There are 142 essays contained in this book. The five-part structure, whose parts I have chosen to call “acts,” is meant to suggest a classical play. In this vein, the famous statement made by Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It that
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts[…]
is to serve as an opening quotation.
Act One, subtitled “Philosophical Misadventures,” discusses the major mistakes made by philosophers. The key mistake is Aristotle’s faulty definition of human beings as “rational animals.” Aristotle believed that, by determining the quality or ability that distinguishes humans from all other creatures, he would then be able to use this distinguishing quality to understand most or all of humanity’s actions. Although this procedure may seem sensible, it is in fact wrong. The correct theory of human behavior is the Theory of Imitation, which can be summarized as follows: admiration leads humans to imitate those whom they admire, embarrassment leads them to conform to the behaviour of those who are in their social group, and contempt prevents imitation. Even though imitation is not a quality that is uniquely human, it is nevertheless much better at explaining many of our actions than Aristotle’s mistaken belief that we are rational animals.
The most influential theory of human behaviour has been the simple theory posited by Plato that each human being is endowed with three guiding principles – reason, will, and emotion and desire. Although, strictly speaking, this belief is not wrong, it is very seriously incomplete in that Plato made absolutely no mention of the important human tendencies to imitate the individuals and behaviours we admire, to conform to the behaviour of those people who are in our realm of influence, and to avoid imitating those individuals and behaviours we scorn. In addition, scorn leads people to disparage, ridicule, and sometimes mistreat, harm, cheat, or kill those persons whom they scorn. Scorn, or contempt, has been the cause of much of the harm that human beings have inflicted on other human beings. Furthermore, in his discussion of the education of children in his ideal society, Plato completely overlooked the important topic of human motivation. Not once, in his many dialogues, in which he considered a variety of different questions, did he ever ask, “How does the desire to perform an action, activity, or profession arise?” The results of this omission have been catastrophic, both for individuals and for society. Because so many workers are unmotivated or don’t like the work they perform, money has become a primary motivation for them. This, in turn, has distorted economists’ understanding of human motivation, by making them suppose that money is the primary reason why people do things, and hence, it has led economists to try to monetize most or all human relationships and exchanges.
René Descartes, who is one of the most renowned modern philosophers, made three key mistakes: first, he believed that there exists an infallible method for discovering the truth about the world we live in, which method he believed he had discovered; second, he declared that mind and body are separate substances; and third, he arrogantly declared that only human beings have minds. The belief in the existence of mind, or soul or spirit, has caused all manner of confusion among both philosophers and non-philosophers. I have presented a new definition of mind: “the result of the process of looking, perceiving, or experiencing through a brain” – which act one can only perform with one’s own brain. This definition does away with mind-body duality, since it makes clear that what we call “mind” is very intimately connected with the brain. Although it does not prove that Descartes’ dismissive declaration about other organisms not possessing minds is wrong, it does strongly suggest it, since human beings are not the only creatures that are endowed with brains. Since many creatures besides humans can perform the operation of looking or experiencing through their brains, this suggests that they too have minds.
The second act, “Free-Market Folly: Why Economics is not a Science,” comprises, in both its length and the number of essays, roughly half the book. Contrary to what economists believe, their pseudo-science – or indiscipline, as I prefer to call it – is still a branch of philosophy. First, central to economics is the false belief that human beings are rational creatures. Second, economists follow a philosophical, and not a rigorously scientific, standard of truth, since they believe that mere logical or mathematical deduction and consistency are sufficient, in and of themselves, to ensure the truth of the conclusions which they derive from their frequently unreal assumptions about human behaviour. Unlike true scientists, economists do not bother to test their conclusions about human behaviour in order to ensure that they are in fact true. It is no surprise, then, that when they or others apply their conclusions, theories, and “laws” to the real world, they often cause great harm, due to their lack of understanding of human motives and societies, and their failure rigorously to distinguish the true from the false.
