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Who is Howard Bloom?
The following information might help us all gain a better understanding of Howard Bloom, his background, credentials and a bit about who he is on a personal level. I am pulling this off www.howardbloom.net/.
Quote:Howard Bloom, a Visiting Scholar at New York University, is founder of the International Paleopsychology Project, executive editor of the New Paradigm book series, a founding board member of the Epic of Evolution Society, and a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, the National Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Society, the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, The International Society of Human Ethology, and the Academy of Political Science. He has been featured in every edition of Who's Who in Science and Engineering since the publication's inception.
Bloom has taken an unusual approach to the study of mass moods and cultural convolutions. He started out normally enough, building his first Boolean algebra machine at the age of twelve, becoming a dedicated microscopist that same year, codesigning a computer which won a Westinghouse Science Award before he left grade school, and being granted a private brainstorming session with the head of the Graduate Physics Department of The State University of New York, Buffalo, at the age of thirteen. By sixteen he was a lab assistant at the world's largest cancer research center, the Roswell Park Memorial Research Cancer Institute, where he helped plumb the mysteries of the immune system. And before his freshman year of college he designed and executed research in Skinnerian programmed learning at Rutgers University's Graduate School of Education.
Then came an act of academic heresy. After graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from New York University, Bloom turned down four graduate fellowships and embarked on a 20-year-long urban anthropology expedition to penetrate what he calls "society's myth-making machinery"--the inner sanctums of politics and the media. During his foray into "the dark underbelly of mass emotion" he edited a magazine which won two National Academy of Poets prizes, founded the leading avant-garde art studio on the East Coast, was featured on the cover of Art Direction Magazine, then gave up listening to Beethoven, Bartok, and Mozart to become editor of a rock magazine. Using correlational studies, focus groups, empirical surveys, ethnographic expeditions into suburban teen subcultures, and other scientific techniques, Bloom more than doubled the publication's sales, and was credited by Rolling Stones' Chet Flippo with having founded a new genre--the heavy metal magazine. Seeking still further ways to infiltrate modernity's mass mind, Bloom formed a public relations firm in the music and film industry and won the confidence of those whose territory he'd invaded. The payoff in knowledge proved invaluable.
Bloom worked with Michael Jackson, Prince, John Cougar Mellencamp, Kiss, Queen, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Joan Jett, Diana Ross, Simon & Garfunkel, The Talking Heads, AC/DC, Billy Idol, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run D.M.C., Simply Red, and the heads of many a media conglomerate. He was adept at spotting new subcultures, entering them, and helping their members achieve their goals...a skill which gave him an inside role in the rise of rap, disco, and punk rock.
The pinnacles of fame provided surprising scientific revelations. "When you're at the center of the sort of attention-storm which hits when you're working with a superstar," Bloom says, "it's as if the laws of physics change. Hormones charge you up in ways you never imagined. Time perception alters. You resolve crisis in minutes, seeing solutions instantly which previously would have taken you weeks.
"More important is the impact of a communal ritual like a rock concert. The star onstage is taken over by a self he doesn't know, one that seems to surge through him as if he were a length of empty pipe. The force of this strange passion welds the audience in an almost transcendent bond." Bloom's task was to first experience the exaltation, then to dissect it. "The model for this work," he says, "came from William James, who attempted to feel the ecstatic experience of mystics, then to probe it scientifically, a process which led to his 1902 book The Varieties of the Religious Experience."
Bloom's forays into power and its manipulations were also intense. "In the music and film industry everyone knew that money and career advancement were on the line. But few realized how deeply what they did affected the lives of millions, and even fewer felt the responsibility that demands. It was an amazing privilege to work as an equal with the entertainment industry's elite, many of whom I either had to woo or thwart to help my clients reach their audience with a message of genuine value. Some executives were master strategists but used their intelligence to increase their own stature, often at a brutal cost to others. Others were far more ethical. Yet even the best-intentioned employed boardroom and backroom tactics handed down from the politics of chimpanzees. Without knowing it, they used tricks of leadership we share with social animals from lizards and lobsters to baboons and mountain apes."
