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Edward O Wilson

Book Review with Commentary

Readable, accessible, dramatic, and profound, Wilson is at once a first-rank scientist and storyteller. He wrote a book we could not put down until we finished it. And then we felt like reading it again. We grew up believing that nothing could be more complex than Einstein's theory of gravity. We were wrong. The human brain is far more complex and difficult to predict than a mere apple falling from a tree! As Wilson patiently explains, human behaviors arise from the brain and are in fact multiples more complex than physical laws known to date. Furthermore, Wilson convincingly argues, human behavior (psychology and sociology) is a consilient branch of science, at least so far. He is not an absolutist. The only real axe he grinds is consilience itself, and his axe is finely honed. For example, he explains nicely how evolution itself gives rise to our humanistic as well as existential belief systems. Each is an epigenetic expression of our genes.
Edward O Wilson

Book Review with commentary

What an engaging and timely book. This is said in 2010 of a book first published on 1978. Not only did it predate most of the research done on this site, but he did so with Consilience. His work supports and verifies with copious and insightful anecdotes what we have done independently. His most wonderful and basic showing is the connectedness of human social systems with our genetic heritage. Well referenced, Wilson's book is immensely readable and interesting while being a scholarly and authoritative treatise of great importance.

Edward O Wilson

Book Review and updating comments

By Harry Rosenberg

Wilson is not just a scientist updating us on his specialty, he is a rare storyteller who makes his subjects come alive in the reader's mind. Where we have been, where we are and where we can and should go are treated not only with wisdom and grace, but so naturally that one can almost feel like one the animals he focuses on.

He does grind an axe: Save our biosphere and all life residing in it.
Updated 17 April 2010

We are each born with a nature shaped by eons in the jungles, savannas, mountains, and deserts fighting for survival. On the one hand aggressively taking charge of a willing group of followers could often win the day, enabling the winners to pass their genes onto the next generations.

At the same time, altruistic parents who cooperated also survived in the face of adversity and their genes too were passed on for generations to mold and enhance. What that left with each of us is an intrinsic emotional construct that exhibits two clusters of traits within each individual. These clusters are often in direct opposition to one another. In the vernacular, most of us have both our good and bad sides.

How can society best deal with this congenital conflict?

His complete remark:

At a New Hampshire Town Hall Meeting, fourth paragraph, in January, McCain answered a question about staying in Iraq for 50 years by declaring:

"Make it a hundred. We’ve been in South Korea, we’ve been in Japan for 60 years, we’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That’d be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured, or harmed, or wounded, or killed. That’s fine with me, I hope it would be fine with you."
Updated 21 Mar 2010

ACTION ALERTS: From 28 Aug 2008

Activate Animation - Maximize for SCREEN SAVER
(May not work on Apple computers)
On 19th Century America "Democracy in America"
By Alexis de Tocqueville (1835)
Bantam Classic

Insight is a rare commodity in today's America. Maybe it was always so for in earlier times the likes of Woodrow Wilson and Stuart Mill lauded Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" as classic in its insight.
Updated 5 mar 2010

Since much of our information on this site came via books by many authors we thought it appropriate to list the books here by title.

1776 - David McCollough

Abraham - Bruce Feiler

A Nation of Sheep - William J Lederer
Killer Instincts.
What Can Evolution Say About Why Humans Kill--And Why Do We Do So Less Than We Used To.

Dan Jones; NATURE; 31 Jan 2008; Vol 451; Issue 7178; Pg 512.

Article Review - Harry Rosenberg

Editors of the world's foremost science periodical are not usually given to hyperbole. This article is no exception for it makes a solid case for a genetic origin of our murderous instinct. That murder was common in human prehistory there can be no doubt. So also in certain primitive societies in recent history. Aggression is equally common, and can lead to murder.

