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Four Pages Regarding a Biological Basis of Evil: Introducing My Most Important Work to Date

March 15th, 2012 by Howard Ditkoff

For much of the past year, as some of you know, I’ve been holed up working on a group of four pages on related subjects revolving around a particular topic. There are not many topics that can be seriously considered among the most important in the world. But I believe this is one of those that can.

In fact, the book that was perhaps most influential in focusing me on and teaching me about this topic claims, in its editor’s preface, that it will be the most important book you’ll ever read. And because of the importance of the topic, it just might be right. And, in turn, the pages that I’ve written related to this topic are probably the most important that I’ve ever written.

These pages will especially be of interest to anyone with a desire to understand, broadly and/or deeply, why our world is as it is.

They will be of even more intense interest to:

  • Anyone who has wondered why our world is so rife with seemingly intractable problems that we are apparently unable, despite applying our best conceived philosophies and methods, to curtail

  • Those intrigued by issues of justice and injustice

But, in truth, these pages are of great relevance in many ways to all of us.

Until now, I’ve kept a tight lid on information about these pages. But now, it’s finally time to announce their release to the world!

First, however, some background…

A Lifelong Quest for Understanding

For almost as long as I can remember, I have had a deep sense that something is wrong here – that something about our world is just absurdly “off.”

For many years, this sense remained quite vague. I simply noticed so many aspects of how our world worked that struck me as inexplicable and baffling and I could not logically understand why they played out as they did. In addition, I was similarly baffled by and unable to logically understand why – although some people seemed to be sensitive to and upset by these apparent absurdities as I was – others, even when made aware of them, seemed apathetic to, amused or, most disconcerting to me of all, pleased by them. And whatever conventional wisdom purported to explain these phenomena failed to satisfy me.

That gnawing sense of “offness” has fueled a journey that I describe in some of the pages in this group themselves. It has been a long and tortuous journey of exploration and discovery in which I have been struggling – all while remaining an evidence-based skeptic and avoiding falling prey to wild conspiracy theories – to clarify the causes of and messages embedded within that persistent experience of uneasiness, as well as the reasons for my own relative strangeness in being so bedeviled by it. The journey has been, at times, very frustrating and, at other times, exhilarating and it has brought me into contact with a wide variety of resources and people, both unknown and world-renowned, that have influenced me.

The journey has consisted of several stages. In each, my attention was primarily drawn to a certain aspect of the world relevant to my overall sense of confusion. And, by studying that aspect and then integrating what I learned with the insights gleaned in previous stages, I was able to graduate that stage having achieved a new milestone marked by a more complete understanding of the world.

Yet, after each graduation, when I applied my newly enhanced mental model in my life or in activist pursuits, the feedback that I received - though improved enough to signify that I had indeed made progress - nonetheless consisted of enough resistance to indicate that my understanding was still far from total. And I was, thus, motivated to continue on to the next stage in my quest.

One of the earliest stages of this journey, for example, focused on inquiring into the role of our culture, with its dysfunctions and unsustainability, in driving the “wrongness” that I was perceiving. But, even after gaining substantial insight into that matter, I remained unclear about exactly why the development of such a culture was so consistently supported. And I was still perplexed by the fact that, when I communicated about these topics, which I found so obviously important, few seemed interested, much less moved, by them.

A later stage focused me on studying systems that classify people according to their distinct personality types. This helped me develop, to a certain degree, an organized understanding and acceptance of how psychological variation could generate – sometimes much to my chagrin – perceptions, values and actions in many people that vastly differed from mine and those of people similar in type to me. But, even accounting for and engaging my knowledge regarding this source of diversity in personalities, I was nonetheless unable to make sense of or effect change in certain views and behaviors that I considered, at a level more fundamental than personality type, both unnecessarily common and objectively harmful.

I achieved a very significant milestone when I realized how defense mechanisms and certain personality disorders related with some of the more damaging forms of perception, value and action that I encountered. And yet, even the influence of such patterns and conditions could not fully explain the most extreme perspectives and behaviors. Confronted with them, it was clear to me that there were still other factors at play in many cases.

A Quantum Leap in Understanding: The Most Recent Milestone on My Journey

As a systems thinker, whenever I consider a complex situation, I am always trying to understand the structures, connections and features, often hidden and sometimes hidden in plain sight, of the relevant systems. With such insight, it is far easier to pinpoint the leverage points at which we can most effectively stimulate a desirable outcome. It is only after the last couple of years that I reached a milestone on my journey to clarify my sense of our world being “off” and the reasons for the relative rarity of my persistent focus on it where the core elements influential in these matters appeared evident and the identification of crucial leverage points seemed within reach.

The stage of my journey that unfolded during that period began when I was drawn to the study in earnest of psychopathy. That study led me to discover:

  • The field of ponerology
  • A remarkable book by a heroic man, the very writing and publication of which entailed extraordinary events, themselves constituting a thrilling story - Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Andrzej M. Lobaczewski (also known as Andrew M. Lobaczewski)
  • The phenomenon of pathocracy

Engaging with these subjects propelled me to this latest milestone and had an enormous impact on me on multiple levels.

One way in which this most recent progress has proven so valuable is by, to a greater extent than any before it, enhancing my ability to frame what my entire journey has really been about all along. Having experienced this last stage and reached this position on my path, I can now clearly articulate that it has always fundamentally been a quest to understand and address, to the best of my ability, the reasons, often so very difficult to discern, for the prevalence of seemingly senseless and unnecessary harm, waste, destruction, neglect and, ultimately, suffering in our world. This quest has necessarily involved an attempt to discover the nature and roots of the ethical vs. the unethical and justice vs. injustice, especially as they relate to various types of structures, power arrangements and exploitation. And, perhaps even more to the point, it has forced me to confront the age-old problems of evil.

In retrospect, it makes a great deal of sense that these are the “labors” to which my quest may be boiled down. As I look back, I can see that I have always been fascinated by and driven to explore such areas. Even as a child, I was almost constantly sensitive to suffering and concerned with issues of justice and the distribution - and exercise within systems - of power. And it seems inevitable that deep concern about suffering, justice and power, followed to its logical end, will eventually raise within one questions about evil and the many forms that it can take. Yet, for much of my life, I couldn’t and wouldn’t have described my journey in those terms.

I especially would not have raised the subject of “evil” in describing it because, as a strongly rational person, I have always had trouble committing to any particular definition of what “evil” means and so I tended to avoid even using the word. But the achievement of this latest milestone brought with it an understanding that the challenge of more objectively defining evil, as difficult as it may prove, is one that merits our energies right along with - and, in fact, as an instrumental part of - the larger challenge of discovering why evil, however we define it, occurs.

In addition to more fully revealing the general theme connecting my journey’s core questions, this latest stage, like past ones, also produced answers, built upon previously attained insights, to some of the specific questions that, even after decades of searching, remained mysteries to me.

It helped me to recognize that, for anyone who values ethical behavior and justice, the most meaningful division – far more substantial and pertinent to our world’s troubles than other noted divisions – is likely the one between those with and without significant levels of empathy and conscience.

It reinforced this by teaching me more than I ever knew about the most extreme and potent example of the latter group, the psychopath.

And, perhaps most critically, it awakened me more deeply to an idea that is among the most important that I’ve ever encountered – one that may even be the single most powerful and unappreciated idea that I’ve come across in all my years of thinking and activism:

The idea that much of the evil in our world – far more than we may realize or believe – and, thus, many of its detrimental consequences may, in fact, have a profoundly biological basis

It is understandable that it took me a long time to reach this milestone. For, the dynamics that I came to see more clearly in the course of this latest stage influence systems so as to encourage the development of many confounding qualities, unexpected events and counterintuitive reactions to interventions and involve:

  • A tremendous amount and variety of kinds of trauma and deception relating to identity, image, symbolism, position and structure
  • An array of devious manipulative tactics that distract us from leverage points and distort our perception and inflict blind spots in alignments nearly perfect for sustaining our unconsciousness to them

They especially involve deception and manipulation effectuated via communications that twist logic and ethics in astounding ways.

And these dynamics are so ever-present that they can easily remain - like water to a fish - invisible.

Thus, it took repeated demonstration of these dynamics in a systematic way to familiarize me with them to a point from which I could see them for what they are and analyze them in any rational manner.

I am certainly not saying that my understanding is now complete or that it will not continue to evolve. There is still much to consider and many discussions must be had about this information, the questions that it raises and how to respond to it. There may well be many more stages on my journey yet to come.

But I do strongly believe that the milestone that I achieved at the climax of this most recent stage is qualitatively greater than – and is a major point of integration of – the ones that have come before it.

My Motivation for and Process of Synthesizing and Writing about My Latest Milestone Discoveries

At meaningful points along my journey of discovery, I have felt driven to synthesize and set down in writing what I have discovered both to clarify and solidify it for myself and to share it with others. In many ways, this website is a record of that process.

But, because of the exceptional impact of this last stage and especially because I believe that some of the ideas that it raised, despite their enormous implications, have not been receiving adequate attention or appreciation – and that honest education and increasing the awareness of the public are among the most vital activities in which we can, therefore, participate – I was more strongly compelled to synthesize and write in relation to this latest milestone than ever before.

I was also motivated by how strongly I related to Andrew M. Lobaczewski himself. There is a personal connection to the events that he lived through, as well as a sense of kinship inspired by his passions for seeking, documenting and publicizing an objective theory regarding evil and the causes of suffering in our world. Moreover, I greatly admire the bravery that he, as well as his colleagues, exhibited in pursuing such passions even in the face of immensely dangerous and trying conditions.

So motivated, I engaged in painstaking preparation, poring over Political Ponerology, studying it again and again, reading and rereading other related materials and even contacting some experts directly when necessary to clarify an idea.

When writing, I poured out everything I could, outlining, drafting, writing, re-writing, editing and re-editing, all with a single aim in mind: providing a very thorough review of the subjects at hand that was as polished – even if not as compact – as I could make it.

The actual direct preparation for and writing of these pages - especially since I had to focus on a number of other responsibilities simultaneously - took over a year. It was a tremendously challenging period, not only due to the work involved in this project, but due to a number of other distressing events that occurred in my life over that time. Through that intense phase, as you can imagine, my knowledge on these subjects was greatly expanded and reinforced and deeply internalized.

But, in many ways, learning this material and expressing it comprehensively in these pages – a process that called upon so much of my work and so many of my interests from decades past – was the culmination of a lifetime of living in today’s world and wondering, questioning, searching, studying, reading and writing, from numerous angles, about why it is as it is.

The Importance of This Material

I believe that the subjects discussed in these pages and especially their central theme – the need for investigation of and response to a probable biological basis of evil – are important to say the least. In fact, I think they are so important that they simply cannot be ignored by anyone who wants to truly understand the evolutionary course of our species, the history of our civilization, the forces that drive our modern world or how to bring about a better future.

But exactly why are they so important?

There are a number of reasons, including:

  • They not only relate directly to the source of many of the most daunting problems plaguing human systems at every level – problems ranging from:
    • Abuse and neglect in personal relationships and families to…
    • Incompetence and corruption in workplaces, businesses, corporations, religious organizations and communities to…
    • Destructive economic cycles; detrimental policies based in philosophies of infinite growth, expansion, conquest and excessive acquisition; terrorism and war involving nation-states, governments and global institutions.

    And they not only also relate directly to the source of many of the most daunting problems plaguing our ecosystem as a whole.

    But they simultaneously relate to factors that make every other challenge we face on all of these levels more complicated and difficult to address. Thus, they are, in so many ways, leverage point issues.

