The bestselling book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is dangerous for Catholics of little faith. Rarely do you see a book that is so cunningly written to shake certainties and present as inevitable a stark and Godless future now being planned.
The value of the book is not found in reading it. In fact, most shouldn’t read it. Not everyone can plough through the prose of this formidable, overpriced tome. There is no reason to expose yourself needlessly to the book’s flippant statements about religion that border on blasphemy.
It is far better to read about the book and its ideas. Most Catholics urgently need to know what is coming down the road. They don’t need to try to unravel the book’s esoteric mysteries.
Thus, it is important to know about this 2017 book. The author is Yuval Noah Harari, a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His books have become New York Times bestsellers and enjoyed endorsements from people like former President Barack Obama and Bill Gates. You can safely say he is on the cutting edge of everything liberal and heretical.
All Things Liberal and Heretical
Indeed, the book reflects every liberal cause from global warming, same-sex “marriage,” to radical relativism. His mystical overtones embrace an ancient gnostic heresy or two. His secular side can be found in his broadsides against religion. Even Marxist analysis finds its way into the book as Catholics are particularly targeted. You are told that the one true Church is one of those imagined orders that evolved as a means to maintain power structures in place.
Such views are nothing new and tend to follow the tired narratives against Christianity long held by liberalism. Also typical are the tributes to modernity as the system that has maximized material comfort and choices beyond all expectations.
All these things are hardly threats as the Church has weathered so many similar storms. However, what makes Prof. Harari’s history of tomorrow so dangerous is his description of what is coming after liberalism.
Laying Out the Future: Becoming gods
He lays out the future so bluntly. Liberalism is dying, the victim of its own success. It will be replaced with a revolution aimed at changing human nature.
The worst thing is that you perceive he is not alone in believing in this chilling future. He speaks for a progressive class of scientists, businessmen and scholars who are all onboard.
What makes his future yet more alarming is that he proves this future is now. The handwriting (or perhaps the algorithm) is on the wall. This future is all around you, in the devices you carry, the algorithms that rule the networks and the bio-technology and artificial intelligence that are slowly taking over. You must adapt, he says, lest you be left behind. If not, you will be treated as humans now treat animals.
This future will go beyond maximizing comfort in this vale of tears as engineered by the liberal revolution now past. In fact, Prof. Harari claims modern “humankind” has already effectively overcome famine, plagues, and war. What remains to be done is not further tweaking, but changing humanity itself. The next frontier is the quest for immortality, everlasting bliss and divinity. Ye shall be as gods … hence the title Homo deus.
The key to understanding this transition from Homo sapiens to Homo deus is a philosophical vision of life and humanity completely contrary to the Thomistic Catholic vision. No longer is man made in the image and likeness of God, endowed with intelligence and will. Rather, humanity will be crafted into a shadowy world of images and likenesses without God. The triumph of Homo Deus will turn the world upside down.
There Is No Soul
One of the central theses of the book, for example, is that all life can be reduced to mere chemical reactions and algorithms. “Organisms are algorithms. Every animal—including Homo sapiens—is an assemblage of organic algorithms shaped by natural selection over millions of years of evolution.”
He claims this concept of life is dogma accepted by the scientific establishment, although perhaps not stated so bluntly. That is why, he blurts out, “if you really understand the theory of evolution, you understand that there is no soul.”
That’s right. He states there is no soul because souls cannot evolve. No scientific evidence has ever found a soul, which is probably the figment of an overexcited imagination. If there is no soul, there is no God in which the soul will rest for all eternity. There is no final destination to punish evil and reward good forever. Morality and religion become irrelevant.
The fact that you can expect no bliss in eternity makes the seeking of immorality and happiness on earth all the more imperative.
Imaginary Stories Humans Have Invented
Having no soul is only the beginning of this eerie journey into the future. For if organisms are mere algorithms determined by bio-chemical reactions and evolutionary randomness, then the next conclusion is that you have no free will. Everything is deterministic or random, nothing can be free.
“The sacred word ‘freedom,’ turns out to be, like the soul, a hollow word empty of any discernable meaning,” Prof. Harari claims. “Free will exist only in the imaginary stories we humans have invented.”
This also has practical consequences in the real world that are already being explored. Having no free will means once again that the moral law does not exist. It means human impulses can be manipulated and controlled by drugs, genetic engineering or stimulation directly to the brain to bring about happiness. The author foresees that scientists will be engineering a wide variety of altered states of consciousness to induce an everlasting happiness.
A Cacophony of Conflicting Voices
Liberal society extols the freedom of each person. Not only is freedom a hollow concept but so is the idea of the unity of the person. Prof. Harari claims you are actually “a cacophony of conflicting voices” inside the same person. “The single authentic self is as real as the eternal soul, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.”
This also has consequences. Liberal concepts depended upon the supposed free choice of the equally supposed unified person. In the Homo Deus world, concepts based on choice, like the free market, democracy or even the idea of beauty will become irrelevant. Non-organic algorithms will be developed which will make much better choices for you. They will eventually supersede man and perhaps even replace him.
Whereas Christendom relied upon God for help in making life’s decision, liberalism relied upon individual human choices to find fulfillment. Homo deus will depend upon the algorithms that surround you and know you better than you know yourself. That is why there is such an intense gathering of data by Google and other firms about your every move. In the coming scheme of things, the best possible decisions for you will be based on this data.
A Contrary Magisterium
What makes Prof. Harari’s history of tomorrow so terrifying is that he is deadly serious about the project. Not only is he serous but he is joined by a secular establishment that has put this vision together. You see how this vision logically fits in with a vast framework of data networks that tend to make this future feel so very present.
In fact, Prof. Harari sees his role as one who bluntly says out loud that which is uncommon and foreign: “When they start thinking about it, most people realize that it actually makes a lot of sense.”
You can also be impressed by Prof. Harari’s certainties. He exhibits a slavish confidence in what he calls “the life sciences” that he cites as if oracles. To him, they are like a contrary magisterium to the Church complete with self-proclaimed dogmas and self-endowed infallibility. He admits that the life scientists do not have answers for many things, but he blindly confides that they will eventually find them.
A Battle of Certainties
Whether the world will finally reach the point of Homo Deus is uncertain. The book is an expressive confirmation of where the other side is now headed.
For those of little or no faith, Homo Deus is a dangerous book. Its ideas represent yet another step in the destruction of what remains of moral order. It is a shame that such an acclaimed book is not even on the radar of so many who should defend the Faith. It could be the timely topic of sermons that would affirm the Church’s teaching on the soul, sin and free will. Instead, it goes unchallenged undermining certainties, doing harm to souls and preparing for a macabre tomorrow without God.
If you have strong faith, you will experience this book as a battle of certainties. You will perceive the author’s anti-natural vision of tomorrow for what it is: yet one more frustrated attempt to break away from the moral law. You will denounce it as an effort to destroy the image and likeness of God as found in the soul, free will and unitary person.
Your own certainties will compel you to fight for the moral order that he rejects. Your love of God should lead you to see these ideas as an offense to God.
In the battle of certainties, however, God always wins.
John Horvat II
As seen on Crisis Magazine.