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Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  257 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Specialist scientific fields are developing at incredibly swift speeds, but what can they really tell us about how the universe began and how we humans evolved to play such a dominant role on Earth?

John Hands’s extraordinarily ambitious quest is to bring together this scientific knowledge and evaluate without bias or preconception all the theories and evidence about the or
Hardcover, 704 pages
Published February 16th 2016 by Harry N. Abrams (first published February 2016)
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Start your review of Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe
This is an amazingly ambitious book. It covers such a wide range of topics--I have never seen such a comprehensive non-fiction book. It starts out with a detailed description of theories of the origins of the universe. Here, John Hands is at his best, as he sorts out the various theories. He reasons why some of the theories are still in the running, while others are not borne out by the available evidence.

John Hands continues to discuss the origins of life. He describes the prevalent theories, a
Manuel Antão
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

N-Dimensional Topology: "Cosmosapiens" by John Hands

Me: 'Whatever happened to Occam's Razor? This stuff makes Plato's Forms look like one of the most sober and parsimonious metaphysics imaginable! I would like to point anyone interested in this stuff to an amazing non-performance of a book called "Cosmosapiens" by John Hands. Hands has the nerve to subject all these theories (the Big Bang, Inflation, multiverse theories and much more)
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Mar 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
The author really needs to chill out, watch a Neil deGrasse Tyson video on the universe and put the wonder back in science instead of trying to tear it apart. Dark Matter, Dark Energy are not currently observable and we just have educated guesses to what they are. As Tyson says, we can just as easily call them Fred & Barney until we know more about them. They are just place holders for now. That's the way science works. The author just tries to tear apart the science. The teams that discovered t ...more
Nov 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
I am 12 hours into this book with 18 hours more to go. At the suggestion that we scientists still, in 2016, cannot explain the evolution of the flagella, I have to put this book down, at least for a while. Scientists can and have explained the evolution of the flagella. Just like eyespots, which turned into eyes, the flagella evolved in complexity. It is in no way "irreducibly complex." Scientists have proven this by switching out proteins. The flagella shows flexibility, not irreducible complex ...more
Jon White
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’m not surprised that reviewers have rated it as Book of the Year in The Times Literary Supplement, that The Telegraph (UK) rated it as one of the best science books of 2015, and that 12 leading philosophers, scientists, and sociologists have praised it, not least for its astounding scope and lucidity. COSMOSAPIENS Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe is a must-read for anyone interested in the questions of what we are, where we came from, and why we exist. Be warned: its conclusions ...more
Jim Coughenour
A few months ago, reviewing Noam Chomsky's What Kind of Creatures Are We?, I mentioned I was intrigued by his lecture on "mysterianism" - the scientific quest to compass the limits of what we can know scientifically. John Hands has published a massive set of notes on exactly this topic. It's quite a performance. I picked up this book expecting some kind of summa, analogous maybe to Ken Wilber's 1995 blockbuster Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Cosmosapiens is nothing of the k ...more
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Holy Shitballs! I know I can be rambly sometimes – I’ve had to edit out a third if its length to make it fit. Sheesh. Here is (No joke) my abbreviated review.

Recently---deleted awesome story about Harry Potter due to length---but not right now. This monster of a book was something I was anxious to dive into. I don’t have it in front of me to look at, but memory says it’s a summary of all human knowledge about our origins, of the cosmos, of the solar system, of the origin and evolution of life o
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: white
There is a 4-star, 400-page book here, hidden inside a 2-star, 600-page one. The author, John Hands, has clearly done a great deal of research in areas such as cosmology, evolutionary theory, and many other areas of science. He has written a rather readable and coherent summary of the current state of each of these, along with some productive criticism that does fill a void in the current discussion. For example, discussions of cosmology are normally limited to either restatements of the current ...more
Cosmosapiens is a complex, deep, thought-provoking read that is difficult to sum up.

Learned and provocative are words that come to mind, but so are dense slog.

This is probably another one of those books that many will buy but few will read...cover to cover.