The subculture of Washington politics was, to Bloom, the most disturbing of them all. Bloom founded Music in Action, a national anti-censorship organization. This brought him into head-on combat with Tipper Gore, wife of Vice President and eventual presidential candidate Al Gore. Says Bloom, "Tipper and the right wing religionists who used her for their ends were masters of perceptual manipulation. They perpetrated hoaxes of outrageous transparency, yet still managed to convince the press and public that their falsifications were true."
Twenty pages in The Billboard Guide to Music Publicity are devoted to Bloom and the antidote he invented, "perceptual engineering," which he defines as "a way of finding a valid truth which the herd refuses to see, then turning the herd around and making that truth self-evident. It's what we do in much of science--seeing the ordinary from a new perspective, then revealing what makes it tick and in the process altering society's views."
In 1981, Bloom organized the material he'd unearthed and began the formal research for a new theoretical structure that would first reveal itself in The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History. However he continued pursuing scientific truths in unconventional ways. In 1995 Bloom headed an insurgent academic circle called "The Group Selection Squad" whose efforts precipitated radical re-evaluations of neo-Darwinist dogma within the scientific community. In 1997, he founded a new discipline, paleopsychology, whose participants included physicists, psychologists, microbiologists, paleontologists, entomologists, neuroscientists, paleoneurologists, invertebrate zoologists, and systems theorists. Paleopsychology's mandate is to "map out the evolution of complexity, sociality, perception, and mentation from the first 10(-32) second of the Big Bang to the present."
Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson has written that with his unusual insights Bloom has "raced ahead of the timid scientific herd" often "vaulting over their heads" with a "grand vision" that "we do strive as individuals, but we are also part of something larger than ourselves, with a complex physiology and mental life that we carry out but only dimly understand." In The Lucifer Principle and his new book Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, Howard Bloom brings those understandings from dimness into the light.
This interdisciplinary book is a chilling look at how and why evil inhabits our souls. While mankind has traditionally looked to religion for these answers, Bloom uses the lenses of anthropology, history, philosophy and genetics to analyze our contentious nature.
What is most chilling about this book is the absolutely clear anticipation of September 11th. Bloom didn't predict the time nor the means, but he certainly predicted this war, right down to our adversary.
I am struck by the reviews written about this book. Most are highly favorable toward the book. While there are not many negative reviews of this book, those that are negative are VERY negative. (It would seem the more academic the background, the more negative the review.) I believe that this is because this book is not at all politically correct. It confronts complex issues in a straightforward way, a well documented way, and describes evil as being evil. There are no punches pulled in this book.
This is not a right wing, fundamentalist writing this book. Bloom is a sophisticated, modern, urban liberal. Perhaps that makes the book more chilling.
Reviewer: eire-power from Terre Haute, IN United States
In light of our recent terrorist attacks this may be the only book that will answer the question WHY?. This is a must read for every American with intellectual inquisitive pursuits!
Reviewer: richard bergquist from San Simon, AZ United States
Bloom's book is sort of a Hobbes redux for our times. His book may not be very rigorous scientifically and may be very selective in it's scholarship (in a negative way) but this book is a worthwile read. It belongs on the shelves of secular humanists (as well as traditional Christians for it's strongly negative parts regarding Islam) everywhere. He presents many interesting ideas that could possibly become scientific in the hands of scientists and that is the greatest value of this book. On a more cynical note, George Bush and his people (Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, etc.) could use this book and the ideas contained within it for propaganda purposes. It would give their plans for Iraq an ersatz scholarly rationale that it otherwise entirely lacks. Those men may ignore the parts about how the U.K. fell over the years despite massive increases to it's military power because that would refute Dick Cheney's plan for U.S. global domination forevermore (see Harper's Magazine for November 2002 for more on this crazy scheme). Anyway, they could probably fool many into thinking that the war would be supported by sound thinking and wise deliberation.
Reviewer: A reader from San Diego, California United States
This is a very provocative speculation about the nature of human beings and human groups. It is built on biological science, but interpreted in a highly idiosyncratic way. A definite page-turner, with a lot of scientific and some scholarly references, but how accurate is it?
This is a selective but often chillingly familiar guided tour through human history. Bloom cleverly and casually crosses fields of study, sometimes metaphorically and sometimes making literal comparisons, and often being unclear as to which he intends. The result is an intriguing mixture of science, historical interpretation, and science fiction. The flavor is distinctly Darwinian, but with a twist.