The mistakes made by economists are numerous. These include their failure to distinguish between primary and secondary sales of stock shares, only the first of which qualify as investment, since only these transactions actually deliver money to corporations; their confounding of speculation with investment, which has led to a huge increase worldwide in speculative activities, both in financial and non-financial markets; their failure to differentiate between the speculative and the use demand for a product; their desire to eliminate non-measurable human emotions like fear from their calculations and theories, which emotions nevertheless continue to influence people’s behaviours; and their beliefs that human beings are rational maximizers of their utility, that their invented concept of “utility” always diminishes with increased consumption, that the private sector can deliver many necessary social services better than the government can, that competition is always good, and therefore its effects should never been checked, curbed, or corrected, and that, if all people act at all times only to maximize their personal self-interest, this will, at the same time, also increase the total of societal well-being and happiness, in accordance with Adam Smith’s invisible hand.
Many of the tenets of free-market capitalism are based on these and other falsehoods which are taught and promulgated by economists about markets, human behaviour, and societies. Besides these facts, there are two features of free-market capitalism that are having harmful effects on many people around the world: government bigotry and deregulation dementia. The scorn and hostility that are expressed by free-market fanatics like Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand towards the government are nothing more than an irrational prejudice that is no different from the prejudiced, racist, and sexist attitudes towards foreigners, minorities, and women that were common in the past. Coupled with this prejudice is the belief that an unregulated market is the best way for companies to produce the things and provide the services that people want and need, at the lowest possible prices, while ensuring the maximum of quality, honesty, reliability, and efficiency.
The widespread belief that financial markets like the stock market create wealth is based on the highly misleading – and fraudulent – pricing model that I have called “collective pricing,” whereby all the owners of a particular stock or other financial asset naively conclude that the price at which a usually tiny portion of that stock or asset was recently sold is also the price of the quantity which they own. This erroneous belief leads to collective delusions like “market capitalization,” which calculates the market value of a company by multiplying its total number of shares by the price at which a small portion of those shares were recently sold, even though the great majority of the company’s shares were not actually sold, and the confounding of the speculative wealth that is engendered by the stock market with real wealth. The fact that the majority of people in the world, including those who buy and sell stocks and other financial products, do not understand what is actually going on in these markets is an indictment of economists and their wretched indiscipline, since the stock market clearly forms a part of the things that they study and supposedly understand.
Act Three, “The Glorious Miracle of Life,” echoes sentiments and warnings that have been expressed elsewhere – that we humans must reduce our consumption of both other organisms and natural resources, and we must also reduce the destructive impact we are having on the planet. However, the most important factor in this matter – the total human population, as well as the constantly increasing portion of that population that is leading Western-style lives of material comfort, convenience, and consumption, which in turn causes increasing destruction, pollution, and degradation in all parts of the world – is almost never discussed. The truly alarming consequences of a continually increasing human population need to be understood by all human beings who are of reproductive age or who will, in the near future, be able to reproduce. Even with a seemingly moderate family size of three children per couple, assuming a 100% survival rate, this leads to an increase from two to ten, or from two million to ten million, in just four generations, which can be as little a time period as one hundred years. Clearly, such increases are not sustainable, and they will worsen the problems that are already visible in all parts of the world, such as climate change, environmental degradation, declining numbers of numerous wild species, and mass species extinctions. For all these extra humans will need a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, fuel to burn for various purposes, and activities to fill their leisure time, many of which human activities negatively impact the planet and its many non-human inhabitants. All the well-meaning protocols, agreements, environmental laws, protection measures, and so forth will be largely futile if the human population continues to increase.