Updated 15 Nov 2018

This site is a work in progress. Because the mosaic of information from so many different disciplines fits together so neatly, one can only conclude that the mosaic is basically correct in form--consilience in other words. For example, Natural History (physics, chemistry, biology), evolution, anthropology, human history, sociology, psychology, political science, and our common sense, all converge upon a theme that indicts our aggressive instincts and obedience to Authority, legitimate or not--as when wielded by the psychopath--as a root cause of violence. Our altruism, parenting, and herding instincts provide possible solutions, but they get covered up by societies inured to violence, if not overtly taught that violence as the only solution to violence. Ironic? To say the least. Non sequitur? That too.

Questions now on the table:
"Where will that narcissist in the White House take us?
How can we as a people realign ourselves for an uncertain future?"

The hall of fame for peace research might include:

Richard Dawkins
Theodor Adorno
Stanley Milgram
Jerry M Burger
Gene Sharp
Phillip Zimbardo
Bob Altemeyer
John Dean
Jessica Stern
Martha Stout
Robert Hare
Justin Frank
Andrew Bacevich
Malcom Gladwell
Edward O Wilson
Lee Alan Dugatkin

Undoubtedly there are others who have contributed in like manner and amount. See: Links to scores of issues that could benefit from further study and / or verification.

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Martha Stout’s Frank Assessment
Updated 6 Sept 12; 09 Sept 2013
21 Oct 2014

"Short of a sociopathic leader who diverts the course of an entire nation, leading it into genocide or unnecessary war, the psychopathic killer is surely the most terrifying example of a psyche without a conscience..."

How often in history has an American President become a prophet?
Lee Alan Dugatkin

Extended Book Review

Even Darwin was plagued by doubts. For a decade he pondered and tweaked his theory until he heard Wallace was preparing a manuscript. Moved at last to polish his notes, he published his pioneering “Origins of the Species.” One of Darwin’s reservations was the simple question, "If natural selection and survival of the fittest is the true state of affairs in nature, why are there so many examples of goodness in so many species." In the fifteen decades that have elapsed since Darwin pondered the question, not that much has changed in the public mind. Dugatkin explains that while that may be so, it is not the true state-of-the-art for evolutionary theory. In fact, Dugatkin relates vividly how Darwin’s legacy has evolved to the point where not only does goodness arise through Darwinian selection, it can be reduced to a simple cost / benefit equation from economic theory that contains a factor derived directly from the degree of relatedness between individuals. In each case, mystery upon mystery suddenly found a common explanation. This occurred mostly under the public radar over the last half century or so. Dugatkin relates how seven British, Russian, and American scientists played prominent roles.
Richard Dawkins

Extended Book Review

We were ready to find fault and take issue with the author as soon as we picked up this book. We were put off by its very title. Using the word selfish personifies a random process, and is totally unnecessary if not an outright distraction. Single cells, even large clumps of cells have no neural system. Indeed the bulk of all life on earth cannot harbor an emotion such as selfishness. So we were unprepared for what we began reading. On the first page of text, (the introduction) Dawkins tackles our concerns head on, concluding that such personification enables understanding of evolution on a personal, emotional level. The huge advantage of this approach is that lay readers (most of us by far) will not only better understand, but remember its many lessons. With that accomplished, it is a much easier to find motivation to realize evolution is a random process. Far from the usual aspersions, evolution is the most exciting example of the power of natural random processes to evolve living things among which humans are the latest rung in the ladder. Although Dawkins occasionally strays into political science that serves little purpose beyond the illustrative anecdote, "The Selfish Gene" immediately became a book we could not put down.

Sigmund Freud is the father and founder of the "soft" science of psychology. Like most fathers, his offspring did not turn out quite as he would have preferred. As new facts and practitioners took up psychiatry (MD required) and psychology (PhD required), Freud's many theories no longer fit as well as he would have liked. New schools of thought soon arose. Nevertheless, he left a primary mark. It turns out that his mark bears on peace.
How Times Change

The State of the Union address has morphed from speeches by our first two presidents through letters from Jefferson's time down to Wilson who went back to speeches. It is now a ritual, a show for TV. Rarely will a sitting president in our day have anything new to say. It is now all about pomp and circumstance.
Updated 25 Aug 2012

No, this is not a Bill Clinton or “should do” page. There is another more-dangerous form of sensual politics, one that potentially can grab any of us that needs airing—but first a bit of background. It endangers our very democracy.