"The Lucifer Principle" itself is a simple acknowledgement that in the natural world we take the bad with the good, often as the flip side of the good. The same forces that promote cooperation also promote barbarity.
Bloom starts out with a vivid presentation of the Darwinian vision emphasizing the competition of vehicles for the benefit of their replicators, the "selfish gene" theme at its most lurid. "Survival of the fittest" has its way. At that point, Bloom introduces the twist. He proposes something that sociologists latched on to, but which most evolutionary theorists of recent years have avoided like the plague. He raises the spectre of the "superorganism."
The superorganism was once a popular theme of old structuralist anthropologists like Claude Levi-Strauss, who saw society as a complex machine driven with the help of a common cognitive structure of individuals in terms of certain themes. Bloom's superorganism is a much more ambiguous blob, held together by "memes" which hook into our primitive drives.
The structuralists mostly saw the superorganism from the top-down, attempting to find patterns in culture that revealed its nature. Bloom instead derives the superorganism from the bottom-up by showing how people who share culture tend to form alliances. The alliances take on the direction given by the "memes" which exploit biological drives.
The idea that groups of organisms can share a fate so closely that they live or die as a unit is something that evolutionary theorists backed off from because it seemed that the genetic self-interest of organisms would nearly always tend to overpower any tendency for traits to arise "for the good of the group." We might end up with traits that help us exploit living in groups, which Matt Ridley calls "groupishness" in contrast to "selfishness," but it is still genetic self-interest.
Bloom departs from this mainstream view by making the argument that mechanisms for suicide have evolved for both cells (apoptosis, programmed cell death) and individual self-destruction. These same things are explained in very different terms in mainstream evolutionary biology, as either artifacts of adaptations, or adaptations for one set of conditions that become maladaptive in other circumstances.
Evolutionary theorists tend to avoid seeing self-destruction as adaptive. The common theme, Bloom points out, is loss of connectivity with the group. When neurons can't hook up during the wiring of a nervous system, they commit hara-kiri. When humans can't hook up with each other, Bloom theorizes, they also tend to go off and remove themselves from the gene pool. An intriguing possibility that make a new interpretation of "learned helplessness" and "stress" research. This is perhaps Bloom's most interesting and potentially fruitful idea. Bloom builds much better technically on the group selection aspects of his thinking in "The Global Brain."
In "The Lucifer Principle," he just introduces the idea of the superorganism and applies it to various selected historical events.
It is in explaining how individuals can be wired to self-destruct, that the concept of group selection is raised, entirely without fanfare. The diseases we attribute to "stress" Bloom says are nothing of the kind, but diseases of disconnection from the superorganism.
The adaptive benefit would have to be to the superorganism rather than to the genes of the individual in order for Bloom's argument to work. He doesn't mention how controversial this idea is in the book, probably avoided for rhetorical purposes.
Bloom is an entertaining writer who uses the most dramatic examples he can find to make his points well. If there is a general weakness in his writing, it is that he often avoids confronting how exceptional some of his ideas are.
The Lucifer Principle uses alternating chapters cleverly to introduce fundamental biological themes like dominance hierarchies and recent extensions like memes, and at the same time bring in Bloom's "superorganism" and apply those themes in a novel way to groups rather than individuals. So we frequently end up with huge groups of human beings compared dramatically in their behavior to individual animals. We have superorganisms vying for their place in the pecking order, having a collective shift in perception, becoming bullies when they are frustrated. All illustrated with selective and sometimes idiosyncratic historical accounts.
All in all, it works very well as narrative, and introduces some novel ideas that could have profound implications. If Bloom is right about "superorganisms" leveraging human primitive drives through bits of culture, the result doesn't look good for our species. There is certainly a lot of food for thought here, especially if Blooms sometimes radical caricatures are taken for their larger lessons rather than as gospel.
Bloom is particularly hard on Islam, not as people but as a culture, both for the success of its spread and the historical brutality of its adherents. He makes the distinction between extremists and the rest of us, to avoid stereotyping Muslims as violent fanatics, but also points out that it is the extremists than often end up driving the bus. Bloom also uses the "meme" concept very casually, and sometimes in conflicting ways, in order to simplify his explanation of culture and build on his main theme of superorganisms climbing the pecking order.
