web site hit counter The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History

Availability: Ready to download

The Lucifer Priciple is a revolutionary work that explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture to put forth the thesis that “evil” is a by-product of nature’s strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric.


Compare

The Lucifer Priciple is a revolutionary work that explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture to put forth the thesis that “evil” is a by-product of nature’s strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric.

30 review for The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Howard

    not fair. i wrote it. but here's one of my favorite reviews from amazon.com: Reviewer: Adelia Bernini What are some of these reviewers going on about? Trying to crush a meme perhaps? This book is truly brilliant. It's the new Bible. In fact I would replace those Gideon Bibles that lurk in bedside draws in hotel rooms with this blinding stonker. 'The Lucifer Principal' is the truth. Go buy...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim Grammond

    Bloom has been declared by several people to be one of the great geniuses of the last 50 years. I don't understand that declaration. Sure, he's smarter than me, but I'm also not suffering from insanity like he is. The Lucifer Principle is basically a study in the genetic roots of good and evil in nature. Of course, nature does not know 'good' and 'evil', and therefore most of this book is useless. Despite his extensive citing of works, Bloom borders on using almost supernatural and ambiguous exp Bloom has been declared by several people to be one of the great geniuses of the last 50 years. I don't understand that declaration. Sure, he's smarter than me, but I'm also not suffering from insanity like he is. The Lucifer Principle is basically a study in the genetic roots of good and evil in nature. Of course, nature does not know 'good' and 'evil', and therefore most of this book is useless. Despite his extensive citing of works, Bloom borders on using almost supernatural and ambiguous explanations for his theories, which I don't like. Also, it's full of bile and rage which are the products of someone who has major issues with Muslims, Germans, and basically everyone outside of his apartment. It took me several months of picking it up and putting it down to finish this book because of how strongly I disagreed with much of what he said. BUT, I do like a challenge and different points of view so on that basis, it was worth reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This is really two different books that have been smashed together. The first one proposes a framework for history that views human societies as "superorganisms" subject to the same evolutionary pressures that guide biology. The second one is a long jeremiad about the decline and fall of American civilization. This part is hugely disappointing, and consists largely of a smattering of polemics (against multiculturalism and the Islamic world, as two random examples) buttressed by history that has This is really two different books that have been smashed together. The first one proposes a framework for history that views human societies as "superorganisms" subject to the same evolutionary pressures that guide biology. The second one is a long jeremiad about the decline and fall of American civilization. This part is hugely disappointing, and consists largely of a smattering of polemics (against multiculturalism and the Islamic world, as two random examples) buttressed by history that has been so horrendously oversimplified, or outright distorted, that I want to slap him in the face for being a retard. This is a shame, because the first half of the book is really pretty brilliant. Bloom sees human social collectives as biological entities dedicated to replicating their memes. As such, they display behaviors that can be found in many other organisms as well--particularly in terms of dominance hierarchies and the nature of conflict. There are some serious problems with this (for example, the unprovability of memes), Bloom has the unfortunate tendency to use anecdotes to prove sweepingly general rules, and the very idea can at times be breathtakingly reductive. It is far from an airtight case, but even the schematic that Bloom produces--love it or hate it--will stimulate you to think about these issues from angles you never thought of before.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Coral

    A well reasoned attempt to say everything several social theorists, political scientists, ethnographer, and psychologists suspect but are loathe to admit. Bloom's book offers a look at social theory and the intrinsicly interconnected nature of sentient psychology, behavior, and physical result. Why is depresssion linked to creativity? Why do economies boom in short periods of warfare? Why do trends seem to move and spread in ways that seem utterly fantastic? The answer -- that we are all particip A well reasoned attempt to say everything several social theorists, political scientists, ethnographer, and psychologists suspect but are loathe to admit. Bloom's book offers a look at social theory and the intrinsicly interconnected nature of sentient psychology, behavior, and physical result. Why is depresssion linked to creativity? Why do economies boom in short periods of warfare? Why do trends seem to move and spread in ways that seem utterly fantastic? The answer -- that we are all participants of and influenced by a socio-behavioral group mind called a "superorganism" -- is laid down rationally, passionately and with perfect earnest. It is a profoundly unsettling book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Russ