Just as the earliest animals began to evolve through selection of the most-fit individuals, so also animal groups and, ultimately, society itself evolves. To understand how life and and all that came about, it is helpful to not only understand the three DNA domains of life, Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya, but the several lower orders of life classification: Phylum, Class. Order, Family, Tribe, Genus and species. Each level recognizes ever finer distinctions. Ability to move, locomotion, in other words, is just one example. Sensing light, sound, touch and odors each evolved in their own times. Neural systems accomplished the five systems gradually over time. Eventually, evolution added memory and higher thought processes such intuitive insights, that may be unconscious, and logic at the conscious level. Ultimately, a Great ape employed these latter to become the dominant species on earth.

According to written records, at least till the treaty of Westphalia, peace was an exception. That is, as long as warlike spirits, as with the Samurai, prevailed. A famous fragment of Heraclitus says: "War is the father of all; some he makes free, others slaves." But gunpowder leveled all, high and low.
Humor; but not so humorous in our times!

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time
and your government when it deserves it.
Mark Twain
Updated 04 Apr 2010

For a quick overview of our research see: Peace Via Nature's Way.

Roots of Terror Briefly and Some Avenues Now Apparent

This project illuminates some very human ills that we and our children face. From what we now know, questions posed have or can find answers. It is that simple yet that complex in implementation, for no culture on earth has the ready answers, only partial ones.
Frans De Waal

Extended Book Review

De Waal does a marvelous take on the visible elements, leaving the roots the business of the likes of Darwin and Dawkins. Ed Wilson does a somewhat parallel study of import as far as he goes. What De Waal adds, is concrete observations of how conflict resolution works in nature, while giving due the Selfish Gene of Dawkins. In the opinions of many, including us, the selfish gene not only gives rise to the selfish individuals, but to families and societies as well. In like manner, are not all behaviors genetic?
It has long been known in psychological circles that children raised in orphanages are typically and significantly less sociable and intelligent than children raised in natural family environments. They all too often end up in dead-end lives or in prisons. What has been lacking until recently is a scientifically sound study of a cohort of sufficient size to allow valid conclusions to be drawn. To correct that deficiency, Charles Nelson of Harvard, Nathan Fox of University of Maryland, and Charles Zeanah of Tulane with the help of SERA, a Rumanian NGO and in cooperation with the Rumanian government, began a study in 2000 that is still ongoing, but that has already provided scientific answers for some of the questions. See the April 2013 edition of Scientific American, p64 for more.
Extended Book Review

The Path To Security For America And The World

Philip H. Gordon

With 9/11 approaching a decade past, it is high time to review the events that have transpired since. The War on Terror began with carnage and destruction of infrastructure in New York. Since that fateful day, the carnage and terror has moved legitimately to its place of origin, and illegitimately, well beyond--Iraq will never be the same and is still not assured a peaceful future. Afghanistan, its place of origin, was so mishandled as to become a metaphor for national self-destruction--for invaders and pacifiers alike.

Fortunately there are thinking people thinking about all this, and Philip Gordon is one of them. He not only arrives at the obvious of the above, but offers a viable way out. Fortunately too, Americans seem to have elected a president with similar views. Read on; perhaps you will agree.
These two phrases capture the essence of life—as it exists and as it ascended to its present level. As it exists, nurture provides us with a flexible framework of behavioral traits that depend in complex ways on our particular genomes. For our purpose on this page we use the word temperament to designate these inborn features. These features are observed not just among humans but among animals as well. Further, they vary within species. How else could the various breeds of dogs having different inborn temperaments have arisen through selective breeding? Further, it is now clear that “training” can affect behavior in both animals and humans. The result of “training” we term personality. Our individual personalities therefore are the products of nature / nurture.

