Sunday, April 22, 2012

Notes on Howard Bloom's "The Lucifer Principle": Further thoughts on gene vs. meme replication

In a recent post, I discussed the current debate regarding theories of gene vs. meme vs. group replication. This debate is growing, as evidenced by E.O. Wilson's most recent book The Social Conquest of Earth, in which he resurrects the theory of group selection. (Though, he does so in a pretty unconvincing way. Harold Bloom did a lot better job in his book "The Lucifer Principle," but even in this book, which is the focus on this post, there are more questions raised than answers found.)

Gene replication is the easiest of the three theories to understand because it easy to visual what is replicating. A gene (in combination with other genes and in particular environments) is a code that programs its own self-replication. A meme is a little bit harder to understand because most of the time, it's not exactly clear what is replicating. It's not clear at all to me what is replicating when one says 'group replication' or 'group selection.' Evidence of altruistic behavior is not evidence of group selection, just as evidence of selfish behavior is not evidence against group selection.

Here's some examples of easy to understand non-genetic self-replicators:
1) Computer virus a program that encodes is own self-replication  (a quine)
2) Solar auxon a program that using solar energy to build new solar auxons and the factories that build the solar auxons.
3) A self-replicating sentence like the following from Douglas Hofstadter "If you copy me, I'll grant you three wishes"   or  "Say me or put a curse on you"

All of these are examples of indirect self-reference. The questions to ask oneself in order to distinguish between gene replication (and sexual selection), meme replication, and group replication are the following: what is physically self-replicating? Is there a code that can be used (perhaps in combination with other codes) to self-replicating the code(s)? What is the difference between information and a meme? Is a particular fashion statement a 'cultural meme' or is it just a part of genetic sexual selection (like a peacocks feathers)? We would never say that a peacock's feather is a meme, so why would we say that fashion is an example of a meme?  Does the gene, meme or group contain indirect self-reference as in the cases listed above?

I find the topic of gene vs. meme selection so interesting because I'm fascinated with the underlying mathematics/physics behind self-replication. For those of you interested in my thoughts on studying the mathematics behind self-replication, I suggest reading a post I wrote on the whether self-replication of agents or attractors can occur in systems of differential equations. In other words, can a set of differential equations be indirectly self-referential? In that post, I suggest (unproven) that self-replicating can only occur in systems far-from-equilibrium in which the underlying symmetries of the differential equations form a group in which the algebra of the group is complicated enough that Godel's Incompleteness Theorem applies...rather than his Completeness Theorem. In other words, when the algebra of the group of Lie symmetries is complicated enough that it becomes indirectly self-referential, then perhaps there can exist attractors in the system that can reference themselves and replicate themselves. Note that the algebra for the Lorenz (weather) system of differential equations is chaotic (i.e. has a strange attractor), but the algebra of the group of symmetry operations of the differential equations is not complicated enough for Godel's Incompleteness Theorem to apply. What we are still looking for are sets of differential equations even more complicated than Lorenz's weather system. Indirect self-reference is beyond mere chaos (i.e. fractal dimension attractors.) Strange attractors aren't self-referential, and they can't self-replicate.

I think that it's important to study the underlying mathematics of self-replication because it will be important to distinguish between those pieces of information/genetics/code that can self-replicate and those that can not. One reason that I'm so fascinated with the book "The Lucifer Principle" is that it is an attempt to understand the nature of gene and meme replication. If you are interested in learning more about the debate between gene selection, meme selection and group selection, I suggest the following texts. Though, it should be noted that each text will raise more questions than it will answer because this is an extremely complicated field of science that is still being actively debated.

Richard Dawkins "The Selfish Gene"
Susan Blackmore "The Meme Machine"
Harold Bloom "The Lucifer Principle"      (Note that Harold Bloom started out as a biology researcher, and then transitioned to being a record producer.) 

In order to read "The Lucifer Principle," one needs to keep an open, but skeptical mind about what he's saying. The goal of his book is to understand how groups form and why groups often attack other groups. He also asks the question: if by understanding history and biology, can we rise above our past history to become better people?
     But to rise above the past, we first have to understand the past.