An anxiety-provoking and well-narrated book that I hope gets a lot of things wrong, but I fear might be all too accurate. He certainly pulls together and makes sense of an amazing diversity of ideas.
Reviewer: Todd I. Stark from Philadelphia, Pa USA
While there is no doubt this man possesses a fine brain, it is a shame that he would devote the thrust of his book to bash Islam and Muslims. Of about 250 pages, over 35 contain misinformed ex-pressions of his loathing for Islam and Muslims. The excerpts from the Quran that he chose to illustrate his ideas are partial and thus grossly distorted. His charcterizations of Islam and Muslims are about as accurate as a bigot saying "Catholics eat human flesh and drink human blood" or "Jews sacrifice Christian children". Except his target is Islam. His arguments appear to be delibrately distorted but they would sound convincing to those who do not know any better about Islam or Muslims. There is so much bigotry and so many misleading statements about Islam and Muslims that it hard to consider the rest of the material with any respect or objectivity. This book sits proudly with the "..The Elders of Zion" type of "literature".
Reviewer: Jeff Siddiqui
This book will no doubt warm the hearts of budding or already experienced and confirmed misanthropes everywhere. Bloom examines and skillfully synthesizes findings from diverse disciplines such as genetics, history, psychology, ethology, and anthropology to show why humans are the way they are, and why the most unfortunate aspects of human behavior are so intractable and hard to overcome. Even more significant, he shows how these ideas apply not only to individual actions but also even to the fate of nations, including some very sobering implications for the future of the U.S. itself.
I would sum up Bloom's detailed analysis by saying it basically comes down to the fact that, despite our large brains and great intelligence, humans would rather live down to their lowest instincts rather than the other way around. As a result, we have a history replete with atrocities and violence on an almost unfathomable scale. And as recent events around the world seem to show, it just gets worse every year.
Well, I hope humans survive, even if, as Bloom shows, we're basically just a bunch of power-crazy, warlike, sex-crazed, and over-evolved ground monkeys with brains too big for our libidos (not to mention the approximately 40,000 nuclear weapons still out there).
Humans seem to be a tragic and unfortunate species, as Bloom and others have amply demonstrated. Appropos of Bloom's discussion, I'm reminded of the great Lawerence Stern and Jonathan Swift novels. As these two notable authors showed in their novels, we may have one saving grace--perhaps we make up for our sins in sheer entertainment value--since Gulliver's Travels and Tristram Shandy were very funny books on the myriad and dark foibles of us humans.
Again, I would sum up Swift and Stern by saying that man is the only species that is a satire or caricature of itself, since we are basically the protagonists--or perhaps the court jesters--in the tragicomedy of our own lives.
But getting back to the present book, I enjoyed Bloom's wide-ranging scholarship and discussion, and all in all, this is an interesting and thought-provoking book despite its overall downer message for us humans.
Reviewer: A reader from Santa Clara, CA
While there are some compelling and novel concepts in this book, Bloom's writing is too verbose and repetitive to really validate any of them. He begins with a concept-usually something vague like "we're all part of a bigger organism" or "ideas are running the universe" and proceeds to give a deluge of historical examples which he then analyzes in a way that conveniently backs his point. While it's great to see such a well-researched book, none of Bloom's examples really go any length to actually dilineating the mechanism by which any of his sociological/anthropolical principles pan out. In addition, for such a supposedly scientific book, Bloom makes an unhealthy amount of assumptions to further his points. Ie:"Humans grab at ideas because...they provide the comfort of companionship and mutual aid." Do they?