Misquoting Jesus Extended Book Review

Bart Ehrman

An early and confirmed Christian, a born-again Christian, Ehrmam has lived the gamut of Christianity—and beyond, if that is the right word. As a naturally-curious and thinking boy becoming a man, Ehrman was, like most of us, reared to believe, which he did with fervor. In the tenth grade he joined Campus Life Youth for Christ club. Its leader was a eager and charismatic 20 something who held meetings off campus at various club-member homes. Ehrman got to know Bruce, the leader, and was awakened to a new experience of happiness and salvation only a believer could know. In due course he became a born-again Christian.
Bart D. Ehrman

Extended Book Review.

The subtitle directly addresses a quandary of our age:

"Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)"

Ehrman is one of those rare people for whom the pendulum of faith has swung in both directions, but not to such extremes that he lost touch with either pole, religious or secular. Jesus, Interrupted, like his "Misquoting Jesus", contains biographical detail. Unlike the extremists on either side of the divide, Erhman is quite respectful of believer and atheist alike. Like a growing number of people, Ehrman characterizes himself as an agnostic, one who can rejoice in understanding both the worlds of faith and logic. His telling point is that the bible is the most influential book ever written, however its writing came to be in and by human hands. For that very reason it deserves deep study--the kind he has devoted his career to and reports here.

The ultimate fascist is the sociopath, or the more frightening moniker—psychopath. As we have discussed elsewhere, there is no difference between these terms. Sociopaths are quite sane and in full control of their senses. What sets them apart is their lack of any conscience. The most dangerous ones are those with smarts and charisma. Hitler literally held his audiences spellbound, sometimes for an hour or more. Fortunately, true fascists have come to power only twice in spite of a dozen or more serious efforts.
In this triad, confusion reigns.

How can that be?

  • Has not science given us mastery of the earth and all its denizens?
  • Has not science extended our lives by a factor of three or more?
  • Do we not hear daily about a study that claims a significant effect on our lives?
  • At the same time, too often we hear about studies that claim opposite effects?
  • And finally, why are so many scientific papers withdrawn?
  • All this has left us confused about what is what, while giving ammunition to those who would bury science if they could.
14 May 2008

One of the most humble of great men, Barack Obama is bring accused of elitism. True to the arrogant spirit of the political elites, who wield vast powers, the Clinton camp is accusing him of being an elite. Anything goes in this political world of make believe. A man of humble origins, a man from a single-parent family, is being attacked for having some of the very qualities that made his attackers great.
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.
The Nation

By Colman McCarthy

Created 2011-08-30 19:27

Having begun my thirtieth year of teaching high school, college and law school courses on the philosophy of pacifism and the methods of nonviolent conflict resolution, I was challenged again to decide where to begin this year’s course. Should I use the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to discuss nonviolent alternatives to the Bush/Cheney bents for bombs and bullets? Or pose this: would members of Congress, left or right, have voted to increase military spending so dramatically during the Bush years if they had studied peace and nonviolence in college? Would Barbara Lee of California’s 9th District have been the only member of Congress—one out of 535—to vote against the Bush war plans on September 14, 2001?
Updated 27 Feb 2010

Most of the basic literature we have relied upon to find a road map for peace can be found in the references below. To briefly summarize: Our genetic endowment contains genes for violence, aggression, and conventionalism. Countering those expressions are genes for parenting and altruism. The latter are vital for only they can save humanity from perpetual violence and war.
Adolf Hitler

Volume One - "A Reckoning"

Annotated but unabridged.

Mein Kampf is in two volumes, the first was written when Hitler was in prison in Bavaria in 1923-1924.
Mar 2003

This page collects selected questions from the media, our visitors, and from our own sources. We hope they are thought provoking.
by Adolf Hitler

Volume One - A Reckoning

THERE are some truths which are so obvious that for this very reason they are not seen or at least not recognized by ordinary people.