With that having been said, I'm including the notes I took during the 2nd and 3rd times I read the book. The notes are still incomplete, but I hoping that others can use the notes why reading the book to help differentiate between those sections of the book which are scientifically sound from those sections that are just speculation. Bloom covers some major non-PC topics, and luckily he had the guts to deal with these non-PC topics because I don't think that we can develop improved philosophies of life if we don't have a clear understanding of our tendency to do extreme harm both to others and to ourselves.

Notes on The Lucifer Principle

Ch1 Who is Lucifer?
  • Cerca 200 A.D. Marcion the heretic said that God was responsible for evil (not Lucifer…later turned into a myth by people like John Milton.)
  • Thesis of the book: evil is a by-product, a component, of creation  (i.e. of evolution)
  • “We need a realistic vision, not a romantic one that Nature will take us in her arms and save us from ourselves, but a recognition that the enemy is within us and that nature has placed it there.”   (Or as Ben Harper says, “We’re the problem, we’re the solution, the cure and the disease.)

Ch2 The Clint Eastwood Conundrum
  • Mini-thesis: that competition between groups, not competition between individuals and their families, is the driver of high levels of organization
  • Note: this mini-thesis contradicts the consensus of evolutionary biologist (but I get the point the author is trying to make. Something seems to be missing from the individual gene thesis of evolutionary biology. The question is: can we explain history using a combination of gene and meme selection?)
  • Bloom says…"only a group effort can save us from the sporadic insanities of the group”
    • But why doesn’t Bloom just let Nature have its way? Why try to stop this madness? (I think that he understands the evil in nature, but thinks that it can somehow be stopped. If evil isn’t evil, why try to stop it?)
    • My take on Bloom's goal is that he sees extreme group competition as very short-sighted. And while natural selection may have selected for genes that are good obtaining a short-term gain (eat this, kill this, sleep with this, etc...), these genetic responses might not be well-adapted for our current environment in the long-term.

Ch3 The whole is bigger than the sum of it parts
  •  Entelechy – something complex that emerges when you put a large number of simple objects together  (related to entelechy is aristotle's discussion of final causes, i.e. teleology. Can a group of objects have a final cause that doesn't exist for any one of the individual objects that make up the group?)
    • Can something be created from nothing? Is there a difference between life and non-life? Between organic and inorganic material? Between the void and consciousness? Where do we go when we go into deep (non-dreaming) sleep? The “entelechy” is still present in our brains, but the consciousness goes away. The same thing happens if we drink too much (or visit a surgeon for a major operation) and lose our consciousness. It comes back because the entelechy (the brain) still is being excited. At death, the entelechy is separated. Then, slowly molecules go there own way.
    • How are we supposed to understand consciousness? Why does it go away and come back after a night of heavy drinking, but if we cut off oxygen to the brain for an hour, then it goes away for good? What changed? Did any of the underlying molecules go away? Did some underlying structure between the molecules go away? Why can't we revive people who drown after a certain amount of time? What's the difference between losing consciousness due to drowning and partial loss of consciousness when "under the needle" from anesthetics?
    • The entelechy goes it own separate ways…whereas, while we live, our brain is continuously changing, swapping molecules from our food and our air with the molecules of our brain. The birthmark on my leg has gone through thousands or millions or billions of different molecules over my lifetime, but yet some how it remains in the same place, same size and same color.
  • Five concepts – self-organization, the superorganism, the meme, the neural net and the pecking order
    • Where does consciousness fit into Bloom's Five Concepts?

Ch 4 The Chinese Cultural Revolution
  • Millions died of starvation, after the initial attempt at communion in 1958: The Great Leap Forward
  • Mao took advantage of the rebelliousness of adolescents
  • The students first acted out against the teachers, and then formed Red Guard units to terrorize the towns
  • Eventually, the Red Guard fractured (on the issues of who was allowed in)
  • “Idealism’s rationalizations transformed the rapacity of the students into a sense of selfless zeal.”
    • The same idealism that lead to the violence of the Reformation (Protestants killing Catholics / Catholics killing Protestants)
  • Is the Cultural Revolution an example of genetic selection, meme selection or group selection? In the case of the Cultural Revolution, what was replicating?  (Genes, memes, groups or some combination of the three?)

