Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stopped reading a book

I do not think that I can go on reading Sapiens. There are some interesting points, one of which Ramarao pointed out, but there is too much rubbish. I will look at reviews for interesting points. Here is one from The Guardian "Much of Sapiens is extremely interesting, and it is often well expressed. As one reads on, however, the attractive features of the book are overwhelmed by carelessness, exaggeration and sensationalism. Never mind his standard and repeated misuse of the saying "the exception proves the rule" (it means that exceptional or rare cases test and confirm the rule, because the rule turns out to apply even in those cases). There's a kind of vandalism in Harari's sweeping judgments, his recklessness about causal connections, his hyper-Procrustean stretchings and loppings of the data. Take his account of the battle of Navarino. Starting from the fact that British investors stood to lose money if the Greeks lost their war of independence, Harari moves fast: "the bond holders' interest was the national interest, so the British organised an international fleet that, in 1827, sank the main Ottoman flotilla in the battle of Navarino. After centuries of subjugation, Greece was finally free." This is wildly distorted – and Greece was not then free. To see how bad it is, it's enough to look at the wikipedia entry on Navarino.
Harari hates "modern liberal culture", but his attack is a caricature and it boomerangs back at him. Liberal humanism, he says, "is a religion". It "does not deny the existence of God"; "all humanists worship humanity"; "a huge gulf is opening between the tenets of liberal humanism and the latest findings of the life sciences". This is silly. It's also sad to see the great Adam Smith drafted in once again as the apostle of greed. Still, Harari is probably right that "only a criminal buys a house … by handing over a suitcase of banknotes" – a point that acquires piquancy when one considers that about 35% of all purchases at the high end of the London housing market are currently being paid in cash."

My next misadventure will be reading 'Behave' by Robert Sapolsky. I have read some very sharp pieces by Sapolsky earlier and they are usually dense, revealing and entertaining. I have doubts whether he can achieve any thing similar in a long book. But Sapolsky is Sapolsky and with prior experience, I do not mind spending some time reading him. Just got the book today. Behave at google books.

No comments: