 300,000 years; Agriculture for about 9000; Civilization less than 5000 years. Other species of humans existing until about 10,000 years ago. The recent genetic evidence seems to point to some interbreeding with humans having Neaderthal genes. Humans seem to have wiped out most of the large beasts wherever they went in short order.

I have not finished the book ,but I fear for his conclusions at the end.

Peter Grieve writes: 

Around 71,000 years ago, Mount Toba exploded in what is now Indonesia. This was the second-largest volcanic eruption in the last 450 million years, displacing 4,000 times as much earth and ash as the Mount St. Helens eruption. The result seems to have been six years of "volcanic winter", which not only triggered an Ice Age that lasted 1,000 years but also caused massive deforestation, famine for all animals, and a major die-off of human beings. According to genetic studies, the human population might have been reduced to about 2,000 people.

That certainly might have been just the kind of environmental stress to induce a major advance in human capabilities merely in order to survive.


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