Ch5 Mother Nature, the bloody bitch
  • The “Seville statement” that “violence is neither in our evolutionary legacy nor in our genes.”
    • Reminds me of hanging out with Zen Buddhists: A little naive
  • Another Seville statement: “Killing is an invention not of man but of nature”
  • Hegel: true tragedy is not when god battles evil, but when good battles good
  • Richard Leaky: stated (falsely) that there was no war without agriculture
  • Counter example: !Kung in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa…no agriculture and little technology
  • Goodall discovered war among the chimpanzees
  • Bloom's point in this chapter is that killing and even group killing is not a recent human phenomena

Ch 6 Women – Not the peaceful creatures you think
  • Gorilla example (female eating the baby), Livia of Rome, Chinese empress, female ducks provoke other males, baboon mother abuses rival/lower class babies

Ch 7 Fighting for the privilege to procreate
  • A natural birth control device…lactational amenorrha…prevents mother langurs from wanting sex while raising a child…so the newly dominate male(s) kill the children, inducing the mothers back into a menstrual cycle
  • Yanomamo (Amazon tribe)men abuse their wives and kill the babies of defeated males in rival groups
    • Whoah! (Certainly seems like evidence for gene selection and not for group selection. But if it were genetic to kill babies of defeated rivals, why don’t we all do that? Has a meme over-ridden our underlying gene?)

Ch 8 The Greed of Genes
  • Improved genes speed up the processing of raw-materials or the genes develop a method of using the products of others in their new devices

Ch 9 Theory of individual selection and its flaws
  • Our self destruct mechanisms…japanese suicide bombers WWII
  • Suicide after financial collapse…why? It doesn’t help the individual or the family?
  • The interest of the group (red grouse) overrode the individual’s sexual interests
  • Wynne-Edwards Evolution through Group Selection (ignored…definitely…only one copy on Amazon for $163)
    • Though, I now seem to know why:  what is it that is physically replicating when one says "group selection"?
  • The American Civil War (brother against brother)
  • Intropunitive behavior in simian monkeys (when the mother was taken from the baby)
  • A self destruction mechanism in the talented advertising exec in NY…imagined that his body was falling apart
  • Red grouse…death by social exclusion

Ch 10 Superorganism
  • The social acts of cells, of ants, of humans
  • Slime molds are individualists until times of scarcity
  • Sponges come together as well

Ch 11 Isolation: the ultimate poison
  • Closeness with others can heal; separation can kill (yet, people live isolated from society, right?)

Ch 12 Even heroes are insecure
  • The impression of stature drives us to keep up the image of strength

Ch 13 Loving the child within us is not enough
  • Our self-destruct devices are controlled by social forces
    • As I said above, people seem capable of living apart from society, right?
  • Cyclic AMP ???? gene NM-23, controls clustering of cancer cells??? cAMP is the molecule that controls whether slime molds come together… (This is an interesting connection, but a lot more research is required in order to draw conclusions from this research.)

Ch 14 Us vs. them
  • Xenophobia, the fear and hatred of interlopers, is universal in higher animals (proof???)
  • Charity for those in the group…but not others (how does that develop?)

Ch 15 The value of having an enemy
  • Defending one from the enemy…Examples…Gov of Arkansas in the Civil Rights era and Fidel Castro

Ch 16 The Trick that manufactures devils
  • The mind erects a comfortingly false picture of the self and of the past
  • Projecting one’s own emotions onto others
  • “it was not their fault”
  • So, we know that it is easy to mobilize a group together by creating an enemy, but should we? (do we have a choice?) Is it good to do this? Is it good to fight this tendency? (My argument is that we should fight the tendency to create an enemy because the goal of life is to grow life. Killing other people does not normally help grow life…unless that people has demonstrated his or her willing to kill others.)