The fourth part of the book, “Our Relationship with God,” discusses what, for many people, will be a controversial topic. However, God’s existence can in fact be demonstrated, by showing that the alternative to God, what I have called the Idol of Chance, is not able, in a finite world and Universe, to produce the many wondrous and highly ordered features that we find actually exist. Many scientifically-devout persons greatly overestimate what chance, in accordance with the laws of physics, chemistry, or biology, is able to accomplish, including the sudden appearance of Life on Earth, as well as the preservation of the stringent conditions which Life requires in order to exist and thrive in a Universe that was not designed for its existence, and thus is extremely hostile and completely indifferent to its existence. It is an immense irony that the many scientifically-deluded individuals who are convinced that everything in the Universe arose by chance fail to realize that the fact that we humans, alone of all the many different organisms that exist and have existed on this planet, are able to understand the workings of the Universe in precise, mathematical detail is clear evidence for God’s existence, since such a highly intelligent species could not have arisen by the process of evolution by natural selection. In other words, the very considerable gap that exists between humans and all other intelligent creatures cannot be bridged by natural selection.
There is another important reason for establishing beyond doubt that God exists: in the ongoing debate about climate change and the serious effects which human beings are having on the planet, it is assumed that we need only worry about the physical consequences of these human-induced changes, such as higher global temperatures, more acidic oceans, environmental degradation, mass species extinctions, and so on. But if God does indeed exist, then we must also consider the possibility that God may at some point act so as to curb our destructive tendencies, such as by significantly reducing our burgeoning human population to a more sustainable, fair, and reasonable level.
It is commonly believed that science and religion are antithetical, and that each new scientific discovery disproves God’s existence. However, this widespread belief is wrong, for there is no inconsistency between God and science. Far from demonstrating God’s non-existence, the many discoveries that have been made by scientists about the regularities that are observable in the Universe, as well as other facts such as its order, size, and age, only show that many of the fundamental beliefs of religions about God and the Universe are mistaken. Religious people in general fail to understand that so-called sacred books like the Bible, which is believed to contain the eternal, unchanging word of God, are poor guides to understanding both the nature of God and the world we live in. Religious people are wont to repeat numerous traditional falsehoods about God, such as that God is omnipotent, omniscient, perfect, all-loving, and all-good. This is especially evident in the common tendency to use the male human pronouns “He,” “Him,” and “His” to refer to God. But this common practice is wrong since God is not a sexually-reproducing animal, which is why I have chosen to use the pronouns “It” and “Its” when referring to God.
The general scientific consensus is that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is a globally valid theory that is able to explain all the wondrous features of all the many different organisms that formerly existed or continue to exist on the Earth. However, Darwin’s theory has many exceptions to it, such as our extraordinary human abilities, since these abilities were only manifested very recently in our species’ history, and hence, they couldn’t have been selected by Nature, since our ancestors possessed these abilities long before they were manifested. Darwin made two big mistakes – believing that his theory was globally valid, as is shown by his belief that it could also explain human behaviour, and overlooking the existence of the Law of Balance. The present situation in regard to Darwin, when he is frequently lauded as one of the greatest of scientific geniuses for his insights into the development of Life on Earth, is similar to the situation that prevailed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in regard to Isaac Newton, when his discoveries about planetary and celestial motion, in particular his Law of Gravitation, were believed to be true of everything in the Universe. Just as Newton’s reputation suffered a decline following the developments of quantum mechanics and relativity theory, Darwin’s reputation will also suffer a decline when it is generally recognized that the theory of evolution by natural selection is not a globally valid theory.
The final act, “The Only Way Forward is the Way Back,” argues that, if humanity is to remain on this Earth for the long term – for millions of years rather than for just a few more frenetic centuries of incessant and highly destructive human “progress,” then it is essential that we regain the reverence for Nature that our ancestors formerly had, and that we restore the balance with other living organisms and the physical environment that our heady scientific and technological progress have so greatly disrupted. We humans are not as intelligent as many of us believe we are, and the widespread belief that science and technology will be able to solve the great and growing problems that they have created in the first place is ample evidence of this fact.
Even if human colonies are one day established on the Moon or Mars, they will never be able to support many people, and they will be forever dependent on the Earth for their survival. Moreover, their members will only be sustained at a significant energy cost from the Earth, since it is only on the Earth that the refined fuels that are needed to transport people and materials to and from other planets or moons are found. Rather than spending so much time, effort, money, and resources to accomplish a goal that, in my opinion, is largely a waste of all of these things, humanity should instead focus its efforts on reducing the global human population to sustainable limits, and reducing the destructive impact that we are collectively having on the planet – goals that, unlike interstellar space travel and colonization, are well within our grasp. Instead of viewing the Earth as merely the cradle from which our extraordinary species will begin the colonization of other worlds, we must learn to cherish the Earth as the only place – in the barren and inhospitable Universe that we live in – where our kind can exist and thrive.
