Howard Bloom:
"The Lucifer Principle" (Norton, 1995)

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Howard Bloom, who is basically a free thinker, believes that evolution can explain the history of humankind. In Bloom's Darwinian world, it is societies, and not only individuals, that compete for survival. Societies are capable of amazing feats, that seem due to "invisible forces", but are simply due to a "neural network" of individuals. Societies are superorganisms that develop their own mental lives. Memes are sort of the "thoughts" of these superorganisms. After all, isn't the human body just a society of cells that could live independently but have decided to live together? In all aspects of civilization he sees the working of a superorganism, a network of individuals, a network that takes on a life of its own, driven by Darwinian competition.

Just like organisms, societies too compete against each other. Evil is the inevitable consequence of that kind of global competition among societes. He notices that every society regards outsiders as not really human and justifies hatred as righteousness. In fact these are the fundamental psychological factors that political leaders use to maintain power over society. Bloom unveils the cynical face of power, that often pretends to fight for a better world when it is in fact only reiterating the old power game. Why does history repeat itself? Because the same evolutionary principles are at work, over and over again, in each and every society.

In a nutshell, that's Bloom's theory of evil. Bloom takes hundreds of pages to present it because the book is a formidable series of intellectual detours. The book is structured as a loose flow of short chapters in the vein of the ancient essay, each examining a topic of history, biology, psychology, physics, medicine or religion. Occasionally a chapter does not quite fit in the flow, but feels like mere armchair meditation.

Among the intriguing detours one must mention at least "Who are the next Barbarians?", "Why prosperity will not bring peace", and "The importance of hugging" (that sheds light on Arab brutality and perhaps suicide bombers).

Forgive him the inevitable happy ending: after all he is a US citizen, raised on Hollywood movies.

See also: Bloom, Howard: The Global Brain" (Wiley, 2000)

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