    I usually do not write reviews of books I read, but I decided to make an exception. If I could rate this less than 1 star, I would, because it might be one of the most poorly written non-fiction books I have ever read in my entire life. One more tweak over the edge and it might be a parody of social and historical inquiry. The entire book reads like a poorly conceived term paper full of pedantic, meandering discussions, unsupported arguments, and misplaced metaphors. It is no groundbreaking insig I usually do not write reviews of books I read, but I decided to make an exception. If I could rate this less than 1 star, I would, because it might be one of the most poorly written non-fiction books I have ever read in my entire life. One more tweak over the edge and it might be a parody of social and historical inquiry. The entire book reads like a poorly conceived term paper full of pedantic, meandering discussions, unsupported arguments, and misplaced metaphors. It is no groundbreaking insight that people are naturally equipped to do bad things. What the author does not delve into sufficiently is what this means for civilization and society - basically how we can manage our 'evil' impulses. The author claims not to be properly trained in the discourse, and it shows. I cannot help but wonder how the book got published and what kind of editorial staff signed off on this. Read this book to learn what not to do.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Gross

    A semi-heretical look at our curious species using sociobiology, meme theory, and facts that don’t fit well into consensus reality (did you know that tuberculosis cases declined by 97% between 1800 and 1945 — before antibiotics came into the picture?). Bloom believes that like ants, bees, and slime molds, human beings join as individuals into assemblages of distributed pseudo-tissue in a larger “superorganism” — and that the traits of this superorganism are the understudied key to our history an A semi-heretical look at our curious species using sociobiology, meme theory, and facts that don’t fit well into consensus reality (did you know that tuberculosis cases declined by 97% between 1800 and 1945 — before antibiotics came into the picture?). Bloom believes that like ants, bees, and slime molds, human beings join as individuals into assemblages of distributed pseudo-tissue in a larger “superorganism” — and that the traits of this superorganism are the understudied key to our history and destiny.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dave Watson

    I started out very excited by this book. The ideas about humans behaving as superorganisms were quite interesting and seemingly apt. But as I read on I started to realize I didn't fully trust Bloom's research and presentation. He started to come across as a Bill Mahr skeptic, that is, critical of things such as religion, but willing to take things such as alternative medicine on faith. Bloom's insistence that medical doctors are merely dealers in the illusion of control and simply deny that anyt I started out very excited by this book. The ideas about humans behaving as superorganisms were quite interesting and seemingly apt. But as I read on I started to realize I didn't fully trust Bloom's research and presentation. He started to come across as a Bill Mahr skeptic, that is, critical of things such as religion, but willing to take things such as alternative medicine on faith. Bloom's insistence that medical doctors are merely dealers in the illusion of control and simply deny that anything outside of their control exists made me suspicious. His brief chapter on homeopathy as "a set of cures that could heal us" that has "almost disappeared" because we are "in the hands of the winners" made me downgrade this book a star. It doesn't take much research to realize what a farce homeopathy is, and if Bloom will swallow it that uncritically, can the rest of his research be trusted?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I understand more about the forces that drive mankind. Bloom explains his theory of pecking order, memes and superorganisms. He explains why he thinks there are wars and why people want to be on top ( of the pecking order). It is another side of understanding why civilizations are constantly at each others throats.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    Can I give a book 4.5 stars? This book was a really neat read, yet I don't QUITE want to give it five. The basis for "The Lucifer Principle" is how violence has played a role in human history and the evolution of culture(s). I don't actually AGREE with all of it, and I actively disagree in several places. Still, it was well written, well argued and generally made me think. So why don't I want to give it five stars? Well, there are the couple of chapters in the middle where the arguments fail and Can I give a book 4.5 stars? This book was a really neat read, yet I don't QUITE want to give it five. The basis for "The Lucifer Principle" is how violence has played a role in human history and the evolution of culture(s). I don't actually AGREE with all of it, and I actively disagree in several places. Still, it was well written, well argued and generally made me think. So why don't I want to give it five stars? Well, there are the couple of chapters in the middle where the arguments fail and that entire section turns in to "kill all the Muslims before they get us first." Since the book was written before 911, I can't even blame this illogical ranting on post-WTC hysteria, so I'm not sure what was up here. Its like someone entirely different wrote 2 chapters and stuck them in when the main author wasn't looking. Still, all in all a fun read if you are okay with moral ambiguity.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Siona St Mark

