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Searched for "consilience"

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.

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..."
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.

Bob Altemeyer:

Social Psychologist - Professor of Psychology, University of Manitoba
Wrote: “The Authoritarian Specter”


  • Assessed thousands of individuals.
  • Used advanced mathematical analysis to reduce authoritarian traits observed to three:
    • Hierarchical Submission,
    • Either / or Conventionalism, and
    • Aggression.
  • Found our basic traits match our politics!!
Michael Ruse

Extended Book Review

This well-crafted book considers Darwinism, from the “-ism” point of view–for “-ism” Darwin has become. This is the fault of modern society whose discontents are ”ism” followers and "ism" creators in their own right. The last thing Darwin had in mind was to create a quasi “cult.” He did not, of course. However, unlike most cults, Darwin’s detractors created Darwinism by labeling what they PROJECTED as a threat–-a threat to their sense of self, their self image, their salvation. This is not at all bad in-and-of-itself; we all have a right to protect our individuality. The problem comes from the collective result when sociopaths use anti-Darwinism to further their grips on the human mind in order to achieve their own ends. We strongly recommend this book. It is a well-balanced read.
George Lakoff: Don't Think Of An Elephant
Book Review

This book is not only timely, it is timeless. Lakoff provides much more than a road map for effective communications--his matchless insights into the basic mechanics employed so effectively by the Republican party beginning in Nixon's time. Thanks to Lakoff, the political playing field can now be leveled--if we take his advice. The challenge for progressives will be to not misuse the power of Framing.

Lakoff has provided yet another avenue on the road to peace.

Updated 09 Sept 2013

Scientific study of four pairs of Indian cities, each pair balanced ethnically and population-wise, showed:

Integration in all sectors of society is an effective way to reduce ethnic conflict. A great deal of the current unrest on earth is driven by ethnic and/or religious differences.

Consilience-motivated research reveals that instincts are genetic expressions toward violence--aggression, dominance and obedience on the one hand and, parenting, altruism, and herding (cooperative) instincts on the other made Homo fit for survival in jungles and savannas. In this way a dichotomy in nature was born. It is still with us, but a dichotomy in instincts is not well suited as a foundation for peace for all human kind on earth.

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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Michael Ruse

Extended Book Review

This book came to us as part reference materials collected for our field research into natural history. It addresses the heated controversy between Darwinists and the Intelligent Design folks in an evenhanded manner. One of these folks maintains a Web Site we critique.

During January of this year, we joined a tour group in retracing the voyage of the Beagle, the ship Darwin traveled on while collecting specimens of flora and fauna which eventually led to his theory of evolution. As the saying goes, we are from Missouri; we have to see it for ourselves, not so much to understand, but to get the feel of it, to see the evidence that so convinced Darwin of its logical consistency. Our second purpose was to better understand the origins of our violent natures. Our notes and photos must await another time.

Ruse is a gifted writer in two ways: Not only does he keep your attention, but he makes the arcane simple. Unlike many authors on Evolution, Ruse does not deny all value in religion. He does, however, let the chips fall where they may and leaves the question of faith and its interpretation up to the reader as she or he will.
Updated 21 Mar 2010

ACTION ALERTS: From 28 Aug 2008

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Pseudo-Science, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

Michael Shermer

Extended Book Review

The publisher of Skeptic magazine both enlightens us with a lot of material new to us, and disturbs us with his insights to the effect that the human condition may be so rigid that peaceful living may remain a dream of idealism. In any event, his broad background in biology, psychology, and the history of science enables him to bring consilience to the core of his methods in "debunking bunk," to use his term. And that makes his position compelling to those open enough to follow his insights and take them to heart. Nevertheless, his insights also need to be looked at skeptically. You are remiss if you do not, for there is much for most of us to learn--one of them being the practice of being a skeptic.
Creative insights come with a rush sometimes, but slowly is the usual route. The whipsaw feature of Authoritarianism is one of those insights.

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.
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
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.

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.
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.
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.
Updated 7 April 2010

Identifying the Psychological Traits
Published 1996 Bob Altemeyer
Book Review with commentary: Updated 15 Jan 2008

Bob Altemeyer, is both daring and credible. He is an Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Manitoba. His professional focus is the social psychology of authoritarian personalities; it is his specialty. Unlike the Freudians and political pundits, his calling is to understand and define the personality itself in scientific terms. Toward that end he finds that three basic traits explain the behaviors authoritarians exhibit: Submission, Aggression, and Conventionalism. Readers should carefully note his definitions of each before drawing conclusions of their own.
Updated 15 Apr 2010; 18 Jan 2013

Humanity has an inherent need to know: how things work, about our origins, what is our purpose. It was easy to ascribe thunder to a god, rain to another and so on, and even create an hierarchy among them, complete with conflicts and histories of same. Mythology for sure. But a few brave souls dug deeper. Euclid developed geometry, Ptolemy understood his circles and developed a means to "explain" the motion of the planets "around" central earth. Copernicus observed inaccuracies and went on to propose a solar-centered method. The world has never been the same since--thanks to Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Einstein. Unlike astronomy, biology had to wait for Darwin, Mendel, Watson and Crick to parallel in biology the progression from Euclid to Einstein.

The basic nuts and bolts provided by Jacob Bronowski in a BBC / Time-Life documentary in 1973 puts science in a human perspective:

"We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgement in science stands on the edge or error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible."

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.