Culture

23.06.2017

Kim H. Veltman, Review: Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus. A Brief History of Tomorrow,
London: Harvil Secker, 2015.


In the Mediaeval era, when Christians were confronted by evil dangers it was customary to associate them with Satan. The name of Satan does not appear in the index of Harari’s new book, Homo Deus, but this not does mean that dangers are absent. The book is brilliant in its lucid exposition. It presents possibilities as a Brief History of Tomorrow, provided of course, that all his assumptions and assertions be correct. In world of post-truth, one could argue that we have entered an era of post-wrong. But does this mean it is necessarily right?  

There is a long tradition of persons becoming one with God especially in the Indian tradition where the individual reaches a state of oneness with the Divine through states such as samadhi. The idea is found in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:17) and also in the Muslim mystic Rumi. The topic of the current book is rather different. It is about man becoming or even replacing God.

Part one is about Homo sapiens conquers the world. According to Harari the traditional calamities of war, famine and disease facing mankind are receding. We are on the threshold of a new human agenda with three main goals: immortality, bliss, divinity (p.67). The author makes a dramatic sweep of human history with equally dramatic claims:

Whereas the Agricultural revolution gave rise to theist religions, the scientific revolution gave birth to humanist religions, in which humans replaced gods. While theists worship theos (Greek for ‘god’), humanists worship humans (98).

The Renaissance, which invented the word humanism, would have viewed things differently. Their key notion was a return to sources (ad fontes) as a means of coming closer to truth. Erasmus, who was a champion of humanism, is also remembered for his fervent belief in God, and his energetic discussions with protestants such as Luther and Melanchthon, whose concern with scripture alone (sola scriptura) was ultimately little more than another flavour of the quest to return to sources. 

 

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