    I originally picked this up because Grant Morrison recommended this to Comicbookgirl19 and it sounded like something that might've be interesting to read. Once I began to actually read this, however, it was super boring because nothing in this was new to me, at least nothing that was really important. Maybe I didn't know all of the ancedotes, but the ultimate points being made were things I already knew of, or already even believed. And the writing style wasn't really for me, it felt like the au I originally picked this up because Grant Morrison recommended this to Comicbookgirl19 and it sounded like something that might've be interesting to read. Once I began to actually read this, however, it was super boring because nothing in this was new to me, at least nothing that was really important. Maybe I didn't know all of the ancedotes, but the ultimate points being made were things I already knew of, or already even believed. And the writing style wasn't really for me, it felt like the author was talking down to me, and considering this was info I've already heard before, it just sort of put me off. When this originally came out (1990-something), I'm sure it was really original, and if you aren't into alternative believes, it still might be to some people. I, however, believe in a lot of woo-woo stuff so this just did nothing for me. Pretty disappointed, tbh, but I guess I shouldn't have gone in with expectations in the first place.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James M. Madsen, M.D.

    This is an excellent example of a book that is worth reading not because it proves an audacious thesis but because it proposes it in the first place. Howard Bloom takes five concepts (1: self-organizing replicators; 2: the superorganism; 3: the meme [a self-replicating cluster of ideas]; 4: the neural net; and 5: the pecking order) and uses them as the basis of a naturalistic, biological theory of evil. Whatever you end up thinking about his theory, it's instructive to *think* about it! A provoc This is an excellent example of a book that is worth reading not because it proves an audacious thesis but because it proposes it in the first place. Howard Bloom takes five concepts (1: self-organizing replicators; 2: the superorganism; 3: the meme [a self-replicating cluster of ideas]; 4: the neural net; and 5: the pecking order) and uses them as the basis of a naturalistic, biological theory of evil. Whatever you end up thinking about his theory, it's instructive to *think* about it! A provocative book!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nerine Dorman

    Every once in a while there’s a book that keeps cropping up in conversations that I have with friends, and The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom is one of them. And I’m glad I picked it up. If Lyall Watson’s Supernature made an impact on you, then there’s a good chance you’re going to gobble up Bloom. In essence, the author offers a broad-sweeping yet thought-provoking Theory of Everything, with a vast collection of ideas and factoids that have been doing the rounds for ages. Except, let’s take n Every once in a while there’s a book that keeps cropping up in conversations that I have with friends, and The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom is one of them. And I’m glad I picked it up. If Lyall Watson’s Supernature made an impact on you, then there’s a good chance you’re going to gobble up Bloom. In essence, the author offers a broad-sweeping yet thought-provoking Theory of Everything, with a vast collection of ideas and factoids that have been doing the rounds for ages. Except, let’s take not at *what* Bloom’s saying but *how* he’s saying it and *why* he’s saying it in this glorious mash-up of history, psychology and biology. At the heart of it, Bloom looks at mankind’s innate propensity toward violence. He identifies in our behaviour similarities between other mammals. He discusses how a relatively “new” concept – the meme – goes about arranging individuals into groupings labelled as superorganisms. But if you look at the bigger picture, we ourselves, as beings are superorganisms consisting of many billions of cells. Just as individuals will compete for resources and mates, so do superorganisms, such nations or religions. Bloom investigates what allows these to wax and wane, and discusses the motivations for conflict. Nothing he puts forward here is groundbreaking, but what makes this book important is *why* he’s stating the obvious. Bloom spends considerable time discussing US vs. Islamic conflict and, considering *when* the book was first published (1995) this is quite ironic considering the occurrences a mere five years after publication. He highlights the dangers of a complacent West sticking its head in the sand, and stresses the danger of nations under the sway of militant religious fundamentalists. According to Bloom, “evil” is inherent in our natures, very much encoded in our genetic make-up and, while I appreciate the exhaustive illustrations of the problem, I do feel he could have offered more by the way of solutions. That being said, this book is definitely one that needs to be read if we are to make others understand the importance of rational solutions to age-old problems. Yes, the author writes with a highly opinionated tone, and he’s full of rage, but he’s one of the few so far as I can see who isn’t afraid to call us out on what’s wrong with society today – and has been wrong since we first climbed down from the trees. You *don’t* need to agree with this man, but I do believe his voice needs to be heard, especially in the light of so many people screaming ignorance in the media today.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lage von Dissen

