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  • Writer's pictureDean Dwyer

The man they call "the prophet"

Yuval Noah Harari – an Israeli born in 1976 – is a historian and a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016) and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018). His writings examine free will, consciousness, intelligence, happiness and suffering.


Harari also writes about the 'cognitive revolution' occurring roughly 70,000 years ago, when Homo-sapiens supplanted the rival Neanderthals and other species of the genus Homo, developed language skills and structured societies and ascended as apex predators, aided by the agricultural revolution and accelerated by the scientific revolution which have allowed humans to approach near mastery over their environment. His books also examine the possible consequences of a futuristic biotechnological world in which intelligent biological organisms are surpassed by their own creations. He believes that Homo-sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so.


Yuval Noah Harari was born and raised in Kiryat Ata, Israel, one of three children born to Shlomo and Pnina Harari. His family was secular Jewish, with roots in Lebanon and Eastern Europe. His father was a state-employed armaments engineer and his mother an office administrator. Harari taught himself to read at age three, and he studied in a class for intellectually-gifted children at the Leo Baeck Education Centre in Haifa from the age of eight. He deferred mandatory military service in the Israel Defence Forces to pursue university studies as part of the Atuda programme, but was later exempted from completing his military service following his studies due to health issues. At age 17 he began studying history and international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


During his academic career he specialised in medieval history and military history, completing his D.Phil. degree at Jesus College, Oxford in 2002. From 2003 to 2005 he pursued post-doctoral studies in history as a Yad Hanadiv Fellow. While at Oxford he encountered the writings of Jared Diamond, whom he has acknowledged as an influence on his own writing. He has published numerous books and articles, including Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry – 1100-1550; The Ultimate Experience: Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture – 1450-2000; The Concept of Decisive Battles in World History; and Armchairs, Coffee and Authority: Eye-witnesses and Flesh-witnesses Speak about War – 1100-2000. He now specialises in world history and macro-historical processes.


Harari's book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind was originally published in Hebrew in 2011 based on the twenty lectures of an undergraduate world history class he was then teaching. As stated above it was released in English in 2014 and has since been translated into some forty-five additional languages. The book surveys the entire length of human history, from the evolution of Homo-sapiens in the Stone Age up to the political and technological revolutions of the 21st century. The Hebrew edition became a best-seller in Israel and generated much interest among the general public, turning him into a celebrity.


His follow-up book – Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow – examines the possibilities for the future of Homo-sapiens, its premise being that, in the future, humanity is likely to make a significant attempt to gain happiness, immortality and God-like powers. The book goes on to openly speculate various ways this ambition might be realised for Homo-sapiens of the future based on the past and present. Among several possibilities for the future, he develops the term 'dataism' for a philosophy or mindset that worships big data. This book has been considered by some to be 'essential reading for those who think and care about the future'. His third book – 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – focuses more on present-day concerns. One reviewer praised this book as a tour de force, describing it as a highly-instructive exploration of current affairs and the immediate future of human societies. The first volume of his fourth book Sapiens: A Graphic History – The Birth of Humankind was published in 2020.


In a 2017 article he argued that through continuing technological progress and advances in the field of AI (artificial intelligence) a new class of people might emerge by 2050 – the useless class. People who are not just unemployed, but unemployable! He believes that dealing with this new social class economically, socially and politically will be a central challenge for humanity in the coming decades. He also sees an existential threat in an arms race in AI and bioengineering, and the need for close cooperation between nations to solve threats like ecological collapse, nuclear war and technological disruption. He has commented on the plight of animals (particularly domesticated animals) since the agricultural revolution, is a vegan, and believes that industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history.


He also believes that although the idea of a free will and the liberal values based upon it emboldened people who had to fight against the Inquisition and the divine right of kings, it has become dangerous in a world of data economy where, in reality, there is no such thing and that governments and corporations are coming to know the individual better than they know themselves. If governments and corporations can succeed in hacking the human animal, the easiest people to manipulate will be those who believe in a free will. “Humans certainly have a will – but it isn't free. You cannot decide what desires you have: every choice depends on biological, social and personal conditions that you cannot determine for yourself. I can choose what to eat, whom to marry and whom to vote for, but these choices are determined in part by my genes, my biochemistry, my gender, my family background, national culture etc. – I didn’t choose which genes or family to have." Harari is gay: in 2002 he met his 'husband' and personal manager Itzik Yahav, whom he calls 'my internet of all things'. Following former US President Donald Trump's cut to the World Health Organisation's funding during the Covid-19 pandemic, he announced that he and his husband would donate one million dollars to the WHO through Sapienship, their social-impact company. Sapienship focuses on three 'problems' – technological disruption, ecological collapse and the nuclear threat. With this goal in mind, he wrote five books that describe his world view and the things he thinks others ought to prioritise.


Harari has mentioned his husband in multiple interviews and admits with pride that being homosexual affects his research, which serves as a major indicator of his world view. He rationalises homosexuality on the grounds that 'anything that exists is by definition natural'. He argues that there is no purpose to sex, comparing human sexuality with the sexuality of a chimpanzee and that the idea that sex exists only for the purpose of procreation is complete nonsense invented by priests and rabbis. He also believes that human concepts of natural and unnatural are not taken from biology, but from Christian theology. God created man to be superior to all other animals but Harari reduces humanity to its base animal level, describing God as a myth: 'a big man in the sky who gets angry when two men love one another'.


He fleshes out this idea of religion as mythology in his book Sapiens: his official website describing it as one that analyses various topics. For example in chapter one he claims that: “We assume that a large brain, the use of tools, superior learning abilities and complex social structures are huge advantages, and that it seems self-evident that these have made humankind the most powerful animal on earth. But humans enjoyed all these advantages for a full 2 million years, while remaining weak and marginal creatures.” In the next chapter he explains his theory of war: “Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this.” Further in his book he claims that: “Fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. We can weave common myths such as the biblical creation story, the Dream-time myths of Aboriginal Australians and the nationalist myths of modern states. Such myths give Homo-Sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers.” In other words, he believes that human superiority is the result of storytelling; that humanity’s myths bring about our social nature. His ultimate claim? “Within a few centuries or even decades – and with the help of novel technologies – Homo-sapiens will upgrade themselves into completely different beings, enjoying godlike qualities and abilities.”


Picking up where Sapiens left off, Homo Deus explores how global power might affect the principal force of evolution. Natural selection is replaced by intelligent design. Harari reiterates this idea in multiple talks about technology, saying humans should become used to the idea that they are no longer mysterious souls but are now 'hackable animals'. These statements were made at the World Economic Forum, where he’s an agenda contributor.


The United States Declaration of Independence begins this way: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In Sapiens Harari gives us his own version of this famous sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men evolved differently, that they are born with certain mutable characteristics, and that among these are life and the pursuit of pleasure.” His belief is that since there is no Creator we cannot be created equal and therefore cannot be endowed by the Creator with unalienable Rights. From this we can see that he translates the Declaration of Independence into biological terms, an error that he seems to commit habitually.


Yuval Noah Harari is an atheistic nihilist. Relying on his perceptions of natural selection and biology to explain every-thing he clearly and unmistakably misses the full truth of humanity, the world in which we live, and reality itself. Very consistent in his inconsistencies, Harari makes it easy to spot this pattern of 'scientificism' throughout his work.


Pray for him. His life – intellectually, spiritually and physically – is in rebellion against God. He argues that mankind needs to be set free from the bondage of biology. In reality, mankind needs to be set free from the bondage of sin. That is why the name of Jesus is so beautiful. For it is only through a saving relationship with Him that we are made free.

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