Ch 17 How hatred builds the walls of society’s bungalow
  • Frustration from one’s inability to fulfill one’s potential
  • An ant is born with the ability to take on any role in society!
  • Cellular differentiation
  • Novelists realize how many personalities lay hiding within ourselves (that never get to be openly exposed)

Ch 18 From Genes to Memes
  • When did memes appear first? How?
  • What is a meme? How does one describe? Quantify it?
  • What specifically is replicating?

Ch 19 The nose of a rat
  • Smell indicates family in rats
  • Tradition as a chemical…until it loses its family bond
  • “History is the environment of the meme.”

Ch 20 How wrong ideas can be right
  • “The measure of success of a human meme is how well the glue holds the group together.”
  • So, we know that wrong ideas can tie together groups…but for how long? If they don’t actually perform, they will be taken over eventually, right? Well, what about Christianity? Does it perform as well as capitalism?

Ch 21 The village of the sorcerers
  • “The illusion of control can make the difference between life and death.”  (My favorite quote from the book)
  • Electricity with rats (and the ability to switch off the electricity). The rats can withstand some electricity if they know that they have control over eventually turning off the electricity. Not having control can kill the rat as its body shuts downs rather than withstand the pain.
  • Endorphins as seductive poisons…whose power to anesticise is great, but they cripple us in the bargain, shutting our perceptions and cutting our resistance to disease. (Reminds me of Clockworth Orange…the main character stopped being violent and sexually aggressive after his “transformation” in jail, but he was left in a state where he was unable to defend himself against thieves and old men in the streets after he was let out.)

Ch 22 The Modern medical Shaman
  • Do doctors regularly confess ignorance???
  • The tests (CAT scan, etc..) enhance the illusion of control
  • My personal illusion of control is eating vitamins and amino acids (B12 and lysine)
  • The placebo effect is so strong that new drugs must be double blind tested

Ch 23 Control and the Urge to pray
  • Only one real example (Pope Hildebrand vs. Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV), so there wasn’t much scientific evidence for what he was saying in this chapter. The point of the chapter seems to be that people have such a need for 'control' that they need(ed) a Pope to tell them that they were going to heaven. The Pope seems to be an example of Shaman that gives people the feeling of being in control of their lives.

Ch 24 Power and the Invisible World
  • I liked reading the passage from out-dated “psychologist” saying that you shouldn’t be sentimental with your children…and now, they say the opposite “with research” sure, both sound like shamans making stuff up

Ch 25 Einstein and the Eskimos
  • Jump in logic: just because four cultures (Eskimo, Indian, Jewish and Bali) have traditions that are beneficial to the material here and now, doesn’t mean that all religious traditions have value in the here and now (certainly, Christianity doesn’t seem to have as many traditions that help the here and now. I think we should separate the actual ideas of a particular philosophy/religion from the actual growth in members of that particular philosophy/religion.)

Ch 26 The connectionist explanation of the mass mind’s dreams
  • “Biology, by and large, is not interested in finding the best things, just things that are pretty good that can be found quickly.” Cal Tech’s John Hopfield
  • Then, by the end of the chapter, he makes too far of a leap (that we can never change our neural networks to accommodate new memes)

Ch 27 Society as Neural Net
  • No scientific proof that people grow taller with power was given
  • Depression = paroxysm (convulsion, fit) in a human network
  • Shakespeare = pulling together language shaped by millions of minds, along with myths from millions of minds, and combined them with the zeitgeist of his own era
  • Does knowing that the superorganism continues to live after I do help a person tackle the mystery of death?  

Ch 28 The expendability of males
  • What?? Removing testicles (castration) can increase the immune system??? Didn’t he say the opposite earlier?
  • Too broad of a statement: monogamy north, polygamy south (never mind, I checked the reference and something like 37 of 38 tribes near the equator were polygamist)
  • What was his thesis in this chapter regarding modern men? Are we expendable or not?
  • Could you have a culture of all women, who reproduce using sperm donations from males of a long time ago? Are men required at all? 