  • They could help actually explain, in scientific and systems thinking fashion, why some of our most stubbornly persistent unsolved problems - whose persistence through the generations has long been misleadingly rationalized - despite the investment of so much time and energy concentrated on them, elude resolution. They may do this because they focus on elucidating and accurately labeling and categorizing - in a more precise, technical and objective manner that emphasizes invaluable, if sometimes subtle, distinctions - the elements, mechanisms, patterns, processes and cycles that play a part when systems become hijacked, coopted or ill and induce various entities to contribute more or less to the generation and spread of these problems. And, in doing so, they reveal that while some harm is inevitable and some stems from misguided behavior propelled by ignorance or defense mechanisms, a great deal of it emerges, rather, out of more malicious origins.
  • Even when they are unable to provide explanations, they nonetheless point the way toward wiser priorities in scholarship and practice both within and among many fields, including through advocating that:
    • Psychological knowledge play a more prominent role
    • Various sciences, as well as the tools and methods of science as a whole, be more frequently engaged in bringing to light and addressing the essential sources from which harmful activity develops
  • They illuminate the crucial and complex roles of ideology and religion in all of this.
  • We find ourselves in a precarious situation in a pivotal era in our history - marked by massive hierarchies, powerful technologies and somewhat fragile globalized systems – in which the potential consequences of various forms of extremism and violence on all levels, but especially on the large scale, are more and more tragic. These subjects assist us in identifying the roots of a substantial portion of the extremism and unnecessary violence that takes place.
  • Their implications have most likely impacted millions of people, as well as countless non-humans.
  • Ethics – the study of how we ought to live – is a most interesting and obviously valuable discipline. These subjects are especially profound in their ethical implications and relevant to many of the circumstances that give rise to the most agonizing ethical quandaries.
  • They highlight the need for, as well as make possible, an array of responses from people – including not only political, religious and business leaders and professionals, but parents, activists and members of the public at large – as well as institutions in a wide variety of disciplines and areas throughout the world, many of which are mentioned explicitly in the writing and others of which the reader will realize in the course of reading.
  • They call into question many dubious, yet sometimes instinctively appealing, alluring or popular philosophies, methodologies and approaches to our world’s problems purported to be capable of constructively transforming scenarios and that, absent understanding of their ramifications, might sound reasonable or feasible, but that actually, if applied in contexts for which they are not adapted, promote ineffective responses to or even counterintuitively contribute to harm.
  • An integration of these subjects also consolidates, crystallizes and augments with a clarifying layer the work of many significant authors and filmmakers including that of:
    • Daniel Quinn
    • Derrick Jensen
    • Robert Hare
    • Martha Stout
    • Barbara Oakley

This material is especially important for anyone trying to make sense of our world’s suffering so as to develop effective strategies for reducing it by improving health and sustainability. For them, the ideas and facts mentioned in these pages are strategic game-changers because they fundamentally shift perspective not only on why we are so unhealthy and unsustainable in the first place – and, thus, on the mainspring of much of the trauma and victimhood experienced within our systems – but on why so many well-intentioned and apparently sensible remediation campaigns and efforts to aid or heal victims constantly fail, fall short or are sabotaged.

Without recognition of this information - lacking insight regarding biological evil and how it contributes to developments that leave us susceptible to perpetual cycles of arising, escalating, spreading and subsiding dysfunction - people working on these challenges are condemned to rely on inadequate models riddled by missing pieces. As a result, they often participate in misguided actions that further reinforce our vulnerability and play right into the hands of those who promote evil.

But with the conscious complementary integration of relevant updated modern knowledge and tools, opportunities for effective assessment of potentially dangerous situations and protective, preventative or healing interventions – sometimes based on proven working medical models commonly applied in relation to infection or cancer – become more apparent. We are able to better imagine ways to experiment with – and work through the adversity and difficult transition periods inherent in - the evolution of innovative disciplines and more resistant structures devoted to:

  • Harnessing our cutting edge perspective and assets
  • Assertively and consistently enforcing necessary defensive limits and boundaries
  • Transcending obstacles and divisions - including the most important division within humanity

Only such entities can:

  • Sufficiently account for and contain evil’s influence
  • Maintain a matrix of incentives conducive to transforming vicious cycles into and continuously fueling virtuous cycles
  • Bring about and support with integrity sustainably healthy systems in which we can coexist and enjoy our best possible lives
  • Best ensure the balance, acceding to the constant presence of some form of evil, that long-term sustainability requires

Furthermore, these concerns could conceivably bring together more people from more divergent backgrounds, despite differences of gender, race, class, religion, nationality or pet issues, to work cooperatively on such beneficial reforms than any others.

It is interesting to note that, over the last year, as I worked on these pages, time and again my belief in the central importance of their subject matter was reaffirmed. I repeatedly encountered information and situations, whether in my personal life or in the latest world news, that, from one angle after another, related back to these topics, reinforcing their wide range of relevance and reminding me that, even in times when I was not conscious of it, they have been present all along, connected to so many events and elements in my life and the world at large. I suddenly noticed more books, films, articles, television shows and discussions focusing either indirectly or directly on these matters. All of this provided further validation and motivation that kept me going through this arduous process.

So, for all of these reasons and more, I hope that you’ll read these pages and find them, or at least parts of them, very meaningful and that what you learn will coalesce into a valuable lens through which to consider the world.

Notes on the Pages’ Writing Style

There are several characteristics of the writing on these pages itself that you will probably notice as you read. I’d like to take some time to address each of these in order to explain why I wrote the pages as I did.

Length

First of all, you will notice that these pages are quite long.

This reflects the fact that my goal in writing them - clearly - was not conciseness or brevity. It was comprehensiveness. I wanted each page, as well as the pages as a group, to be very very complete, at least touching on all of the relevant ideas that I could imagine wanting to raise – as well as the ideas, questions or challenges that I anticipated others might raise – now or in the near future.

I valued this level of completeness for a few reasons:

  • This information is extremely important and it took me decades to find, accumulate and synthesize it. Yet, I could not predict how much or which aspect of it would strike a chord with and inspire any given reader. So I decided to err on the side of inclusion, making, within reason, more, rather than less, information available.

    This way, people most interested in the material may, just by reading these pages, leap ahead in their understanding of it nearer to the point at which I now find myself without having to walk the entire path that I did. I have long appreciated those, many of whom I acknowledge in these pages, whose work served as a similar launching pad for me.

    At the same time, this inclusionary approach, I hope, means that most of the wide variety of readers interested only in certain parts of the material, despite perhaps differing substantially in which parts interest each of them, will be pleased to discover that those aspects that they value are at least discussed.

  • I wanted to record as much of the information as I could while it was fresh in my head.
  • It is enormously relieving for me, personally, to know that all of the information is now out of my head and accessible to the heads of others so that I no longer have to rely on storing it in my own memory.