Reviewer: Roshan Abraham from Syosset, NY USA
Essentially Bloom reminds us that ours is a dog eat dog and very dangerous world. The behavior of caged rats, barnyard hens, apes, chimps, baboons, human tribes and nations are all similar for a reason: the Lucifer Principle (LP) is bred in our bones by a Nature that only wants the hardiest organisms, super-organisms, and memes to survive. Bloom blames the Christian Church for inventing the character of an evil Lucifer (as opposed to a value neutral functionary in Satan), tells us that biologically we are programmed to be murderously competitive and despicably hypocritical, tells us that the Principle may destroy humanity, and sugggests how we can avoid this fate: get ourselves on the first space-ark heading out to a newly terra-formed planet. (Of course, that sort of begs the question per the LP as to whether Earth and New Earth aren't going to behave towards one another in the same way as New and Old Chimp troops did: murder, conquest, and rape.) I have a hard time calling his work "science," but Bloom does make a number of points, analogies, and arguments that, even though often overly simplistic, are worth careful consideration. Let's call it, "dilletante science." Many of his points are valid and most all are provocative. If nothing else, he encourages his reader to reconsider what he thinks is evil and to take evil (i.e. the LP) very seriously and without the customary tripe and naive delusions which surfeit our culture and political discussions. The book could also be titled: The Jaundiced View of an Agnostic Former Entertainment Executive, Pandora with Very Little Hope, Cain's Old and New World Order, or Real-Politik Today as in the Days of Noah. According to Bloom, Jesus gave his disciples permission to hate the rich (that was really news to me) and the Church has throughout history been full of every sin known to man (no kidding, both wheat and tares in the Body of Christ!) In other words, Christ isn't the answer; He's irrelavant and the Church is just part of the problem. The most urgent problem for Bloom however is not fundamentalist Christians, spoiled slackers, anti-progress Luddites, or Chinese communists. It is the Prophet Mohammed and his meme, Islam. For the sake of Allah, too many Moslems with too much oil money, leisure, testosterone, and WMD's want to be top dog now and view their non-Moslem neighbors as fit for the slaughter and suitable for either converting or killing. (Thanks to the LP, the higher we are in the pecking order of nations, the more worthy of slaughter we are.) For this argument alone, I suspect that this book is a genuine sign of our times, and thus, for this reason alone, worth reading. If it does not actually shape current thinking in the US, it at least anticipates and/or reflects a significant and growing body of it. If you don't see yourself in the Lucifer Principle, it's a sure bet you'll see your enemy, and that, as far as Bloom is concerned, proves one of his most important points.
Quote:Howard Bloom's Lucifer Principle is a highly entertaining book that combines biology, anthropology, history, and psychology to support the thesis that evil helps us evolve as groups, although I never found out exactly how this was so. Bloom in the beginning of the book seems to want to figure out the problem of evil and he does that fairly well, but he does not exactly solve the problem, which is probably impossibly ambitious anyway. Being just a layman that doesn't know much about science, I cannot judge what weaknesses there may be to his theories.
Bloom explores more deeply what a lot of us have observed about life and the world in a superficial way. One idea being that one group's freedom is another's slavery or that one group's God is another's devil. In such a situation good and evil become blurred and sometimes what opposing groups fight over is two competing goods.
Another observation is that we are not as good as we think we are as a group and our enemies are not as evil as we purport them to be. A lot of the observations and antidotes in the book will leave the reader in a cynical frame of mind. Some of political observations remind me of cynical philosophers like Machiavelli. Bloom digs up the dirt on the political chicanery of the leaders of the left and right who pretend to be for righteous causes but actually use such "memes" to arrogate more personal power to themselves, like any good demogogue.
Another wonderfully cynical observation of Bloom's that would have made Nietzsche proud was that high sounding words such as peace, justice, and freedom are often terms use to hide a group's rapacious desire to move up in the pecking order of individuals, groups, or nations. A group's cry for justice is a cry for more power and a war cry to knock other groups above them down to the bottom of the heap. A needy and lowly group does not want more charity given to them from some superior group; that generosity is demeaning to their pride that wants to be number one in the pecking order. Bloom warns that America is no longer clearly number one and may end up like England if they keep being complacent about education, technology, and developing new products. Bloom, like Thomas Sowell, explains a nation's superiority on cultural terms rather than racial ones. He believes a culture remains superior if it is open to new ideas and does not try to live in the past--however great the past might have been. Hence, he gives his support for progressive thinking and is critical of conservative or reactionary thought.
Bloom also backs up his theory that we evolve as part of a group as opposed to evolving as individuals by showing that organisms which are isolated from the group end up suicidal or tend to die quicker since they are of no value to the superorganism anymore that is motivated and united by an idea or meme that fights against another group's meme.
