Critical Assessment


Fuentes is a very engaging writer and draws readers into his story. He writes each chapter with such enthusiasm that you become excited by his arguments and want to know more. Additionally, his writing style is very clear-cut and his arguments are easy to understand.

Fuentes backs most arguments that he presents with numerous pieces of evidence. For example, Fuentes states that early Homo manipulated their environments to improve food sources. He gives evidence of squashes increasing in size, teosinate becoming maize, and rice becoming more accessible. All of these examples point to the same conclusion that Homo domesticated plants 10,000 years ago. Fuentes’ use of numerous examples to emphasize the same point is a common trend throughout this novel and helps to validate his arguments.

The Creative Spark tells the wonderful story of human evolution from start to finish. It provides readers with an exhaustive summary of human development. Specific elements of human life such as birth, sex, violence, art, religion, and science are explained in great detail and give readers insight into how they have changed through time. Fuentes teaches readers about their ancestral past and the importance of human traits that most people take for granted.

Room for Improvement. . .

Throughout the novel, Fuentes makes many sweeping generalizations that are not backed by strong evidence. He makes many propositions but has no evidence to support them. For example, when he explains how throwing spears were invented he tells a story of Homo throwing spears on the ground out of frustration of their prey getting away. Fuentes has no evidence that this is what occurred, and the fact that he includes this narrative biases readers into thinking this is actually how throwing spears were invented! He uses words such as “probably” and “likely,” even though these stories have no scientific backing. He also has a habit of presenting hypotheses as if they are facts and then goes on to explain that the ideas is likely false. This made parts of the reading very confusing.

Furthermore, many distinct topics were included in each chapter and often Fuentes would jump from one idea to the next without providing a proper transition. While his logic was easy to follow, the reading could have flowed better. Fuentes also repeated himself a lot within and between chapters.

In order to support his main argument, Fuentes asserted that creativity and collaboration were the reason for every form of development and innovation he mentioned. However, there were many cases that I found his argument to be a bit of a stretch. In chapter 3, Fuentes compares the NASA space probe that reached Pluto in 2015 to stone tools produced by early Homo. He explains that the “creative innovation behind [the space probe] is a direct descendent of modifying rocks to have sharp edges a couple of million years ago” (56). While his argument makes logical sense, I do not think its reasonable to compare the process of hitting a rock with another rock to the creation of a space probe that can travel 4.67 million miles through space. There are many examples similar to this one throughout the novel which made me question the validity of his arguments. I wish that Fuentes included some counterarguments for his theory that creativity is the reason for all development. His argument would have been strengthened if he mentioned a counterargument and disproved it. 

Important Take-Aways

This book helped me understand human evolution and why we developed to be the complex individuals we are today. I learned that creativity and collaboration are innate characteristics of human beings and they allowed us to be successful amidst the challenges and obstacles thrown our way. Furthermore, I learned that change is a long and strenuous process. It took 4,000 years just to transform teosinte into maize! There’s no wonder why it is so difficult to fix the problems with our society today. It is crucial that we work together and communicate in order to expedite our progress towards a better world. Additionally, I learned that niche construction is a crucial element of human evolution. We interact with our environments and shape the world around us. Everything we do plays a part in our development; every canvas we paint, every tool we make, every tradition we develop, and every experiment we conduct has an effect on our society. Creativity drives all these process and defines who we are and who we will become. 

Although I learned a lot from this novel, I wish Fuentes wrote a more conclusive summary explaining how we can use our knowledge of the evolutionary past to make changes now and in the future. The coda did mention this, but I wish it went more in depth about what lessons we should learn from the past and how we can improve from our mistakes moving forward. Additionally, I wish Fuentes discussed when technological advances were first seen in our evolutionary history. He talks about the creation of stone tools and throwing spears, but he does not mention the invention of electricity or energy usage. This would be a very interesting topic to learn about, especially in terms of how brain size and cognitive development are related to technological advancements. 

I would recommend this book to a friend because it is important to know our evolutionary story and understand the importance of creativity and collaboration. People must realize that our actions shape the world around us and truly define our lives. This novel gives a good summary of these points and explains them in an interesting and exciting way. I think that high school and college students would enjoy this book because it defines our place in this world and how we got here. Personal identity is an issue that many high-school and college students struggle with and I think this novel would help this age group understand who they are. I do not think that acclaimed scientists or researchers would like this book because much of the evidence presented is not based on data and therefore few claims that Fuentes makes are conclusive.