    Bloom is a proponent of "group selection theory" (as opposed to "individual selection" theorists such as Dawkins et al), and as such, he sees the social group as the main subject concerning the evolution of the human species. He examines the apparent relationships between genes, behavior, and culture, and proposes that what people call "evil" is nothing more than a by-product of nature's strategies for creation. Violent competition (which we may see implemented through natural selection) is a ce Bloom is a proponent of "group selection theory" (as opposed to "individual selection" theorists such as Dawkins et al), and as such, he sees the social group as the main subject concerning the evolution of the human species. He examines the apparent relationships between genes, behavior, and culture, and proposes that what people call "evil" is nothing more than a by-product of nature's strategies for creation. Violent competition (which we may see implemented through natural selection) is a central mechanism to create what he deems as a "superorganism". Humanity is the superorganism under consideration in this book, and it rises a level above the simplistic genetic evolution of our species. Human cultural development involved the natural selection of particular psychological traits (which support particular cultural characteristics). Through the propagation and replication of memes (a term coined by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins), we see how the human superorganism has developed, with both the cultural similarities and their differences largely a result of these memes. From an individual's point of view, the selection processes that involve one group competing with another, are deemed "evil" even though the creation of the human species and the human superorganism are a result of these very processes. As a moral relativist, I appreciate the main message in this book, that is, that one man's "God" is another man's "Devil", and if these seemingly "evil" processes are responsible for the eventual evolution of our species, then they are ingrained in the fabric of our biology and being -- and thus appear to have been a necessary evil. Overall, I thought that the book was a good read. From a broader perspective of this book, I think it's important that people examine the evidence for group selection theory and see how they relate to and complement those of individual selection.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Scott Sweet-Christian

    I picked this book up a number of years ago and was fascinated with his ideas. Now that I have I read it, I have to say it was not well put together. I found his thought to be scattered at times and pieced together using fragments of history and psychology that were not thoroughly researched. I do not doubt that he is a highly intelligent individual, however this work did not further my curiosity or knowledge as I had hoped.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    It was an excellent read that is definitely not for the sensitive-minded. It did not dive too much into personal feelings of each individual in the world; it focused more on life with humans as a greater being, or as the author put it, super organism. I was delighted to incorporate this new way of thinking about the human species and what it really says about our origins as well as what it will say about our future. I do not believe a single sentence in this book was sugar-coated so make sure th It was an excellent read that is definitely not for the sensitive-minded. It did not dive too much into personal feelings of each individual in the world; it focused more on life with humans as a greater being, or as the author put it, super organism. I was delighted to incorporate this new way of thinking about the human species and what it really says about our origins as well as what it will say about our future. I do not believe a single sentence in this book was sugar-coated so make sure that you are well-prepared to experience something that may stray from your person belief(s). I would recommend this book as a necessity in grade schools around the country and world. It is excellent and helps bring a bit of the "larger" and "actual" pictures in to play when most of us get caught up in our instinctual behaviors without care as to why. I would not say that this book necessarily says that all religions are wrong but it does bring light to many good points that not all religions have a basis that is moral and is centered on what "followers" believe they are following. It is just interesting and I would suggest that everyone take the time to read it, reflect upon it, and move on with their life with a slightly altered and hopefully much more opened mind.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nour Sharif

    It started out great! then it crashed down... I really feel sad because at first I thought "PHEWWWWWWWW! A good philosophy book, the first ever since Camus's La pest, a year and a half ago" But now, I am envelopped with great misery because this book didn't work out for me :( Some arguments weren't, even if he was right, sufficiently justified. At other times, he gave sooooo many examples and names of searchers and scientists that his own argument gets lost and absorbed into the so many examples. It started out great! then it crashed down... I really feel sad because at first I thought "PHEWWWWWWWW! A good philosophy book, the first ever since Camus's La pest, a year and a half ago" But now, I am envelopped with great misery because this book didn't work out for me :( Some arguments weren't, even if he was right, sufficiently justified. At other times, he gave sooooo many examples and names of searchers and scientists that his own argument gets lost and absorbed into the so many examples. You just lose the argument. At first, I thought this is a sarcastic person, and I love sarcasm in books, then he turned towards this person who, at the end of each chapter, will conclude his point of view with that "epic" highly ridiculous sentence. I really tried to love you, little book, I did :( and it feels me with great chagrin that I didn't :(