Its agnosticism about science, as a knowledge system, won't help the general reader. Many people are not interested in reading about the limits of knowledge and the human nature of knowing, even in science, that is more about socially const
D.L. Morrese
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
What are we and why are we here? Humans have been asking these questions throughout recorded history. Before writing came along, I have no doubt they were a topic of conversation around the fire as our ancestors roasted their mammoth steaks.

In the last few centuries, we've been using a new tool, science, to help us find answers, and it has proved remarkably effective. John Hands acknowledges this, but the main focus of Cosmosapiens
The first point is true. Life, the universe, and everything began
Steve Harvy
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
COSMOSAPIENS is possibly the best popular summary of the universe since Stephen Hawking's BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME. Professor Hands is a double barreled threat: He has a high end knowledge of physics and cosmology, biology, neuroscience, and world culture + an unusually clear and powerful style. The overall effect is truly colossal like reading Blake or Milton or listening to Wagner.

COSMOSAPIENS is going to be a classic. This book explains how the original Big Bang theory relates to its Inflationar
Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Cosmosapiens should be read as a different type of "Big History". It strings together three evolutions from the start of time in the universe to Today in human society. The evolutions of matter, life and ideas are explained with a lot of information and tremendous summarizations. The author does a good job (and simultaneously a terrible injustice, described later) in laying out what theories truly explain as well as merely speculate/assume/doubtfully conclude about the phases of these evolutions ...more
Jon Huxtable
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essential
Endorsed by leading scientists and philosophers, COSMOSAPIENS reviews with exceptional clarity for the non-specialist reader the current scientific evidence that shows how we evolved from the earliest matter and energy at the beginning of the universe. In doing so Hands shows how many scientific theories, like the Big Bang and Neo-Darwinism, have become dogma contradicted by observational and experimental evidence. His findings about what we are, where we came from, and why we exist are beautifu ...more
May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was quite the book. The author sets out to put humans into the context of the universe. And this one, lengthy volume isn’t nearly long enough for what he ends up doing. It’s not just a review of our current scientific understanding of space, time, life and ourselves, rather it’s a critique of the currently accepted scientific theories about those things. And the author is out for blood. He exposes and criticizes scientific dogmatism in all its forms, from grant committees, peer review journ ...more
Daniel Kenefick
Dec 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is about 2 things, at the end of the day:
1. The "orthodox" theories in many areas of science, from cosmology to biology, have substantial evidence against them that the public rarely hears about.
2. The author argues that the universe "evolves" towards increasing complexity, despite other scientist's rejecting the idea that the universe has a goal or even overall trend.

In short, I liked (1) and didn't buy (2). Here's why:

1. Bad Orthodox Theories

Much of the book is spent exploring an
Cj Dufficy
Oct 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Turgid, patronizing, contradictory, hypocritical, mismatch of title and content. However long and dense and wide ranging a tome this is I must disagree with other reviews which hale the depth and ambition and supposed difficulty to produce. I hazard a guess at the process: a) take the consensus view b) apply arbitrary definitions of your own c) claim failure to succeed within these definitions is a failure of point a not point b, d) repeat until you run out of paper. Afterwards offer the non-con ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
One quote came to mind soon after starting this book. "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it." The author covers many topics I have a working knowledge of, but even I had a hard time sorting through what he was trying to say. Maybe he should have spent less time putting together this piece of junk and more time actually learning about physics, biology, and even chemistry (the only area of science he has any qualifications in).

I haven't finished, but I can't force myself to read
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
This book tackles the questions posed by your eight year old self. Where did the world come from, what is a living thing, where did life come from, why are there so many different plants and animals and where did they come from, where did people come from , what is so special about people, and the direction of history. It may not be exactly written for my eight year old self but it focuses on his interests. It starts with the origins of the universe and the explanatory model of the inflationary ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
Why is this a book? There's only enough original content for a short paper.

Science can't replace religion and can never explain 'why' we exist.