If I want to return to this material in the future and write pieces that summarize it more briefly or refer back to these pages or specific sections of them in order to highlight its connection to other concepts or phenomena, I can always do that. Given these pages as a foundation, it will not be extremely difficult to do. However, for a variety of reasons, it would have been much more difficult for me to work in the opposite order, attempting to keep these initial pages short and to then expand them into more complete versions later.

So, the pages are long and, thus, require an investment of some time to read. Don’t be surprised if it takes more than one sitting to finish any one of the pages. But, I felt that, in this case and at the present time, the benefits of comprehensiveness outweighed the costs.

Some people, when I told them how long the pages are, asked why I chose to cover the material in web pages rather than by writing a book. This is a valid question. In fact, in some ways, it may be worth approaching the pages as you would a book.

But, for two main reasons, described below, I decided to release the material in web page rather than book form:

  • I don’t believe enough previously unpublished ideas are involved to merit a new book. Little of what fills these pages consists of fundamentally original material. This is clear since, almost incessantly, on every page, I link to, reference and credit other works from which I learned nearly all of this information and one of the pages is actually a review of someone else’s book. With this work, I am simply doing what I customarily do – connecting and awakening, synthesizing the work of others that has impacted me and that I believe deserves greater attention and promoting it, in my own voice, to try to catalyze change. While this could be accomplished through releasing a sort of annotated anthology or aggregation style book, in this case it seemed to me more sensible to simply refer people through the web directly to the original sources where appropriate.
  • The relatively recent development of the Internet has catalyzed a number of communication enhancements – free round-the clock worldwide availability of information, accessibility of data to search engines and their users, efficient linking of related resources and more. The emergence of these features and capabilities, previously only imagined, has been so revolutionary that it not only, as I mention in some of these pages, arouses hopes that the urgent messages perhaps crucial to our very survival will spread as far and as fast as they must to prompt indicated emergent change in time. It is also what enabled me to happen upon much of this material at such a young age - or, quite conceivably, ever - and, in fact, as you will learn when you read the story, what made the publication of Political Ponerology finally possible at all. Publishing this material on my website positions it better than would publication in a book to benefit from these powerful advantages of Internet technology.

Redundancy

A second characteristic that you will notice as you read these pages is that they contain, especially among the latter three pages introduced in the next section, all of which were inspired very directly by the same book, a good deal of redundancy.

This attribute, like their length, reflects my desire for the pages to be comprehensive, as well as my desire to facilitate as diverse a range of readers as possible in finding them. Motivated by these desires, I decided to write several pages, all very closely related and, for the most part, referencing the same third-party resources, about this subject matter so that:

  • I could explore in ample depth each aspect of the material
  • While doing so at the cost of the resulting overlap in their content - with its attendant drawbacks - each page could stand on its own, allowing readers in search of an extensive understanding of any one page’s particular focus to obtain it, for the most part, if they wished, by reading that page alone
  • Readers might arrive at the material via numerous slightly disparate angles

As a result of this decision, people that read several of these pages will, along with acquiring some new insights from each, rehash a substantial amount of information that, in order to lend completeness to each page for the sake of those who read only it, was included on multiple pages. They will also be reintroduced, on most of the pages, to the story of my journey, described, in part, earlier, through various versions covering different combinations of its stages in somewhat different ways. And some material will be reiterated more than once even on the same page. For example, the summary section of the first page introduced below consists of a detailed review that, while presenting useful context for and analysis of the rest of the page, does, at times, repeat its prior contents.

Academic Language

Third, you will notice that some of the writing in these pages is quite academic in style.

This is because, although the pages’ subject matter is so widely relevant and meaningful to a popular audience, it does involve scientific and medical information that is technical in nature. Indeed, one of the points that I strive to drive home in these pages is that, in order to more objectively understand these subjects, we must begin to speak of them in a more technical manner. So, while certain parts of the pages are written in a more personal or easily digestible fashion, other parts, as dictated by the material, are quite academic and this is as it must be.

I realize that some readers may not deem all of these characteristics of the writing discussed so far ideal. The pages may be tedious to read, at times, and perhaps this was not the most elegant way that the material could have been presented. But it is as it is by design. Hopefully, the benefits of this design outweigh the costs and readers, aware of the tradeoffs that were made and the intentions that impelled them, will discover that the value of the information itself spurs them to forgive any imperfections in the quality of this particular presentation.

Objective and Subjective Perspectives

The final characteristic of these pages’ writing that I’d like to mention is that it integrates elements of both an objective and subjective perspective. In some sections or passages, for instance, I relate hard scientific research data in a straightforward manner. In others, I express my own or someone else’s viewpoint on a topic, thereby connecting it with my or their experiences and with a variety of concepts and fields that I or they appreciate. And, in still others, I employ the two perspectives simultaneously. I hope that this approach assists the reader in accessing the material from diverse standpoints and renders the writing more unique and distinctive.

There are certainly other works available – though not yet nearly enough in my estimation – that cover any and all of these topics. Some do so from a primarily objective perspective, some from the subjective perspectives of a range of different people and some combine objective and subjective perspectives as I do in these pages. I introduce, reference and link to many of these works throughout the writing for readers who wish to examine them.

But, in these pages, I share the material in my way and in my style.

Introduction of the Pages

So now, without much further adieu, I want to link to and introduce the four pages themselves, each with a rundown of its contents.

These introductions are then followed, in the subsequent sections, by:

  • Some recommendations regarding why you may wish to read all four of the pages, which pages to read if you choose not to read them all and why and the order in which to read them
  • Some comments on what I hope you take away from reading these pages
  • Some short final thoughts on what drove me in writing them

PSYCHOPATHY

This page covers:

  • What precisely psychopathy is
  • How psychopathy relates with and differs from sociopathy and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)
  • How psychopathy is diagnosed and measured
  • The surprising prevalence and ubiquity - in all sectors and at all levels of our social systems - of psychopaths
  • Psychopaths’ ruthless activities and tremendous deceptive abilities
  • How psychopaths have historically increased the relative frequency of their genes and disproportionately spread their influence, contributing to, as well as exploiting – in mutually reinforcing fashion – the particular, increasingly vulnerable and hazardous shape and structure of modern civilization’s hierarchical institutions
  • Evolutionary perspectives on whether psychopaths, lacking traits so basic to - and crucial to the long-term survival of - humanity as conscience and empathy and exhibiting fundamentally abnormal perceptual and emotional responses, are human beings with defects or a valuable alternative life strategy or perhaps predators or a subspecies branching off from other humans
  • The biological basis of psychopathy, including its genetics and the neurological characteristics of brain structure and function – sometimes akin to those seen in patients with brain injuries – associated with the condition
  • An exploration of:
    • How, given that psychopathy and related disorders demand specialized, often counterintuitive approaches, we might try to effectively reduce and promote recovery from their detrimental impact on many levels and through the generations
    • The progress already being made in and resources increasingly available to support these endeavors
    • The ethical dilemmas, controversy and resistance raised by such considerations

PONEROLOGY

This is perhaps the single most important page I’ve written and is the page that best synthesizes the ideas covered in the group of pages as a whole.

