I usually write about books that I enjoyed reading. This book, though, disappointed me. Yes that is my opinion in one word: disappointing. Don’t judge me bad, I still think it is worth reading, but it starts quite promisingly and quite fast you realise that it is rather a book of pseudo-science than of real science. And let me explain…
This book presents a theory that society as we know it has developed several pathologies, all of which can be attributed to one major event: the Fall. It is practically a boom of the ego-sense, as a result of a major environmental change that took place 6,000 years ago, which led to war, patriarchy and inequalities, child oppression, monotheistic religions and abuse of nature. This boom affected most of the world’s population, but there are a few communities that stayed pure.
I personally liked the argument of the book and had high expectations about it. The main problem of it, is that it relies heavily upon empirical science and this is used especially in points where there is disagreement with the theory. For most of the book there are references thrown around, but quite fast expressions like “let’s assume that”, “it is probably a mistake to refer/speak”, “it is likely that”, or “I believe” start appearing everywhere. And of course you can make an assumption, but then present evidence about it, right? Evidence that is kind of generally accepted and not just cherry-picked to support your theory.
This is the main flaw for me. I am a scientist and I have written several peer-reviewed papers. This document would not have passed a peer-reviewed process, although probably it was not intended as one, but as an effort to explain science simply for everybody. But it is different to explain simply science and different to cherry-pick proof. Evidence is selected so as to serve the author and his theory. In one paragraph the democracy of the Athenians is selective and the native Indian American’s social structure praised as really democratic and a few paragraphs further the latter is admittedly also quite “special” too, but that is not important because the Indian Americans serve better our theory, as they are considered a pre-Fall nation and the Athenians a ante-Fall one. Commonly proven theories are merged with the ones commonly considered fake and this soup is used to prove the general theory of the Fall. The whole process of proving the Fall theory is further destroyed, when the author makes clear a few personal preferences of him, such as the far eastern philosophy (Buddhism) or the native American societies, even if these do not follow totally the pattern of his theory.
As I mentioned already, I started this book with every good faith that it will be interesting. In a lot of parts, I was mentally nodding to the way the author was presenting the theory. But quite quite often I was becoming sceptical about the argumentation and trying in vain to find true evidence in the text. Below I mention some of the individual points that contain a lot of discussion for me:
- In the beginning there were small things, such as in page 20 the comment that “serfdom was common throughout Europe, especially Eastern Europe and Russia”. Well, a big part of what is today considered Eastern Europe was part of the Ottoman Empire for most of its middle-age history up to the 19th or 20th century, where serfdom was not the common political scheme. The population was conquered by the Turks, but there was taxation per head both for the muslim and the non-muslim population, so as to be able to manage the vast areas of the empire and the diverse communities it had. But ok that is just a small detail, right?
- At a point comes the romantic description of the Minoan Civilisation. They are considered un-fallen, with equality in their social structure and connection to Earth and nature. On the other hand, from the legend we know that they did have a king, king Minos, and there are definitely palaces that were excavated by Evans, a detail that doesn’t totally fit in the whole description of the un-fallen societies.
- Quite often myths are presented as evidence, for example Atlantis in page 150. I personally believe that myths contain fragments of real events, but they can not be used extensively as evidence de facto. I remember a sentence from the book “The Burrowers Beneath” of Brian Lumley “If you give to a legend a concrete location you strengthen it somewhat, and if that locations yields up something from the past, centuried relics of a civilisation lost for aeons, then the legend becomes history”. I think this is what the author tries to do in this book, by strengthening the legends.
- All throughout the book the status of women is discussed as being better in the pre-fall communities. And in page 118, the theory that these people heard voices in their head instead of “I”thoughts is elaborated. The example used is that a woman hears the voice in her head telling her that “she would better finish gathering food for the day and go home, because her husband might be coming home from his hunting expendition now”. Nice example to advocate for the better position of women in that era!