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karson

    This one blew my mind at certain points. His sociological insights were the most interesting. Peking order stuff, scapegoating, projecting our unacknowledged faults onto others. I think he is generally on the right track about how reality can seem harsh and unfeeling at times. Animals don't seem to worry too much about how tough it can be to navigate through life sometimes. They have instincts instead. They just trust those or else! We humans have instincts to, but then we have a bunch of shit o This one blew my mind at certain points. His sociological insights were the most interesting. Peking order stuff, scapegoating, projecting our unacknowledged faults onto others. I think he is generally on the right track about how reality can seem harsh and unfeeling at times. Animals don't seem to worry too much about how tough it can be to navigate through life sometimes. They have instincts instead. They just trust those or else! We humans have instincts to, but then we have a bunch of shit on top of that too. We have feelings about our instincts like guilt and shame and other complicaters. O we humans and our feelings about feelings and complicated consciousnesses!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    In between ravings about homoeopathy and inaccurate descriptions of what a neural net is and what it can do the book is just a random hotchpotch of musings with no clear aim. Not sure what the message is but the author sure tries to hammer it home by repeating himself ad nauseam. It's like listening in to a pub conversation. You are drunk Mr Bloom, go home. Lucifer Principle Drinking Game: Drink every time you read "pecking order" or "superorganism". If you see "superorganismic pecking order" down In between ravings about homoeopathy and inaccurate descriptions of what a neural net is and what it can do the book is just a random hotchpotch of musings with no clear aim. Not sure what the message is but the author sure tries to hammer it home by repeating himself ad nauseam. It's like listening in to a pub conversation. You are drunk Mr Bloom, go home. Lucifer Principle Drinking Game: Drink every time you read "pecking order" or "superorganism". If you see "superorganismic pecking order" down your drink.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This book contains God's Own Truth about memetic evolution and its role in the development of modern society. Religions, governments, social groups as social superorganism. You may or may not end up liking this conclusion. You may even reject it. You'll still be wrong, because Bloom is dead on right.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Janice Urbsaitis

    Howard Bloom tells us why there will never be peace on earth, especially in his chapter on bullying in the animal world. Chickens will continually peck the weakest member to death until there are only two chickens left; and then the strongest chicken will still peck the weaker one to death. Sobering and mesmerizing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris Friend

    Written like a sophomoric college student who is simply trying to impress you with what he thinks he knows, this book drones on and on about the forces shaping human behavior without providing much more than anecdote to support it. Pedantic and uninspired.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Although Bloom makes some interesting points, I'm not sure I agree with most of his positions. His politics tend to show through a bit. Read it if you're looking for an interesting historical perspective, but I wouldn't use it as a definitive reference.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David

    A comprehensive review of mother nature's amoral stance and how she grants us these evil impulses to drive evolution. A voluminous tome, excellent for beating hobos to death with.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Avis Black

    This is not going to be a book to make you comfortable, but it is one of those rare, necessary reads.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Otto Lehto