Ch 29 How men are society’s dice
  • The loss of life is appalling, but behind it lies the principles that drive the annual swarming of the ants – the superorganism’s urge to expand

Ch 30 Is pitching a genetically acquired skill?
  • ??? What was his thesis in this chapter?

Ch 31 Oliver Cromwell…
  • Oliver Cromwell and Bart Simpson as children…very similar

Ch 32 The invisible world as a weapon
  • What was the point of this chapter?

Ch 33 The true route to utopia
  • I think that Bloom's view of Christianity is odd and ignores the actual teaching of the religion
  • And there are many Christian writers (such as David Dark and Kierkegaard) whose philosophy of life is extremely different than the Christianity described in this and other chapters
  • I think that there is a complete misunderstanding of the “utopia” that he is talking about

Ch 34 Why men embrace ideas – And why ideas embrace men
  • And what is faith? Says the meme, spit me out and you will tempt a fate worst than death
  • If you pass this “Notes of the Lucifer Principle” on to 5 friends, then you will be rewarded with eternal life in bliss.
  • If you don’t pass this “Notes of the Lucifer Principle” on to 5 friends, then you will be placed into a pit of eternal pain and suffering.
  • What is the difference between information and a meme? When does information become self-replicating?

Ch 35 Righteous Indignation = Greed for real estate
  • Do you need to be working for a company or agency that you believe in?
  • Bloom suggests that the aim of politics is not to make people better or to alleviate their misery: it is to increase the power of one man or group of men against the power of another man or group of men  (this seems to completely deny the existence of altruism…which goes against many of his previous statements.)

Ch 36 Shi’ites
  • H.G. Wells “Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.”
  • Stalin’s collectivization of the peasants as “the first socialist genocide”
  • “The meek shall inherit the earth” Jesus, what are the implications of this statement?
  • Sunni – followers of the Banu Umaiya tribe
  • Shi’ite --  followers of Ali (the younger cousin of Mohammed, who also married Mohammed’s daughter, Fatima)

Ch 37 Poetry and the Lust for power
  • Whoah, he is getting into dangerous ground here when he talks about homeopathic medicine
  • Allopaths vs. homeopaths
    • Allopath – cure by finding the middle ground (if you are depressed, then give you drugs to made you happy)
    • Homeopath – cure by forcing the body to find a way to deal with the problem (if you have high blood pressure, give you slightly more in the hope that your body will learn how to deal with it)
  • If the cursus honororum is not open to you, then make a new set of values to life by.
  • Horace and the meditative individual (was he just trying to improve his self-image compared to the aristocrats around him?)

Ch 38 When memes collide
  • No references for the Julius Caesar paragraph

Ch 39 Superior Chickens make friends
  • What happened to the saying “every human life is valuable” ???

Ch 40 Worldviews as the welding torch of the hierarchical chain
  • “Philosophers are men hired by the well-to-do to prove that everything is alright.” Brook Adams, brother of Henry Adams
  • This claim about Hinduism coming from the Aryans is highly disputed  (though, it does seem to explain some aspects of the social order in India, even in modern India.)
  • The caste system as a pecking order is an interesting idea

Ch 41 The Barbarian Principle
  • The story from history is “never be complacent about barbarians.”
  • My faith in democracy has been restored after reading these chapters. There is a moral system to democracy, a system of values in order to live in a democracy and they are not the morals of this book or of barbarians and or of Greek heroes.
  • The moral of democracy is:  every human life is valuable
  • The moral of a future Star Wars like democracy is: every intelligent lifeform is valuable

Ch 42 Are there killer cultures?
  • Could it be true that Islam is spreading throughout the third world?  (Some more references would be good here)
  • This seems to be like political propaganda against Islam. There are also many different forms of Islam as there are forms of Christianity, Buddhism and atheism. It's important to not lump together all people of a particular 'religion'