It covers:

  • Many profound questions regarding the nature and origins of various forms of harm in our world, including about:
    • The existence, definition, sources, factors enabling and consequences of evil
    • The role of evil in our world’s harm
    • What our strategic response to harm and evil in our world should optimally be
  • Why many remain entrenched in certain common or traditional perspectives on these questions, despite such perspectives’ perpetual failure to adequately address them, and too rarely consider - or even outright avoid - provocative modern viewpoints
  • Why it is so crucial, at this point in our evolution and history and in the progression of our social structures and technologies – at which a race is ongoing between those intent on applying science and its fruits in ways that increase vs. reduce suffering - that we take the enormously meaningful step of investing in the establishment of a modern, innovative and integrative discipline, devoted to studying evil from a scientific perspective, that would:
    • Apply our most up to date knowledge and tools in seeking to better understand this timeless topic
    • Develop means of communicating more precisely, objectively and technically about the relevant issues
  • What ponerology is, the basic story of Andrew M. Lobaczewski and his creation of Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes, and how I discovered them
  • A general overview of Political Ponerology and Lobaczewski’s theories – developed through his participation in secret scientific investigations, spurred by the rise of oppressive governments in mid-20th century Europe, into the roots of harmful behavior – which are conveyed in it, regarding the dynamics of:
    • Evil
    • The historically repeating cyclic process by which evil arises – known as ponerogenesis – and falls in interconnecting fashion on all levels of human systems
    • The state in which evil culminates, pathocracy
  • Efforts to break out of the ponerogenic cycle and develop logocracies - human systems specifically equipped to resist pathocracy and, thus, capable of sustainably supporting health and future evolution
  • An overview of the implications – in terms of responsibilities, opportunities, priorities and strategy – that Lobaczewski’s ideas, if correct, would have for study, work and other activity in many disciplines, areas and sectors of society upon which we rely to maintain systems’ health even in the presence of evil
  • Other works that, in examining the topic of harm in our world from an objective scientific perspective, relate to ponerology, thus complementing Lobaczewski’s work and often, by providing further evidence supportive of his particular theories, corroborating it
  • The importance of and measures likely involved in more solidly establishing and promoting the discipline of ponerology, the various forces and categories of people that may support and oppose attempts to do so and the potentially beneficial contributions that the field could make to our future

PATHOCRACY

This page covers:

  • A recap of how I discovered ponerology and Political Ponerology
  • A review of the story of Andrew M. Lobzczewski, his initiation into covert studies of the causes and dynamics of corrupt oppressive government and his creation and publication of Political Ponerology
  • A brief review of what ponerology is and the various questions about evil that it seeks, from a scientific perspective, to address
  • Pathocracy - the phenomenon that Lobaczewski calls “the great disease,” which is likely the most damaging manifestation of evil and is the concept at the heart of not only Political Ponerology, but Lobaczewski’s notion of ponerology as a whole - including:
    • What pathocracy is and the background information required to understand it
    • A detailed overview of the similar multi-stage processes, analogous to those associated with certain common physical diseases, by which pathocracies - in a cyclic historical pattern - arise, function, maliciously inflict often unrecognized or denied consequences and self-destruct, all the while mutually reinforcing each other at all levels of human systems
    • Works that, in addition to Political Ponerology, also touch directly on the subject of pathocracy and its workings at different combinations of system levels
    • The factors, dynamics, manipulative tactics and methods of control involved in diminishing systems’ resistance against ponerogenesis and, thus, rendering them vulnerable to pathocracy
    • Pathocracies’ demographic makeup, deceptive nature and activities, exploitation of ideology, religion and war and suppression and abuse of science, especially in the areas of psychology and psychiatry
    • The often traumatic experience of life under the influence of pathocracies and the mechanisms and players involved in recovery from it
    • My personal responses to learning about pathocracy, including how it related with and helped to more clearly explain various concepts and phenomena in the world that I had previously recognized and experienced
    • How pathocracy may have played a role in the rise, dysfunction and unsustainability of civilization itself
    • The case for pathocracy’s reality, significant frequency and substantial – and possibly increasing – degree of detrimental impact
    • The case for greater scientific investigation - building upon that of Lobaczewski and his colleagues and ideally facilitated and supported by a flourishing field of ponerology - into these and many other aspects of pathocracy, including how to improve our capacity to detect its signs and symptoms at various stages in its progression and how to optimally prevent, reduce or respond to it
    • The extensive implications that pathocracy, if real and consequential, would have for:
      • Our understanding of the world
      • Our responsibilities, opportunities, priorities and strategy in disciplines and areas of activity ranging from:
        • How we categorize people, groups and ideologies to…
        • How we communicate to…
        • The philosophies and methodologies that we employ as we engage in therapy, activism and reform to…
        • Religion and religious communities, which relate with such complexity with pathocracy
  • How people of conscience, by bravely coming together to support a number of particular suggested and deliberately conceived actions, can galvanize efforts to:
    • Constructively work through resistance posed by a variety of people and groups motivated by a range of concerns and forces, both conscious and unconscious, well-intended and malicious
    • Elevate the status of the field of ponerology
    • Complement insufficiently protective, often misguided and sometimes ages-old traditional and instinctive mindsets and reactions with effective pragmatic approaches that are:
      • Based on continuously enhanced, modern ponerologic insight and psychological and scientific wisdom
      • Focused on leverage points
    • Ultimately foster healing and the emergence of new forms of human systems that are:
      • Fortified by critical thinking
      • Abundant in adaptive mechanisms that maintain them sufficiently immune to the development of pathocracy
      • Capable of sustaining an optimal coexistence in which their members can experience their best possible life together for generations to come

REVIEW OF POLITICAL PONEROLOGY:
A SCIENCE ON THE NATURE OF EVIL
ADJUSTED FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES

A page extensively reviewing the book that is boldly declared by its editors to be the most important that you’ll ever read and that may well have proven to be just that for me.