    The Lucifer Principle weaves a well-written and compelling narrative that is bound to shock the reader out of her ideological stupour. This style provides a healthy immunization against some of the illusions and self-deceptions that we all, by nature and education, live under. Thus broken free from dogmas, Bloom jolts the reader to freely exploring the link between dominance hierarchies, violence, genes, memes, and social groups. Shockingly, he shows how the very same passion that cures cancer a The Lucifer Principle weaves a well-written and compelling narrative that is bound to shock the reader out of her ideological stupour. This style provides a healthy immunization against some of the illusions and self-deceptions that we all, by nature and education, live under. Thus broken free from dogmas, Bloom jolts the reader to freely exploring the link between dominance hierarchies, violence, genes, memes, and social groups. Shockingly, he shows how the very same passion that cures cancer and unites tribes often amplifies our self-righteousness into a blinding plea for world domination. The book is well-researched and contains numerous fascinating and illustrative stories from history. At the same time, it suffers from a selective exposition of facts presented with a strong interpretative slant. I did not like the anti-Islamic rants that went on for way too long. And I did not like the many dubious empirical generalisations that appeared one-sided and based on anecdotal evidence. I concur with David S. Wilson's estimation, in the foreword, that Bloom has a tendency to exaggerate. This undermines the reliability of some of the scientific claims of the book. However, Bloom's cynical and pessimistic lens magnifies humanity's dark side in a way that is illuminating; not only of our capacity for evil, but also of the capacity for goodness and excellence in the same human organism. The takeaway lesson, if there is one, is therefore ambivalent. The pitfalls of the Lucifer Principle are ever present in our struggle to self-transcend our animal nature. And yet continually self-transcend we must. To reach for the stars and to perpetuate evolution is a bloody, violent, stressful affair. But without the parade of violence we call human history we inevitably face the heat death of the universe. Bloom's book, for me, suggests ways in which we can break free from social submission and avoid the pacifying pull of entropy - and, crucially, how to do it without succumbing to the worst conquering and genocidal illusions of humanity.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Compelling analysis of the human tendency to murder and genocide Howard Bloom's central thesis here is that nation states, tribes, and other human conglomerates are "superorganisms" held together by memes, that is to say, shared ideas. From this he has it follow that it is the health of the superorganism that counts and not the individual. Individuals are likened to the cells of a larger body. They are expendable, and indeed programed to die in order to serve the collective good. The Lucifer Prin Compelling analysis of the human tendency to murder and genocide Howard Bloom's central thesis here is that nation states, tribes, and other human conglomerates are "superorganisms" held together by memes, that is to say, shared ideas. From this he has it follow that it is the health of the superorganism that counts and not the individual. Individuals are likened to the cells of a larger body. They are expendable, and indeed programed to die in order to serve the collective good. The Lucifer Principle itself is our commitment to savagery as the way to settle differences. This is an old and hoary thesis familiar to all who have studied history, and it is from history that Bloom garners his most impressive evidence. He recalls a litany of genocides and murders from the brutal campaigns of the Roman empire through the Crusades and the conquest of the Americas to the Saddam Husseins, the Ayatollahs, and Pol Pots of today. He also draws on evidence from biology, citing the murderous tendencies of apes and the automatic homicides of ants and other social insects. He goes to great lengths to show that the pecking orders in chickens and rats are similar to those in humans and that when these orders are disturbed or unsettled, violence of the most savage sort ensues. In the end he proposes a pecking order of superorganisms, and using this metaphor, attempts to explain why various nations and religions have to this very day slaughtered one another. Along the way he warns us to remain strong militarily and economically against the barbarians at the gate. What sets The Lucifer Principle apart from other books with a similar message is Bloom's stark and engaging style and the unrelenting flood of evidence he presents festooned with 782 footnotes and a 40-page bibliography. I've never read a book that makes the assertion that people are animals as thoroughly as Bloom does here. You've heard the mantra: people are animals, but what Bloom does is make sure you realize it's true. Well, it is true. But so what? We are domesticated animals (we domesticate ourselves), and with the right governance we may yet control the awful savagery that has always plagued humankind. We are nowhere near to doing that now, but extrapolating from the experience of the United States itself, in which a diverse people continue to live without the tribal wars that infect other parts of the world, it might be seen that the rule of law (a "meme," if you will, in competition with the rule of might) will eventually prove triumphant. Even though the culture of the Bible Belt is very different from that of California or New York, there is no chance that the one will be invading the others. What Bloom is writing about, then, is the tribal imperative under what I call the War System. His "superorganism" is just a metaphor for a large and powerful tribe, a nation state, a religion, a culture. Those who complain this is not "scientific" are correct. Bloom is writing history, sociology and political science. These are disciplines in which one does not "prove" assertions in a scientific sense but instead points to a preponderance of evidence. I think he's done a good job in hanging the murderer sign around our necks, but I don't think humans are as completely sown into the fabric of the superorganism as he thinks. Bloom allows himself to get carried away by the felicitous logic of his metaphors (memes as the genes of cultural evolution; human organizations as organisms) to the point where he forgets they are just metaphors; that is, handy ways of talking, but not scientific fact. While some people are driven primarily by their emotions and the mesmerizing mentality of the herd, other people are able to live out their lives in relative peace and harmony. Bloom's intense concentration on the violence in human beings blinds him to the fact that, even though history is strewn with vile heaps of human carnage, the vast majority of people have killed no one and are just trying to make a living. My belief is that the War System is on its last legs, and I mean that in a historical sense. I will not live to see its demise, nor will my grandchildren, but perhaps their grandchildren will. Furthermore, there are powerful forces of change working in the world today from microbiology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, etc., not to mention globalization, lead by the vested interests in the developed world. These forces are changing humans and human culture so quickly that perhaps in a few generations we will be very different from what we are today, and will have no use for "The Lucifer Principle." Aside from his overriding thesis, Bloom presents a number of compelling ideas, one of which is that "Contrary to contemporary theory, evolution is not built solely on competition between self-interested loners. It also relies on contests between teams of individuals striving for group survival." He believes that group selection explains "self-destruct mechanisms" within individuals. (p. 70) Another is that when people experience prosperity the level of violence increases. He gives some examples of this phenomena beginning on page 258 and explains it through an increase in testosterone in the newly prosperous. The really downtrodden, he avers, stay that way and have low testosterone levels. Finally I must point to his prescient (this was written in the early 90s) and compelling analysis of the situation in the Middle East where the tribal mentality still reigns supreme and where most of its inhabitants are under the spell of what Bloom calls a "killer culture." His indictment of Islam and the Arab mentality goes a long way toward explaining 9/11 and the terrorist mind set. He quotes Nobel Prize-winning novelist Elias Canetti who called Islam "a killer religion, literally " (p. 225) He supports his indictment with some rather astonishing quotes from Yasar Arafat and the late Ayatollah Khomeini. --Dennis Littrell, author of the mystery novel, “Teddy and Teri”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rossdavidh