Ch 43 Violence in South America and Africa
  • This turned into a propaganda statement for democracy (why is the democracy meme better than the barbaric meme?) The better meme is the meme that grows life the fastest. How can Bloom introduce 'ought from is' ?  How can he introduce morality when he often says that evolution is without morals?   (Note that in my philosophy of life...that the goal of life to grow life...I go from 'ought' from 'is' by saying 'ought' is 'is'...we ought to be growing life because that is what life is doing anyways. This problem of 'ought from 'is' goes back to David Hume. In general, I agree with Hume. There is no way to go from 'what is' to 'we ought to do a specific action.'  What I argue above is that if a self-replicator states 'we ought to be doing this', this is simply 'what is.' In other words, saying 'we ought to do this' is just the actions of a self-replicator doing what it does best: self-replicating.)

Ch 44 The importance of hugging
  • How did the English go from slapping to hugging?
  • There is definitely a lack of clear evidence that being close to your kids helps prevent violence (intuition alone is not enough here)

Ch 45 The puzzle of complacency
  • The Chinese have had a tendency to ignore barbarians or to ignore outside threats

Ch 46 Poverty with prestige is better than affluent disgrace
  • Very odd thoughts on helping people (it almost makes it sound like you are frustrating them by giving to them.) Does this mean that we shouldn’t give to charity because we are just trying to prove our power and our status in society?

Ch 47 Why prosperity will not bring peace
  • There seems to be contradicting evidence for and against violence and times of wealth (Great Depression – murder rates down, but it helped bring on WWII)

Ch 48 The secret meaning of “freedom” “peace” and “justice”
  • Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely

Ch 49 The Victorian Decline and the fall of America
  • "Military might depends not just on guns and strategic brilliance, but on industrial innovation and marketing smarts."
  • What brought down the British Empire?  Why is Europe is such a financial and philosophical mess right now?
  • "British industrialists over-looked three simple facts: (a) every technological breakthrough eventually grows old; (b) new inventions arrives to replace it; and (c) the country that dominates these new technologies often rules the world."
  • Luckily, America seems to be doing a pretty good job of innovating and profiting from the innovations (though, we lost of a lot of our manufacturing jobs to places like China. Some of that is changing in places like Ohio/Pennsylvania where cheap natural gas is reviving previous manufacturing factories.)

Ch 50 Scapegoats & Sexual Hysteria
  •  Countries often find or make scapegoats when they fall down the pecking order
  • Bloom suggests that one way to avoid make scapegoats is to just not fall down the pecking order, i.e. focus on innovating and growing the economy instead of trying to understand why the economy isn't doing well. Each person needs to do their part to help grow the economy. (In slightly different words, we can avoid Peak Oil and/or the decay of civilization if we all work harder and develop technologies to solve our problems. We all need to spend less time attacking each other and spend more time innovating and building businesses.)
  • Examples of scapegoats:  Oscar Wilde (for the British),  Capt. Dryfus (for the French), Jewish people  (for the Germans), capitalists (for the Soviets), Rock&Roll / Rap / Death Metal (for many conservative groups)

Ch 51 Lab Rats and the Oil Crisis
  •  We need to stop finding scapegoats every time that the price of oil goes up  (stop blaming evil oil speculators, or the evil oil companies, or the evil environmentalists, or the evil President.) Start innovating, and stop complaining. Stop worrying about Peak Oil, and start doing something about it. Start drilling for more oil, or develop a better and cost effective alternative to oil rather than spending all your time worrying about what will happen if we run out of cheap oil.

Ch 52 Why Nations pretend to be blind
  •  “A rise or fall [on the pecking order] can radically rearrange the way we see the world.”
  •   Bloom brings up an interesting story of the Japanese sinking of the American ship the Panay in December 1937. A story that often isn't widely known.
  • A lack of anger or discussion in the US of the sinking of the Panay "fed their [Japanese] illusions of invincibility."