Reviewer: southpaw68 from Florida
If there ever was a book that explained the forces which govern society's behavior in understandable terms, this was it - and written in a way that makes the book hard to leave for a minute. There is no arguing with Bloom's premises, they're clear and proveable on the face although some might prefer a more religious explanation for man's behavior. I'd venture to say the title may put some people off, be that as it may, the content is pure sense.
Reviewer: Ray Foreman from Loveland, CO United States
Read this book. Even if you disagree with the hypothesis of the book, you cannot challenge the intellect behind it. Well writen and well thought out. Easily one of the best books I have ever read.
Reviewer: Mark Billows from Atlanta, Georgia United States
Fascinating. Riveting. Spellbinding. And documented to a fare-thee-well. This is one of the best written, most well organized, and accurate examinations of human animal behavior and the reason(s) for that. It offers a very simple "solution" (i.e., parental demonstration of affection) and by illuminating our current situation (individually and as a nation) so starkly and brilliantly, it certainly shows very clearly what does NOT work. If politically active people read this book, that should end a lot of less-than-efficacious expenditures of taxpayers money. Remember, this book was first written and published a full 6 YEARS before the WTC and Pentagon attacks on 9-11-01. If that isn't enough to convince you of the accuracy of his predictions and conclusions, nothing else ever will . . . .
Reviewer: jay belford from junction city, ks United States
This book is wonderfully written, meticulously researched and is not to be read by the closed-minded. This book smashes idealism and multiple religions by providing a framework which can be used to understand human nature. He shows why we all act the way we do. Humans are not always humane and this book demonstrates genetically, psychologically, anthropologically, sociologically and historically why "evil" is a part of all of us.
Reviewer: pctacitus from VA, US
Mr. Bloom casts a wide net and paints in broad strokes in the Lucifer Principle. In several places his hyperbole undermines the credibility of the whole book. His notions of the superorganism and large scale group dynamics are interesting, thought provoking and very relevant. The book is worth reading not only for the ideas it presents but as an opportunity for the reader to exercise active reading and critical thinking skills.
Reviewer: Darin L. Stewart from Hillsboro, OR United States
This book is great food for thought in today's hunt for solutions regarding the war of ideas between western Judeo-Christian ethics and those of the Mideast. Bloom's thinking allows us to contextualize the current outbreak of violence while offering a clear view of alternatives.
It is lucid, realistic and ultimately hopeful.
Reviewer: Robert D. Allard from North Andover, MA USA
What a surprise to get views on different angles of human behavior. Relating the pecking order to societies and to countries is a new approach to world domination. I liked the de*****ion of the results of hugging and the subsequent withdrawal of loving care. That is a real insite into men gone awry. I expected a religious angle but was pleased to read the athiest view. Less religion, less strife. Do read it. It will make you think!
Reviewer: Naomi Sherer from Richland, WA United States
Howard Bloom's The Lucifer Principle is called "A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History" because it is just that. While the opinion-to-fact ratio gets rather high sometimes, it is still a truely awe-inspiring work of literature on human nature. It not only teaches us about human nature, but teaches us that human nature is not so much human as it is universal. "Evil" is not a creation of society or modern technology, but rather something rooted deep down inside all creatures of life. 'Tis a great book. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Reviewer: Fokion Burgess from Princeton, NJ United States
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Re: Who is Howard Bloom?
Quote:"The Group Selection Squad" whose efforts precipitated radical re-evaluations of neo-Darwinist dogma
See, this is the shit that destroys Bloom's credibility for me. Dogma? Dogma is not an appropriate term to use nor brush to paint the serious scientists helping us understand our world.
Quote:I am struck by the reviews written about this book. Most are highly favorable toward the book. While there are not many negative reviews of this book, those that are negative are VERY negative. (It would seem the more academic the background, the more negative the review.) I believe that this is because this book is not at all politically correct.
Or maybe people with a more academic background recognize the difference between science and bullshit.
Quote: See, this is the shit that destroys Bloom's credibility for me. Dogma? Dogma is not an appropriate term to use nor brush to paint the serious scientists helping us understand our world.
If you think that no serious scientist is dogmatic then you really do have something to learn from Bloom.
What Howard;s books tell us (inter alia) is that when people act in groups their behaviour and their professed opinions are almost never rational. This applies to academic institutions and the serious scientists who populate them.
Quote:Or maybe people with a more academic background recognize the difference between science and bullshit.