This page offers the most detailed account of:

  • My experience and thoughts as I discovered, perused, re-discovered and then more fully read Political Ponerology
  • Andrew M. Lobaczewski’s life, participation in secret investigations of government oppression and the sacrifices made as he struggled to finally publish a book that would bring the lessons learned in those investigations to light
  • Political Ponerology’s compelling message and highly technical, in-depth descriptions - often invoking the language of and analogies to medical and physical phenomena - of:
    • The most important division within humanity
    • The process of ponerogenesis
    • How ponerogenesis - as it progresses through various stages and reaches its culmination in pathocracies that eventually meet their downfall - drives much of the destruction and harm perpetually emanating from human systems on all levels
    • How pathocracies in different guises, each adapted to its particular context, have emerged throughout history
    • Why we so often fail to adequately recognize or account for these ponerologic events and how our resulting ineffective responses enable further exploitation and harm to occur
  • How a more objective, scientific, pragmatic approach, complementing traditional approaches, can lead us to:
    • Preempt or metabolize resistance on the part of some
    • Develop more effective, advanced and ingenious solutions and strategies, tailored precisely for the tasks of breaking - as well as immunizing systems against - ponerogenic cycles themselves
    • Transform a world characterized by increasingly potent ponerologic threats, which underlie much of its injustice, to one full of sustainable, creatively constructive, sufficiently pathocracy-resistant human systems supportive of continued evolution

This page also offers a point-by-point overview of the many other subjects covered in Political Ponerology related to:

  • The various forms of psychopathology relevant to ponerology and their impact in the world
  • The factors that render a system more vulnerable to ponerogenesis and the potential to evaluate the state of a system in regard to those factors in order to assess its level of ponerologic risk
  • The mechanisms and tactics - including the myriad forms of strategic exploitation of ideology, communication and war - involved in each of the archetypal stages of the ponerologic process in systems and through history
  • The stereotypical traumatic effects experienced when pathological people engage with these mechanisms and tactics in pursuit of their abusive goals
  • Why different people respond so very differently to encounters with the pathological
  • The makeup and workings of pathocracy
  • The complex interplay between religion and pathocracy
  • How resistance to pathocracy develops

Furthermore, the page covers:

  • Consideration, in great detail, of the implications that Lobaczewski’s work has and the measures that it calls for in a variety of sectors and areas of activity
  • How Political Ponerology’s ideas resonated with many of my previous experiences and realizations
  • Some of the concerns put forth by myself and others about the book’s suspect claims, shortcomings, imperfections in both content and style and potential to be appropriated by malicious parties in the service of undesirable ends
  • Some responses addressing those concerns and why none of them, in any case, should ultimately detract from the most important legacies of Lobaczewski and the many others who sacrificed as he did, namely:
    • Pioneering the promotion and application of ponerology
    • Laying the groundwork and advocating for a vigorous approach, based in a scientific epistemology, to studying and communicating about questions involving harm, suffering and evil – an approach which continues to spread, through the work of many researchers, authors, filmmakers and others to this day and which, in light of new developments and technologies, should continue to spread well into the future

Reading Recommendations

If you are strongly interested in this material or if you start reading and are intrigued, then I certainly hope you’ll read all of the pages. Even though, as mentioned, they - especially the pages on ponerology and pathocracy and the review of Political Ponerology - often overlap in content, still each considers the subject matter with a slightly different focus and includes a few quotes or nuggets of wisdom that struck me as compelling and that were not included in any other page. Sometimes, just reading the same idea expressed through one turn of phrase as opposed to another can bring it home more effectively. And, at the very least, exploring the material in all of these various forms will reinforce it so that it will likely be internalized better and for longer.

Once again, because the pages are long and sometimes academic, it will take some time to read them all. But, this investment of time may, throughout life, prove worthwhile and pay dividends. What these pages impart took me several decades to discover and synthesize. It has the potential, though, to shed light on countless facets of our world for many more decades than that.

And, for whatever it is worth, in the process you will also learn more about me, my interests and what inspires me.

If you decide to read all of the pages, the order in which they were introduced in the previous section is a quite reasonable one in which to do so.

I have no way of knowing how many people will wish to read all of the pages. But, I am satisfied knowing that they are all available for however many or few that is.

If you do not have the time, energy or inclination to read all of the pages, then I would suggest you read, in this order:

  • The psychopathy page, which is the most unique of the pages and…
  • The ponerology page, which is probably the most important of the group - or, for that matter, of all the pages I’ve written to date - touches on all of the main critical principles and best conveys how all of the other pages fit into the bigger picture

Together, these two pages will enlighten you regarding the basic relevant information and link you to other pages where appropriate

If you are only going to read one page, then the ponerology page is the one I would recommend.

However, of course, if any page jumps out at you most or seems most pertinent to you at this time, by all means dive in at that page. All of the pages sensibly interlink and refer to each other. So you really can profitably arrange your journey through them in any order that you choose.

What I Hope You Will Take Away from Reading These Pages

The information aggregated and shared in these pages obviously cannot and will not provide a final and complete answer as to why the world is as it is. There are influential factors that we may be unable, at this point or possibly ever, to identify or understand. Some of the ideas dealt with are, currently, insufficiently tested according to the standards of science and, therefore - since we are explicitly advocating for consideration of the forces at play in our world from a scientific perspective - must be further clarified and validated by additional research before we rely heavily upon them. And, as is always the case when engaging with science, alternative realizations may, if supported by newly revealed evidence, supplant these ideas - which simply represent the best educated guesses of which we are capable today - at any time.