    Subtitle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History. The most important thing to know about this book is that it was published in 1995, because a lot of its statements and predictions look a lot more impressive than if they had been written in, say, October of 2001. In the (very short) opening chapter, "Who is Lucifer?", Howard Bloom lets you know what sort of book this is going to be. In short, not a delicate or tactful one. The answer, according to Bloom, is that Lucifer is Mother Natu Subtitle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History. The most important thing to know about this book is that it was published in 1995, because a lot of its statements and predictions look a lot more impressive than if they had been written in, say, October of 2001. In the (very short) opening chapter, "Who is Lucifer?", Howard Bloom lets you know what sort of book this is going to be. In short, not a delicate or tactful one. The answer, according to Bloom, is that Lucifer is Mother Nature's alter ego, and the rest of the book goes towards explaining why. Bloom ties together several somewhat controversial, but plausible ideas, and takes them to their logical conclusion. Roughly in order, these are: 1) evolution happens not only at the level of the individual organism, but also at the level of the gene, and the social structure. Some genes kill others off, some social structures kill others off, and this happens more or less independently of the wishes, or even knowledge, of the organisms themselves. 2) just as neurons, or other cells, have self-destruct mechanisms inside them that lead to beneficial results for the tissues they are part of ("if you find yourself in this situation, divide, otherwise, die off"), societies inculcate similar self-destruct mechanisms inside the minds of the people that compose them. 3) as societies compete, males are expendable. It takes only a minority of successful males to produce the next generation, and those males need to be predisposed to success not only by their genetics but also by their ideology. Since the optimal ideology for success is not the same from one era to the next, adolescent males are predisposed towards competition, and towards violent behavior when they are not successful (by this theory, lower class males will always be more likely to be violent, simply because they are less successful, by whatever standards that society uses). 4) as they become successful, societies will be less likely to encourage those attributes of aggression and competitiveness which enable them to respond effectively to the challenge from "barbarian" cultures which still cultivate them. Thus the Romans (more than capable of savagery in their day) became unable to resist the Teutonic barbarians from the north, the Chinese became unable to resist the nomads from the north, and so forth. It is not an accident of history, it is an inevitable result of prosperity itself. By encouraging milder behavior (so as to reduce problems internally), they lose the ability to defend themselves. 5) The United States is not immune to this. Reading this book is not easy. Bloom tells stories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, of communist revolution in Russia and elsewhere, of Oliver Cromwell's brutal methods with his enemies, of Mohammed's wars, of Persia and Babylon, etc. etc. In each case, he draws parallels to the behavior of other species (from chickens to apes), showing how the primitive instincts and drives of animals explain the events of history at least as well (perhaps better) than any theory which relies on their rational faculties. But because the topic is violent conflict, you have to read about a lot of violence, and it isn't always much fun. Which is the sort of thing which Bloom suggests is wrong with America (recall this was written in the mid-90's, when we were enjoying a "peace dividend" to balance our budget). Having just seen the havoc which can be wrought on a country when the leadership is too enamored of military solutions, some of Bloom's conclusions may seem unnecessarily grim. However, when he says "We are [ignoring] the ubiquitous genocide in black Africa and the hatred aimed against us by a host of Islamic nations we insist on calling friends. Why? For the same reason that one animal passing another it knows to be much bigger stares in another direction." We have certainly been guilty, in the years since 1989, of ignoring the problems overseas which we most need to be involved in, and spending our time in other directions (Bloom also points out various past societies that turn to a conservative fixation on the past when their position is threatened; I leave the drawing of parallels to our recent politics to the reader). The real question raised by Bloom's analysis is: so what? Bloom essentially says that we must understand why history works the way it does before we can change it, but he doesn't say much about how we can change it. He does point out a few things that won't work: nostalgia for the values of the past, ignoring threats of violence from beyond our borders, or pretending that bloody conflict is a recent invention which humanity created (and therefore can simply stop encouraging, perhaps by banning violence in TV show). Violence and conflict are the normal states of nearly all animal species, and human history shows we are not by any means a natural exception. In this way, Bloom's "Lucifer Principle" functions much like the germ theory of disease. It doesn't solve the problem, but it allows us to look more clearly at the source. So long as doctors tried to treat infectious disease by attempting to balance the humours, there was little or not chance of success. Bloom says that memes and superorganisms (religions, nations, ideologies) are competing for reproductive success, using us up like cells in a body in the process. If he is right, the next question is, how do we make them stop?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    A compelling read with a hard look at human nature and history. There is a lot to quibble with, and many uncomfortable ideas and arguments, but overall, Bloom is on to something in his analysis. This is one of those books that is going to sit in my head for a long time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dan Elton