You got that one right.
Anyhow, I think I've figured out why I've had such a negative response to The Lucifier Principle beyond the questions of its validity (which I think is in serious doubt). Namely, I felt manipulated by the book. Being manipulated is a wonderful when reading fiction, but it is not something I expect in scientific non-fiction where the arguments should stand on their own.
All of the persuaviveness of Bloom's arguments, IMO, rest with the delivery (not the content) - the clever turns of phrase and the constant use of triggers, emotional and conceptual... I'm reminded of Hawkings comment on how his publisher advised every use of the word 'god' would double sales of his book. Well, Bloom is certainly an acknowledged master at manipulating mass appeal and doubling sales.
I'm also reminded of the story (urban legend?) of L. Ron Hubbard's wager that he could create a religion. Is the Lucifer Principle Bloom's attempt at moving from pop music to academia to create new rising star in mass culture? I don't know. I shouldn't be led to such doubts in the first place, though, if this is supposed to be serious science; and the book does seem to have more in common with marketing than science. What is he selling? Science as religion. Ugh!! As if theists haven't already taken that fallacy to ungodly extremes (pun intended), now there's an unabashed promoter within.
Ok, end rant... well, one more: still can't find anything except fan club style reviews of Bloom. Where's the rigour? hmm
Quote:The book is worth reading not only for the ideas it presents but as an opportunity for the reader to exercise active reading and critical thinking skills.
This reader's comment sums up why I suggested the book. I wasn't looking for something that would just cause us all to vigorously nod our heads like a pack of deranged bobble-head figures. I must say that I didn't expect the degree of reaction that the book elicited. Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but some people seem downright hostile about this.
The comments regarding Hubbard are interesting. I found myself wondering the same thing at times. I hadn't put my finger on the notion that the book might have been manipulating me, but the idea that it might be possible to construct something that is for all intents and purposes a religion out of the book's central theme did occur to me. I'd be grossly disappointed if Bloom turned out to be a sort of neo-Hubbard. I think I'd be a bit surprised also.
Of course, that doesn't neccessarily mean that no one else could use it for just such a purpose. Unfortunately, I don't think that most people are "too smart" to fall for that. Especially after reading about Hubbard's life.
There have been quite a few arguments ad hominen posted.
I don't think these lead to interesting discussions, good ideas don't necessarily come from good people (or bad from bad). Its not always irrelevant to consider the motivations of an author, but in this case I think its worth taking the ideas on their merits.
I don't have any inclination to think Howard either a saint, or a devil, but he has done a lot more reading on this topic than I, he has sewn this into some interesting ideas and made readable books about them. I've found his books enlightenening even though I don't go along with his main ideas (but do go along with some persistent subthemes, like group selection).
I look forward to more discussion of the ideas, rather than of Bloom's motives or his scientific credentials.
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Re: Who is Dogmatic?
Quote:If you think that no serious scientist is dogmatic then you really do have something to learn from Bloom.
I don't deny that I have a LOT to learn from Bloom. However, the slur I objected to was not direct to one scientist, or academic institution, but against the entire active, vibrant, growing discipline of evolutinary biology. In fact, I think you will find "THEY ARE ALL WRONG!!!" in Sagan's Baloney Detector Kit.
Quote:There have been quite a few arguments ad hominen posted.
Admitedly, I guess, but I didn't really feel I was attacking Bloom so much as trying to explain my negative reaction - why I called my post a rant, and which I won't defend as anything except a gut response. If you want, however, we can look just at the text, which I feel is more than enough to warrant my suspician that it is rhetorical skill and literary device, much more than scientific validity, which carries his arguments.
Quote:I look forward to more discussion of the ideas
I do too, which is why I keep asking what those ideas are; but mostly what I hear are the sort of "he's onto to something" comments (what?) which seem to me to simply be a positive emotional response. Ok, that's great - and I do not mean that facetiously, I think it is good (but I might complain if those and other 'it was entertaining' responses are acceptable while my negative emotional response is deemed unacceptable).
Anyhow, if you disagree with his main ideas, what have you been enlightened to? What do you understand better now than before you read the book?