What I can say with confidence - and one of the beliefs that I hope you will share with me after reading this work - is that the subjects addressed in these pages are important enough to merit persistent investigation and, despite, and sometimes precisely because of, our uncertainty, prudent responses in a variety of areas on all levels and scales. I have taken pains to make that case by providing corroborating data and examples from many referenced sources that demonstrate that:

  • There is a high likelihood that the conditions supposed to underlie much preventable and unnecessary harm are real and surprisingly common
  • The powerful positions that allow these conditions to exert significant influence are real
  • Especially when these conditions and positions interconnect, they often play central roles in the tragic abuses in our systems and may contribute to the greatest threat we face
  • These circumstances force us into difficult decisions about what to do or not to do - what measures or policies to enact or not to enact - to break out of and immunize ourselves against frustrating harmful cycles

To accelerate the conversation, I also lay out many proposals for how we might go about engaging in the investigation and responses for which the situation calls.

The picture painted in these pages isn’t always rosy. Some of the unpleasant probabilities that the material elucidates can be difficult to swallow. And even though the pages explore possible solutions to the problems they raise and there seems to be an encouraging increase in the generation and distribution of tools and resources devoted to and discussions focusing on these issues, sometimes even in unexpected places, it remains to be seen whether enough people will be willing to do what it takes to build the momentum to maturely, pragmatically and effectively address them, namely:

  • Become conscious of the presence of these issues
  • Accept what the evidence germane to the issues shows
  • Focus on the issues consistently
  • Move beyond both submission and vengefulness

A whole host of passive and active forces, in the forms of both internal defense mechanisms and external pressures, work against such desirable progress, discouraging many from even considering entire fields of relevant knowledge or valuing those who promote them. And even among those who truly care about these issues, there is a temptation to resign ourselves to only philosophizing about them. We will have to resolve many such complications in order to achieve a new milestone in our evolutionary history at which we can more consistently detect the elements and processes involved in and escape self-destructive patterns and wisely act in our own best interest.

However, in the face of these daunting challenges, I believe it is essential that we wrestle with this material and attract to it the attention necessary to arouse an awakening in the service of cultivating an environment in which:

  • Courageous scientific and critical thinking about the origins and dynamics of suffering in our world, as well as a pro-psychological attitude, are esteemed and advanced
  • We can develop social structures with the capacity to maintain these conditions and foster healthy development on a sustainable basis

And I believe that the entity that could most effectively catalyze all of this is a well-established, highly respected discipline of ponerology equipped to flourish through the generations, serving as a connection point where those knowingly and, as yet, unknowingly working on its mission - including those now unaware that such a field of study even exists - can find each other for mutual support in:

  • Seeking the truth about harm and evil in our world
  • Objectively confirming or invalidating and replacing the theories on these subjects of Lobaczewski and others
  • Promoting their findings as widely as possible

This is a campaign whose time has come. Many people, as well as non-humans, suffered and sacrificed greatly in the course of the trek that has brought us to this point - a point at which we can access more knowledge and resources to support fundamental improvements in the world than ever before. We can honor them best by responsibly applying and building on these assets.

It would be very satisfying if I could, through my life and work:

  • Contribute to stimulating, enhancing and raising the priority of the dialogue on and continued study of these issues
  • Help support the rise of ponerology at a critical point in its early history when it needs all the support it can get

Therefore, after reading these pages, I hope that – in addition to a recognition that these subjects are pressing enough to demand an investment of energy and resources in investigation and response – you will come away with an appreciation for the positions that:

  • Despite the substantial challenges to constructive movement toward health and sustainability, we should bravely engage in and expand the dialogue about the topics examined in these pages and the hard choices with which they confront us
  • We should especially invest in building and broadly promoting the field of ponerology because it can best serve as a lasting foundation for all of the efforts in these areas that are so sorely needed, championing:
    • The application of science, critical thinking and psychological insight to the tasks of understanding and addressing harm and evil
    • The study of and experimentation with the types of social structures that encourage this

While I also hope and believe that you will gain much more from them, if you take away from reading these pages a heightened and more sensitive perception, if not an intense urge to act, in regard to these matters, I will consider the work a success.

Final Thoughts on What Drove Me in Writing These Pages

So I have endeavored here to lay out a helpful introduction to these pages. And, if I have, then you will now understand why I wrote what I wrote in the pages and why I wrote them the way that I wrote them. But, perhaps, even all of this cannot sufficiently explain my motivation. And, if that is the case, then I may simply have to explain it in words that many who write will understand:

I just had to.

I felt compelled to do it and it just emerged and everything around me continuously reinforced its doing so.

Perhaps work like this ultimately springs from the unconscious and, thus, we cannot always know the reasons why all things flow out as they do at the time of the flowing. Sometimes those reasons are revealed to us later, either on our own or through interaction with others. Other times, we never do discover exactly why. And sometimes the reasons only come to light many years later, quite possibly long after we’re gone.

Foster the Dialogue: Join in with Comments and Discussion

Although, as emphasized, I have earnestly attempted, in the pages, to explore the relevant issues as comprehensively as possible, there is of course, no chance that I could have become aware of, much less touched on, every subject related to or perspective on them or foreseen and preemptively addressed all of the responses that they may inspire in various people.

I am eager to learn what others believe, feel, think or know about these matters, as well as what, if anything, unfolds in connection with them.

The pages themselves are static and offer no space to leave comments. But questions, thoughts and stories concerning, in any way, the material covered in the pages can be left here in the comments section of this introduction page, in which I would like to see a fruitful discussion - of the very kind for which these pages so often call - emerge.

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    40 Responses to “Four Pages Regarding a Biological Basis of Evil: Introducing My Most Important Work to Date”

    1. Earon Davis Says:

      Howard, I read through your opening page, here. My thought is that we each are on our own journeys, which may have very similar content and intent. However, because of the huge volume of ideas and sources out there, it is unlikely that any of us will come up with exactly the same combinations of perceptions, thoughts and ideas. This is why we are not coalescing around any particular ideas/thoughts even though we have so much common ground (e.g., Daniel Quinn’s work and others).

      My own personal journey in systems thinking may differ from yours in that I see observer bias as our primary, insurmountable obstacle to rationality. Humans, to me, are not rational beings, but rather rationalizing primates, justifying whatever we think or feel in terms that appear rational but are not. The more complex the idea, the less rational it is, in my perspective. Hence, I see thinking processes, including systems thinking, to be like a Chinese finger puzzle; the more we struggle, the deeper we become enmeshed with the absurd.