    This isn't really a full review, but some assorted notes I took. There are many interesting ideas here, but they all should be taken with a grain of salt. There is a dire lack of rigor throughout this book. Bloom views human history through the lens of evolutionary biology. He notes that pecking orders are found throughout nature, so why should humans be any different? Provocatively, the work of Robert Sapolsky seems to back this up - showing stress hormones correlate with placement on corporate This isn't really a full review, but some assorted notes I took. There are many interesting ideas here, but they all should be taken with a grain of salt. There is a dire lack of rigor throughout this book. Bloom views human history through the lens of evolutionary biology. He notes that pecking orders are found throughout nature, so why should humans be any different? Provocatively, the work of Robert Sapolsky seems to back this up - showing stress hormones correlate with placement on corporate hierarchy. One interesting and thought provoking idea in this book is that we don't have a very rigorous understanding of stress. We tend to think of stress as being due to having "too much work". But what about the times that we are working really hard, striving to solve a problem, but not stressed out? We tend to think of "good stress" and "bad stress". What experiments with rats show is that destructive levels of stress have two causes - loss of control and psychosocial. Pyschosocial stress can be caused by the loss of a loved one or loss of close social relations, as happens in divorce. It can also be caused by falling down the social ladder. Early in the book, Bloom tells the story of a CEO who was booted from his company and ended up committing suicide. One of the interesting notions Bloom raises is that the solution to stress is sometimes to work harder (to climb the social ladder?). Many of the ideas Bloom presents, while interesting, seem questionable to me. Most notably, Bloom hypothesizes that when a nation-state reaches the top of the social hierarchy, instead of resting on its laurels, it goes to war. Bloom talks about how a "surge of testosterone" that comes with climbing the social ladder fuels desire for conquest. He uses the rise of Otto von Bismark in Germany and the US's expedition into Vietnam was as examples. Yet, somewhat confusingly, Bloom also proposes that societies at the top of the social ladder tend to get "soft", "slow", "inward looking", and "lazy" the longer they stay there. This is hardly a new idea, of course, since the fall of the Roman Empire people have noted how social decay and rejection of traditional values seems to caused by prolonged periods of peace and economic prosperity. I think Bloom goes into crackpot territory when he begins to speculate on how neurobiological effects drive changes in behaviour in societies that are rising on the social dominance hierarchy vs societies that are falling.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anita Horan

    This is not a full review as I read it many years ago but only just set up my Goodreads account. The Lucifer Principle had a profound effect of me. I was raised in a fundamentalist religion with very rigid beliefs 'we're good' everyone else 'is bad.' My recollections of Howard Bloom's book had a profound effect how I perceived the world. I noted many pages, thoughts and research experiments that helped me understand the mechanisms of hierarchies and the power games we all play, from the smallest i This is not a full review as I read it many years ago but only just set up my Goodreads account. The Lucifer Principle had a profound effect of me. I was raised in a fundamentalist religion with very rigid beliefs 'we're good' everyone else 'is bad.' My recollections of Howard Bloom's book had a profound effect how I perceived the world. I noted many pages, thoughts and research experiments that helped me understand the mechanisms of hierarchies and the power games we all play, from the smallest individual groups to the largest nations. It is incredibly well researched and well written. It's effect was so profound that I have quoted passages from this book in my own new memoir. I thank Howard for writing this book and for giving me permission to quote his work.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.