The reason no earth sized planets have been found is due to limits on telescopes and spectral analysis. We can only detect planets that pass through direct paths in front of stars, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. As technology improves, we'll know more -

It's also hard to take the author
Rory Dow
Absolute masterpiece! I have never read anything that crosses through so many academic schools of thought and with such a constant feedback loop of self reflection. Every assumption is questioned, and the assumptions within that questioned again, until John Hands gets to the roots of what we really just do not know yet. Revealed so many orthodox "truths" that I've been taking as fact. Really would recommend to anyone interested in gleaning some perspective on the scale of what came before us and ...more
Richard Irwin
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book and massive piece of intellectual analysis, incredibly well researched. It deals with the limitations of many accepted scientific paradigms with logical analysis of the underlying theories, hypothesis and contentions to demonstrate the limitations with current scientific knowledge. A real tour de force!

I have read some of the negative criticisms and these mostly appear to be from those "scientists" who prefer their own belief systems against empirical data. As Hands points out j
José Angel Hernandez
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: completed
Anarchistic and Encyclopedic Manifesto on the long history of human evolution and the "origins" of the universe. Highly recommended.
Feb 22, 2016 added it
I gave up. What a relief to be reading Sean Carroll after this dark prose.
Alexandra Sellers
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a book of astonishing ambition and scope. The author seems to have left nothing out of his researches--how did he keep it all in his head? And it is so fresh and clear-eyed and un-subservient in its approach to contemporary science that I wanted to kiss him.

And to give them credit, the book is endorsed by a large number of leading scientists and philosophers; Tim Crane, in fact, chose it as his Book of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement. The Daily Telegraph selected it as one of t
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are many bad reasons to challenge scientific orthodoxy, so it is probably understandable that a lot of its defenders are rather quick to deride critics as cranks, charlatans, shills, fanatics, etc. It's still a shame, though, and I'm always glad to see evidence of serious and agenda-free scepticism. Cosmosapiens is admirably ambitious, and covers plenty of interesting ground. I suspect that some of Hands's criticisms of scientific overconfidence are well-founded.

Unfortunately, Cosmosapien
Radu Rafa
May 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I read only the first pages, and then renounced reading it because of the amount of errors discovered in such short time. For example, in the very beginning of Chapter 1, he says that people were preoccupied by existential questions for at least 25,000 years. Now this is a controversial affirmation, since the most archaic form of writing dates only 6,000 years ago. So it's really a speculation with no reference.

Just below he says that the empirical method became prominent because of Ch. Darwin.
Michael Brokaw
A great book, huge in scope and written with rigor and clarity! Having read it, off and on, from early April into late May, it has been my companion and anchor during the days of stay-at-home during the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic!
Consisting of three prime parts, Cosmos Sapiens - Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe, managed, for me, to displace the pandemic as a Huge Thing. It did this by putting into perspective the Really Big Picture that contsins the almost trivial pandemi
Chuy Ruiz
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
I really just got through it because I don't like leaving books unfinished, and I wanted to see if he wrapped up in some different way than the tone of most of the book. It did not. He is skeptical to a fault. It's almost an approach of "we can't know something with 100% certainty, so we really don't know anything." It's quite a bizarre way to look at things. He bashes "orthodox" science constantly. And proposes that since we can't be sure of something, it may as well be anything. I was impresse ...more
Tyler Chism
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I'm a contrarian so of course I wanted to read this book. But ideas like this have to be more than just contrarian, they have to be well researched and presented objectively. Hands really blew me away with how well he portrays the other side of the story when it comes to mainstream sciences ideas about what we know of the universe. He doesn't try to tear anything down but merely to point out the part of agreed upon science that isn't discussed. I always like hearing the whole story when it comes ...more
Sean Grey
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A massively ambitious attempt to explain how little is really known in the realm of scientific knowledge, from cosmology to the emergence of life to Neo-Darwinism to the emergence of reflective consciousness. The book gives an excellent account of the pettiness and dogmatism that dominates the establishment of scientific orthodoxy. It also gives a prognostication for the next great paradigm shift in human consciousness - when cooperation, altruism and convergent thinking surpass the instinct tow ...more
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