Sameer Saksena

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More story than facts make it merely one narrative

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Reviewed: 07-11-19

His first book was good largely because it was based of humongous data/research in archeology. It dealt with past and factual findings therein. This one tries to picture where humans are headed. This therefore requires drawing an arc of human history and stretching it forward.

My main problem is that, leaving aside the future, the arc he draws of even the existing and known human history appears very ignorant at places. All the stuff I read has consistently shown that western writers and thinkers are extremely insecure at stretching beyond their familiar ground of western knowledge and history. They occasionally, in their explanations, seek out the oriental experience in bits and pieces, where it fits into the narrative that they ascribe to. This need not be intentional because such a pattern is typical of human thinking. When you already have a story that you wish to believe in, because it looks beautiful, grand, positive, and throws a positive light on your progress through times, you tend to get selective about picking your data points even despite your best intentions. For any writer, it may be better than the other option, which is to not have a memorable story at all :-). (Example Adam Smith saying that man is a rational being in his work).

Reality is far too complex for any single narrative to claim prominence let alone do justice. The author does not seem display any understanding of that. He is too confident of his story to suspect any major flaws in it, let alone make room for alternative possibilities.

Another example is the role of science and religion in human affairs. The author unfortunately is unable to rise above the noise of our times and see the great contributions religion has done to human affairs even as he (expectedly) gloats about what science has achieved. He paints religion largely as an enabler of co-operation that allows science to do its job. It is so narrow and myopic that it is virtually stupid. It stems from the idea that concepts such as progress, development, technology, and related improvement of human condition all relate to only physical reality. Any changes happening to human thinking enabled by religion and religious methods are only secondary and do not deserve positive sounding classifications like technology, progress, or improvement. You would expect this from a student or a tv anchor, or a smug scientist, not from someone fashioning himself as a thinker/philosopher.

Many such major issues exist in the entire story line he is creating that it becomes enormously difficult to move along with the pacing of the spoken word which is consistently brisk.

Still he adds some useful ideas and thoughts and that's why I can appreciate this as adding to the conversation – nothing more.

So, to sum up, just like he said, stories/myths are useful for deriving meaning to enable large scale co-operation, we should consider this narrative to be just that - a useful myth.