Succinctly... He's onto the idea that societys can form cohesive interactive superorganisms based on the replicator he describes as the meme. These superorganisms, because they are an integral part of the human envrionment, directly influnence human genetic evolution. These superorganisms, because they are contained in a larger societal and physical envrionmet and contain mutable information-conveying replicators, are themselves subject to a Darwinian-like evolution.
Thats what I got out of the Lucifer Principle, at first glance.
"The computer is the most extraordinary part of Man's technological clothing: it is an extension of our central nervous system. Beside it the wheel is a mere hula-hoop." -- Marshall McLuhan
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Re: Who is Howard Bloom?
I'll throw my two sense in as I quite enjoy Howards insights and it does take a little bit of contemplation to understand where he is coming from. Yes Howard calls this a Scientific Expedition, and he uses science as well, but he is mostly a philosopher on deep down inside and most of his writing are seminal in nature.
I'll mention where I see Howard coming from in his book the Lucifer Principle. Howard's idea has many implications which is where his far flung supporting evidence comes from. Firstly, Howard refutes the idea of the Selfish Gene, as based on history and life in its current evolution we do see evolution as violently selfish, but if we look at it from a wider scale, we can see patterns of this selfishness as more prevalent on a broader scale of cultures and societies. Our interactions on a micro scale are quite unimportant and not generally described as violent, but more cooperative. So ultimately, we actually cooperate more then we feud. This is where the paradox comes in, because as memetics comes in and moves mass amounts of people to cooperate, evolution also roots out the weakest link in the pecking order, rewards those who transcend their nature with + endorphin boosts and social adornment. Most of the feuding does not necessarily come from individuals conflict, but from conflict on mass scales. An example is how what you and I do in the privacy of our own homes are irrelevant, but what we do in mass groups of people is relevant as there lies the ability to cause great harm or good on a scale that is much more noticeable. This is just like how he describes a puddle of water being relatively boring in comparison to a ocean of water that can wash a house away from the shores (entelechies). Howard also states somewhere outside of his writing I believe about how Genes actually work together to sustain life within an organism, so it is not entirely true that Genes are always selfish. Yes they compete, but like all quarks, leptons, atoms, particles, cells, organisms, social organisms, they all exist solely through cooperation. If we are not social, we seize to exist or whither away from irrelevance.
Howard mentions something very interesting about our biological determinism to be violent and stomp out competition. Yes, each of us individually can strive to be the best versions of our selves orally, but of course we cannot achieve this entirely, especially on the mass scale of social organisms. Just like how our body goes through cell apoptosis, we as human drop out of the organism like flies and this violent nature eludes us almost entirely. This idea was inspired also by the academic bullying that Howard and other colleges have experienced with the idea of sociobiology, social organisms, and other subjects Howard indulges in. Social organisms have built a selective culture in universities that shun new forward thinking that step out of the bounds of the groups current status quo (or in Howards aphorism that he lives by, look at things underneath your nose as if you never seen it before and then proceed from their. university profs and scientists will deny sociobiology, but at the same time follow the same evolutionary process that Howard is talking about). Howard describes how brilliant scientists who were ran out of academia because they discuss the wrong topics that the tenured track employers want people to subscribe to. In other words, in the market place of free ideas and discussion, discussion is held by a monopoly by a few. We have to remember how people like Freud stepped out of his bounds with crazy assertions and hypothesis, but in the end many of his ideas created a new field of credibility.
There some funny ideas that Howard brings up that demonstrate how the social organism works. The irrational war of Allopathy an Homoeopathy. Allopathy tried to defame and run Homoeopathy out of practice, and when it succeeded, it engulfed the ideas of homeopathy and incorporated as its own. Despite little remnants and influences homoeopathic medicine has in modern medicine application, homoeopathy is given zero credibility in influencing the symbiotic unity that homoeopathy and allopathy have. It raises the question, if homoeopathy won, would we be in the same place today in regards to modern medicine? It is highly likely that Homoeopathic medicine would have incorporated Allopathy into its practice if that school of thought won.
If one is not entirely fond of Howards ideas, they may enjoy his interpreting of history which is also great fun. I will also state that I have yet to find a entirely specific or accurate refute of Howard's ideas in the Lucifer Principle. I know many people are not fond of his biological deterministic approach to our violent nature which seem inevitable. still, I have seen a convincing argument against this either.
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