- In page 67 the position of women in ancient Greece is described. It is not totally wrong the description itself (yes it was like this in ancient Athens), just the generalisation that it was like this in the whole of ancient Greece, when it is known that women in Sparti had a different status (even if not totally equal to men, but still quite higher compared to the Athenian women) and there are theories advocating that the Spartian way was more common than the Athenian in the other Greek city-states.
- In page 179 “the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems”. Doesn’t this argumentation imply that men are better in science than women, one of the main stereotypes of the current society that have been proven to be wrong?
- In another chapter, the book refers extensively to the Aborigines of Australia, but the Maori of New Zealand do not fit in the pattern, so they are neglected, although they would fulfil all the initial qualifications that the Aborigines or the Polynesian natives have. Is this cherry-picking?
- In page 234 it is argued that “linear time seems to have developed at roughly the same time as other effects of the second phase of the Fall, such as monotheism and intensifed warfare – that is during the mid to late centures of the 2nd millenium BCE.” That for me means around 1500 – 1000 BC. But himself the author presents as examples of the cyclical time the Mayans, which are estimated at ca. 2000 BC to 1697 AD, the Greeks, estimated (if we exclude the Minoans) at 1600 – 146 BC, and the Hindus, which are estimated at ca. 4500 – 2000 BC. How does the author result in dating the linear time? By connecting it to Judaism, that is the only monotheistic religion at the time. Don’t forget that Christianity appeared around 40 AD.
- Again in page 243, the environmental abuse is connected to monotheism and is traced back to “the beginning of the Iron Age, around 1500 BC.” And a bit later it is argued that ” early polytheistic gods were associated with natural phenomena, presiding over mountains, rivers and seas”. As I mentioned in the previous point, Judaism did appear around 1500 BC, but Christianity that replaced the polytheistic religions of Europe did not appear before 30 to 40 AD. So it seems that the dating of the Fall theory is based on Jusaism, which would be an exaggerated extrapolation for the religions of the rest of the world, wouldn’t it?
- In page 239, I quote from the book: “Many of us are fairly indifferent to social and political problems until they affect us directly” and the author finds me nodding to his comment. Then he continues with examples, mentioning “the issue of nuclear power may not bother us until a power station is built a few miles away and the children in our town develop leukaemia”. This is how an argument starting nicely ends up awfully with a generalisation that is unacceptable from a scientific point of view!
- In pages 246 – 7, there is a beautiful example of demonising science too. I quote from the book: “Modern science is carried away with a desire to manipulate all natural and biological phenomena, to completey understand the world and construct a complete explanation of everything, which will give it a satisfying sense of control and conquest. In this regard, it’s not surprising that most scientists are men, since the male ego craves for this kind of dominance much more than the female.” How can such sentences appear in a text that want to prove itself objective and scientific! As a female scientist that have been working for years in promoting the environment and convincing people for the climate change, this sentence is absolutely unacceptable! The author should read the book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. Although yes there are people that abuse science, science in itself is rather pure and not a way to dominate.
- In page 250 it is admitted that the evidence of the theory lies in the fact that the cultural changes the book talks about happened at exactly the same time in history and to exactly the same human groups. This is only true as far as it concerns Judaism and the Simitic part of the human race. All throughout the book there are points where exactly this way of proving seems to be faulty and empirical.
In general, it is a pity! The theory would have been so interesting to be proved and the author’s outlook for the future is full of hope. That’s why it is still worthy to read it, but it should also be important to distinguish between what is science and what is pseudo-science and not present the latter as the former. I mentioned it earlier, but I will say it again, that as far as it concerns science, Steve Taylor should read the Demon- Haunted World by Carl Sagan (you can see my review of this book here). He will find out that he falls totally in the category of pseudo-science Sagan describes. Most of us scientists go through the process of having our theories controlled, by our peers. I did mention it already, that I do not think this theory would have withstood any peer review.
Have you read this book? What is your opinion about it? I would be happy to hear some more comments about this book!