The Lucifer Principle

The Lucifer Principle is a 1995 book by American author Howard Bloom, in which he argues that social groups, not individuals, are the primary “unit of selection” on genes and human psychological development. He states that both competition between groups and competition between individuals shape the evolution of the genome. Bloom “explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture” and argues that “evil is a by-product of nature’s strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric”.

This argument echoes a very old one. St. Paul proposed it when he put forth the doctrine of original sin. Thomas Hobbes resurrected it when he called the lot of man brutish and nasty. Anthropologist Raymond Dart brought it to the fore again when he interpreted fossil remains in Africa as evidence that man is a killer ape. Old as it is, the concept has often had revolutionary implications. Why? Because it has been the thread on which men like Hobbes and St. Paul have hung dramatic new visions of the world. Richard Dawkins, who popularized the notion that living organisms are simply carrying-cases that genes use to preserve and multiply themselves, also suggested that clusters of ideas, which he called “memes,” similarly use human brains to survive.

Howard Bloom sees selection (e.g., through violent competition) as central to the creation of the “superorganism” of society. It also focuses on competition between individuals for position in the “pecking order” and competition between groups for standing in pecking orders of groups. The Lucifer Principle shows how ideas are vital in creating cohesion and cooperation in these pecking order battles. In the book, Bloom writes:

Superorganism, ideas and the pecking order…these are the primary forces behind much of human creativity and earthly good.