The New York Times bestselling coauthor of Sex at Dawn explores the ways in which “progress” has perverted the way we live—how we eat, learn, feel, mate, parent, communicate, work, and die—in this “engaging, extensively documented, well-organized, and thought-provoking” (Booklist) book.
Most of us have instinctive evidence the world is ending—balmy December days, face-to-face conversation replaced with heads-to-screens zomboidism, a world at constant war, a political system in disarray. We hear some myths and lies so frequently that they feel like truths: Civilization is humankind’s greatest accomplishment. Progress is undeniable. Count your blessings. You’re lucky to be alive here and now. Well, maybe we are and maybe we aren’t. Civilized to Death counters the idea that progress is inherently good, arguing that the “progress” defining our age is analogous to an advancing disease.
Prehistoric life, of course, was not without serious dangers and disadvantages. Many babies died in infancy. A broken bone, infected wound, snakebite, or difficult pregnancy could be life-threatening. But ultimately, Christopher Ryan questions, were these pre-civilized dangers more murderous than modern scourges, such as car accidents, cancers, cardiovascular disease, and a technologically prolonged dying process? Civilized to Death “will make you see our so-called progress in a whole new light” (Book Riot) and adds to the timely conversation that “the way we have been living is no longer sustainable, at least as long as we want to the earth to outlive us” (Psychology Today). Ryan makes the claim that we should start looking backwards to find our way into a better future.
Sorry but the cats out of the bag!
A book that is critical of “civilization “ seems odd on the face of it. I grow tired of the man is the worst thing to happen to the world narrative. It’s all good to look back at the history of mankind and rage against cherry picked aspect of said civilization, but here’s the rub. The cats already out of the bag, we did develop our modern society leaving our hunter gatherer past behind and there’s no going back. What the author fails to see is mankind’s constant need to explore, to find, to know what over the next hill. Our drive to learn and grow as a species has been our greatest asset and could be our undoing only time will tell.
I do not know how this diatribe receives positive reviews. The thesis is poorly argued, data ignored, and cherry picked examples from scholars whose work is in opposition to the point he is trying to prove. I rarely give this low of a rating, but the entire book was frustrating to read. He surrounds his valid points with so many straw man arguments I thought I was transported to burning man.
Chris Ryan did it again
He slept with my wife. I kid I kid. He wrote another amazing book, it’s a cold, hard truth we have to accept. We went down the wrong road roughly 10,000 years ago and it’s gonna be hard to correct that. This book feels like he’s talking to you in a bar. Well done!