 Ch53  How the Pecking Order Reshapes the Mind
  • “Hungry birds do not methodically nibble every unusual item to see if it can be turned into a meal; they shy away from food that seems strange…well-fed birds are up for every potential adventure in dining…There is a logic behind this genetically ordained strategy. Exploring the unknown is a risk.”
  • The Rock&Roll of the late 6os and 70s grew out of the prosperity of the 50s and 60s. When an oil and economic crisis occurred in the 70s, some people in the US started looking for scapegoats in the music industry rather than looking for new sources of oil.
  • Key theme of these last few chapters: when you have an economic crisis focus on innovation and growing the economy rather than looking for scapegoats. Don’t close your eyes to the future and bury your heads in the past.

 Ch54  Perceptual Shutdown and the Future of America
  • Norman Cousins “Progress is possible only when people believe in the possibilities of growth and change. Races or tribes die out not just when there conquered and suppressed, but when they accept their defeated condition, become despairing, and lose their excitement about the future.”
  • Bloom quote: “The Chinese [of the 1500s-1800s] were more interested in the opiate of illusion than the bitter draught of reality.” The Chinese burned their ships, buried their heads in ancient texts, and stopped communicating with the outside world.

 Ch55  The Myth of Stress
  • Hard work and the pursuit of challenging problems is healthy…the myth of stress if over-stated. The problem will be if we opt out of competition because then we will slip down the pecking order of nations, and that will cause real healthy problems.
  • Lowering your position in the pecking order, raises your blood pressure; increasing your position in the pecking order, lowers your blood pressure. (Note: I haven’t checked his reference yet for this statement.)
  • Low sickness executives were strong in three areas: commitment, control and challenge.
  • “Extreme relaxation is a slow form of suicide.”

 Ch56  Tennis Time and the Mental Clock
  •  The difference between tennis time (of a rising society that absorbs new information quickly) and beach time (of falling society that conserves its energy)
  • Clearly, there’s a difference right now between China and Europe, one on the rise and the other (purposely) falling down the pecking order. The US seems to be stuck some place in between China and Europe.
  • We need a new frontier in order to re-open the imagination and get Europe back on tennis time. Bloom suggests putting together international collaborations for colonizing other planets, moons and asteroids. “We need a new horizon, a new sense of purpose, a new set of goals, a new frontier to move once again with might and majesty, with a sense of zest that makes life worth living, through the world in which we live. One of the few frontiers left to us hangs above our heads.”

Ch57  The Lucifer Principle
  •  “The superorganism [e.g. the Roman Empire] is often a vile and loathsome beast. But like the body nourishing her constituent cells, the social beast grants us life. Without her, each of us would perish.”      Bloom should have quoted from the Aenid here, so I will:    
  • "Roman, remember by your strength to rule
    Earth’s peoples—for your arts are to be these:
    To pacify, to impose the rule of law,
    To spare the conquered, battle down the proud."

Ch58  Epilogue
  • “We must invent a way in which memes and the superorganisms that carry the memes (i.e. nations and subcultures) can compete without carnage. We may find a clue to that path in science. A scientific system is one in which small groups of men and women cohere around an idea, then use the powers of persuasion and politics to establish that idea’s dominance in the field, and to drive rival hypotheses to the periphery.”
  • “There is hope that we may someday free ourselves from savagery. To our species evolution has given something new—the imagination. With that gift, we have dreamed of peace. Our task—perhaps the only one that will save us—is to turn what we have dreamed into reality. To fashion a world where violence ceases to be. If we can accomplish this goal, we may yet escape our fate as highly precocious offspring, as fitting inheritors of nature’s highest gift and foulest curse, as the ultimate children of the Lucifer Principle.”
  • It seems like one way of overcome the savagery of the Lucifer Principle if to adopt the philosophy that the goal of life is to grow life  (all life). It seems to me that we must respect all life, but we need to focus on growing life, and that starts with growing life around you.

In general, I liked the first half of the book a lot more than the second half. I think that the book opened up a Pandora’s box of questions, but ultimately, the questions should be answered by experts in the area of biological sciences. I'd to hear what you think about The Lucifer Principle if you have read the book. Please add your comments below.

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