Aristotle’s definition that human beings are “rational animals,” which later was modified to the belief that humans are “intelligent animals,” was crucial to the development of science. But this false definition has led to a fundamental misunderstanding of our true nature, as well as the causes of our behaviour. It is time, then, for humanity to acquire a true understanding of both ourselves and our place in the world we live in.
Act One: Philosophical Misadventures
Man is not a Rational Animal
What Happens When We Reason
The Fallibility of Human Logic
The Sherlock Holmes Fallacy
The Use of the Word “Universal” is not Universal: The Naive Human Belief in Universality
The Fallacy of the Prisoners’ Dilemma
Losing Your Mind: The Problem with the Concept of Mind
The Colossal Cartesian Blunder
What Does a Bee Look Like to a Bee? The Perceptual Multiverse
Does Dark Matter Really Exist?
The Cloud Cuckoo Land of False Ideas
To See Patterns Where None Exist
The Fallacy of Round Numbers
Debunking Philosophy: The Foolish Quest for Infallibility
What is Real?
The Primary Failure of Modern Education
Act Two: Free-Market Folly: Why Economics is not a Science
Scene One: Financial Speculation and Corporations
How to Spot a Revolutionary: A Revolutionary by Any Other Name Would Smell as Foul
A Modest Proposal to Settle a Difference of Opinion
The Creation of Wealth
What is a Thing Worth? Determining the Values of Things
How Much Wealth Does One Person Need? Money Does Not Make the World Go Round
Greed is Bad
All that Glitters is not Gold: Not All that is Called Investment is Investment
Speculation Fever: The Alchemy of Making Money from Money
Financial Speculation is a Form of Gambling
Greed is the Root of All Speculation
Predatory Investment: The Rise of Financial Piracy
Speculative versus Real Growth: How to Reform the Stock Market
The Very Strange Nature of Corporate Ownership: An Alternative to the Rumpelstiltskin Model of Raising Funds
The Separation of Corporate Interests
The Financial Equivalent of Snake Oil
Gold, Money, and Invented Currencies
Act Two, Scene Two: The Fallacy of Free Trade
Worship Not the GDP
Free Trade Means Less Life and More Death: When the Free Market Becomes the Blind Market
What You See is What You Know: How to Overcome the Grave Dangers of Human Myopia
The Free Market is not Free: The Grave Inefficiency of the Price Mechanism
Capitalism’s Greatest Defect
Comparative Advantage for Whom? The Rise of Corporate Tyranny
No to “Autarky”
The Myth of the Trickle-Down Effect
Act Two, Scene Three: Some Social Considerations
The Myth of Individualism
The Breakdown of the Social Bond: The Important Difference between Small, Stable Communities and Large, Anonymous Cities
The Destruction of Community
To Deny Cooperation is a Form of Tyranny
Rousseau was Wrong about our Origins and the Origin of Inequality
The Flaws of Meritocracy
The Inclusive Society: Switching from Competition to Mutually-Beneficial Cooperation
What is Work?
