There are 147 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 presented 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 republic, Plato completely overlooked the important topic of human motivation. Not once, in his many dialogues, in which he considered a host of different questions, did he ever think to 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 do, money has become a primary motivation for them. This, in turn, has distorted economists’ understanding of human motivation, by making them mistakenly believe 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: “a mind is 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 that 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, and they often beget serious real-world problems. 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 such as real estate and commodities 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 metaphor of the 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 governments in general 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, and unfortunately still are prevalent in today’s world. Coupled with this common 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, as well as other markets where speculation abounds, 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 when there is a high degree of speculation 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 continually increasing human population, as well as the 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 will lead to an increase from two to ten, or from two million to ten million, or from two billion to ten billion, in just four generations, which can be as little a time period as one hundred years or less. 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, work to enable them to earn money, 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 the finite world and Universe that we live in, 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 that 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 in accordance with natural laws 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 random mutations and 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 that 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, which includes 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 traditional religious beliefs about God and the Universe are wrong. 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 false beliefs 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, in order to emphasize how different God is from us humans.
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 presently 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 scientific geniuses of all time 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 suffer an even greater decline when it is recognized that the theory of evolution by natural selection is mostly wrong.
In the final act, “The Only Way Forward is the Way Back,” I argue 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 inhabitants 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 that we live in.