The Lucifer Principle
|The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History|
|Publisher||Atlantic Monthly Press|
|Publication date||January 1995|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
The Lucifer Principle is a book by Howard Bloom. It sees a social group, not an individual, as a primary "unit of selection." “Individual selectionists” like Richard Dawkins see the individual as the only unit of selection. They rule the competition between groups out of any influence on genes. The Lucifer Principle says that both competition between groups and competition between individuals shape the evolution of the genome. The Lucifer Principle shows these facts at work especially in human evolution. The Lucifer Principle "explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture" and argues that "evil is a by-product of nature's strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric". It sees selection (i.e. through violent competition) as central to the creation of the 'superorganism' of society. It also focuses on competition between individuals for position in the 'pecking order' and competition between groups for standing in pecking orders of groups. The Lucifer Principle shows how ideas are vital in these pecking order battles. Vital in creating cohesion and cooperation. Vital in powering competition. And vital in fueling the process of cultural evolution. Says The Lucifer Principle: “Superorganism, ideas and the pecking order…these are the primary forces behind much of human creativity and earthly good.”
However, The Lucifer Principle argues that cooperation and our commitment to a higher purpose, our commitment to the group, can blind us to the negative consequences of our actions. “From our best qualities come our worst,” says the book. “From our urge to pull together comes our tendency to tear each other apart. From our devotion to a higher good comes our propensity to the foulest atrocities. From our commitment to ideals come our excuses to hate. Since the beginning of history, we have been blinded by evil's ability to don a selfless disguise. We have failed to see that our finest qualities are often the generators of the actions we most abhor…murder, torture, genocide and war.”
Though The Lucifer Principle is a book of science, it is designed to wake us up to the dark side of our cooperative acts, the dark side of our idealism. Says the book’s conclusion: “Superorganisms, ideas, and the pecking order…the triad of human evil--are not recent inventions, ‘programmed’ into us by Western Society, consumerism, capitalism, television violence, blood and guts films or rock and roll. They are built into our physiology. They have been with us since the dawn of our race. But there is hope that we may someday free ourselves of 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.”
The book proposes as the mechanism for human cultural development the selection of specific psychological traits in a given population to support the culture it develops, as well as some universal traits supportive of the humans' nature as a social animal, necessary for the formation and maintenance of social groups instinctively formed by humans, and of cultures developed by these societies, through propagation and replication of memes. It also sees ever enlarging human societies with their specific cultures compete throughout history in violent competition and war. It claims the selection processes manifesting themselves as Evil from an individual's point of view.
Reviews of the book saw it as 'ambitious' and 'disturbing' in its conclusions that societies based on individual freedom might succumb to systems such as communism or Islamic fundamentalism. The Washington Post said that "Readers will be mesmerized by the mirror Bloom holds to the human condition... He draws on a dozen years of research into a jungle of scholarly fields...and meticulously supports every bit of information...." while Chet Raymo in the Boston Globe termed it "a string of rhetorical firecrackers that challenge our many forms of self-righteousness."
Bloom later wrote that he and his publisher had been threatened by Islamic groups who objected to aspects of the book. He claimed that "Arab pressure groups asked ever so politely that The Lucifer Principle be withdrawn from print and that nothing that I write be published again. They offered to boycott my publisher's products — all of them — worldwide. And they backed their warning with a call for my punishment in seventeen Islamic countries." Bloom states that the Attorney for the Authors Guild wrote to his publishers, warning of an author boycott if the book was pulled from the shelves. The publishers asked Bloom to rewrite a chapter on Islamic violence, which led to the creation of 358 lines of footnotes attesting to the facts he presented within it. Today, there is a strange acknowledgement that what Bloom wrote about Islam in The Lucifer Principle is based on expertise. Bloom is a frequent guest on Iran’s Press-TV, Iran’s Alalam-TV, Saudi Arabia’s KSA-2-TV, and even on Syria’s Ekhbariya-TV.
- Bloom, Howard. The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History. Google Books. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
- Bloom, Howard. "Superorganism" (Web article on book excerpt). Retrieved 2007-12-30.
- "Booktalk.Org" (Book review-from Publishers Weekly). Archived from the original on 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
- Schultz, James. "Evil is it born or bred?" (Book review). The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on Feb 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
- Bloom, Howard. "Islam's War Against the West" (Book excerpt). Retrieved 2008-01-01.
- Bloom, Howard. "Islamic Censorship — How Allah Has Nipped Your Right to Know" (Web article originated April 2003 edition of Abuse Your Illusions). The Birdman.org. Retrieved 2008-01-01.