Single-Use versus Multi-Use: Managed or Cooperative Capitalism
Act Two, Scene Four: Personal Matters, Liberty, and Poverty
The Folly of Anarchy: The Important Difference between Freedom and License
The Need for Regulations
The Pursuit of Happiness
The US Political System is Absurd: The Founding Vampires
All Roads Lead Back to Reagan: The Pestilence of Preposterous Pay
The Formation of Taste
The Curse of Plenty and How to Solve It
A Few Simple Eating Rules
The Debilitating Effects of Cars and Other Labour-Saving Devices
The Exploitation of Illegal Workers in the United States: The Horrors of Unbridled Price Competition
The Idol of Profit: The Barbaric Practice of Human Sacrifice
Golden Rice is Not the Answer
A Message to the Poor Farmers of the World
Act Two, Scene Five: The Economists’ Tragic Myopia
The Best of All Possible Economic Worlds
The Three Deadly Sins: The Pseudo-Nobel Economics Prize
The Wrong Model
The Dismal State of Economics
Economics is not Precise
The Economists’ Brazen Effrontery: The Scylla and Charybdis of Economics
The Historical Context of Books
Rationality and Economics
Marginal Utility is a Highly Marginal Concept
Happiness is not the Same as Utility: Maximizing One’s Utility is not the Best Model
Fear and Economic Demand
The Capitalism Myth: The True Causes of the Great Depression
The Betrayal of the Olympic Ideal
War by Any Other Name is Still War: The Many Harmful Effects of Unbridled Competition
Competition Shall Not Set You Free: The Mirage of Competition and Freedom
The Myth of the Invisible Hand: Why We Need the Guiding Hand of Government
The Lies of Objectivism: The Subjectivism of Ayn Rand
The Due but Difficult Death of a Dangerous Dogma: The Folly of All Utopias
Who Will Judge the Judges?
Corporate Serfdom: The Tyrannical Nature of Corporations
The Imperative Need to Democratize Corporations
Act Three: The Glorious Miracle of Life
The Tyrant King
The Race of Life: The Tortoise and the Hare Revisited
The Earth is the Only Home we have in the Universe: The Impenetrable Interstellar Moat
The Road Not Taken
A Common Misconception about the Second Law of Thermodynamics
The Lion and the Lamb
A Case of Mistaken Attribution
The Selfish Gene Does Not Exist
The Evolutionary Conundrum of Human Behaviour
Natural Selection Does not Tell the Whole Story
The Limitations of Natural Selection
Why do Honeybees have Barbed Stingers? The Law of Balance
The Immense Folly of the Scientific Enterprise
The World Does Not Need More Scientists
Science is not always Sensible
The True Cause of Soil Erosion
A New Way to Publish Books
How to Turn a Pest into a Source of Food
The Protective Balance Provided by Microbes
An Alternative to the Farmer’s Market
The Spurious Case for Biological Patent Infringement
Natural versus Organic Farming: The Wise Simplicity of Masanobu Fukuoka
To See a World in a Grain of Sand
The Biological Function of War: To Save Every Human Child
The Difference between Success and Longevity: The True Malthusian Catastrophe
The Law of Balance and the Grave Dangers of Imbalance
The Mona Lisa is Dead
Nietzschean Nonsense and the Nazis
Man, the Measure of his Great Folly
Natural versus Human Intelligence
The Eternal Mystery of Life
Act Four: Our Relationship with God
Why Does Life Continue to Exist?
The Science Myth: The Humanity Experiment
The Many Things that Chance Cannot Beget: The Hamburger Argument and the Conception Fallacy
The Life Project: Pascal’s Wager Writ Large
The Very Silly Problem of Consciousness: The Many Things We Cannot Know
God is Not Dead
How Does God Perceive the Universe? The Spurious Problem of Evil
Our Failure to Understand the Conditions of Life
The Grave Violation of Nature’s Balance
You Are Not God’s Chosen: The Foolish Belief in Divine Inspiration
God Never Asked to be Worshipped: We Have Made God in our Image
The True Nature of God
Act Five: The Only Way Forward is the Way Back
The True Meaning of the Story of the Garden of Eden
The Futile Human Search for Permanence: The Impermanence of All Things Human
Art is Deception
The Myth of Progress: The Paradox of Increased Production
The No-Tech, Low-Tech Revolution
We Must Step Backwards if the Human Race is to Survive
Why Should the First Person to do Something Matter? How New Media Influence Our Idea of Celebrity and the Things We Want to Do
Television is a Brain-Control Device: The Buddha was Right about Human Desire
Life is Worth Living
Go Gently into the Good Night
The Continuum of Life