      Systems thinking is an illusion, to me, because our species does not process information systematically or linearly. Attempts to map out reality and delineate the systems of our world are futile until we understand the biases in our thinking processes, which will not happen, because our processes are dynamic and complex, encoded with countless memes of the present, past and future. The more we learn, the more complex the considerations become and convoluted the whole becomes.

      So, I see that your journey has taken you into some very complex concepts and paths, and that these are fruitful, but perhaps not more fruitful than the journeys of many other people. I respect you and your efforts. Your clarity and earnestness are heartwarming. Your journey is perfect for you, and I think you ideas will contribute to many other people.

      Personally, if there is one concept that I’d add, one book to consider, it is “The Prince of Evolution” by Dugatkin about the work and life of Russian Prince Peter Kropotkin — one of the world’s first international celebrities. He promotes the idea that what Darwin meant by natural selection within and among species was that all life survives through mutual aid rather than competition. We survive despite competition rather than because of it. The real difference is when members of any species help each other.

      Of course, if this is true, then our current cultural obsessions with competition and achievement, entrepreneurialism and greed will get in the way of our survival. Perhaps that qualifies as “evil,” but I suppose that concepts such as good and evil are merely points inside a Chinese finger puzzle. As Candide declared, we must cultivate our gardens.

    2. SystemsThinker Says:

      Earon,

      You’re right that our different journeys lead to a huge volume of ideas which leads to scattered goals and disparate strategies. However, that is not necessarily a great thing always. This is where systems thinking comes in. It teaches us that there are leverage points in systems and if you are not aiming at leverage points, you are, by definition, working ineffectively and often even contributing to exactly the problems you are trying to solve.

      I think that you are correct that in dealing with highly existential issues, things get quite muddled and unclear. Systems thinking is unlikely, at any point soon, to tell us exactly what is going on in terms of ultimate reality. But my point in these pages is to argue that many of the problems we are dealing with, which involve enormous suffering and which we tend to frame as existential issues are not that at all. They are likely symptoms of specific psychopathologies - in other words, medical issues at their core. We should be studying whether this is the case. And we have plenty of models of us making worthwhile progress in addressing specific medical pathologies once we understand their nature and their processes. Believe me, I’m not saying we are perfect in that or even close. But we can do a lot better in dealing with the sequelae of psychopathologies than we are doing. At present, we’re doing so poorly we don’t even accurately identify them as what they are and chalk them up to things like devils.

      I think you are a more subjective thinker than me from what you’re saying. It is easy to say “systems thinking is an illusion,” but when your child has leukemia and, by focusing on leverage points in the process that we have identified, that child’s life is saved, I think that is an argument for the other side. I agree that metaphysically we don’t really know what’s going on here. But I disagree that because of this we can’t make our best educated guesses and do some very worthwhile things when we take wise approaches. To me it is a copout to say “Since we don’t know the ultimate nature of all reality, we are not going to use our wisest approaches to try to improve health and sustainability.”

      I’m familiar with Kropotkin and his ideas on mutual aid. They are important and they show that humans depend on cooperation for survival and it has played an enormous role in evolution. If you read the psychopathy page, you’ll see that I have an entire section on evolutionary theories about the psychopath where I make the same point. The whole issue, however, is that psychopaths do NOT have this bent toward cooperation. They have a bent to prey on those who value it. As such, they raise enormous questions and create major implications for evolution. And addressing those kinds of questions and implications is what these pages are all about.

      Our current value system, which often clashes with cooperation, as you point out, may indeed get in the way of survival. But what I’m asking in these pages is “How does a species that depends on cooperation end up in a culture like this in the first place?” And that is indeed a question that systems thinking may have much to say about.

      I’ve long said that on the highest metaphysical level, we do not, and may never, know what’s going on. But I also say that does not excuse us from doing our best ethically and strategically with what information we can attain.

      As for evil, as I point out, it would be helpful to define evil in an objective way for the purpose of studying it scientifically. That doesn’t mean it has to be an accurate metaphysical description. And if the word evil remains too subjective, then there are plenty of substitutes. We already study traits such as Machiavellianism, narcissism, aggression and so on. Objectively defining evil for the purpose of study would be helpful. But if that idea trips you up, it can be routed around.

    3. Earon Davis Says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful (as always) response, Howard. I agree that we are not free to stop trying to improve our lives. I think that we all switch from generalist to specialist and back and forth because this is how our lives operate and find balance.

      As for a child with leukemia, medical systems thinking has drastically changed over the past few decades. It will continue to change. There is no static “truth,” which makes systems thinking akin to “intelligence.” It is constantly changing. Regarding any given disease, a commonplace treatment 40 years ago may now be considered incompetent/malpractice.

      My concern with systems thinking is that fascism is systems thinking. In the duality of holism vs. reductionism, getting stuck in one or the other is a problem that generates huge amounts of trauma and victimization, which begets . . . you guessed it . . . sociopathy. So, I advocate transcending “systems thinking” in to complex adaptive systems thinking, but in a way that considers that our very perception and definition of systems is subjective - not objective, that systems are changed by defining them and that observers are primates, not logical beings.

      So, in a way, I admit to being more subjective, but my path in accepting my/our subjectivity makes greater objectivity possible that with any systems thinking. I oppose medicalizing sociopathy because we are primates and it will always be a percentage of people who will take advantage of the fact that others are kind and trusting.

      As for your initial sense that something is “off” with the human race, I have an entirely different take on that. What is “off” is that we think we are rational. In fact, we are primates who use symbolic thought and concepts and imagery to convince ourselves that we are important and intelligent. My actual purpose in communicating with you is that I enjoy the intricacies of intelligent thinking when done with truly altruistic, kind people. I do not believe that I/we will stumble upon a paradigm or system that explains the human condition in a way that provides a clear path for perfecting our species. I do believe that if enough people continue to gather and work on improving our world, some improvements may emerge. I’m also of the opinion that some horrible tragedies also result from attempts to change the systems. Changing systems of which we are only slightly aware is risky, with no ability to really predict the outcome in 1 year, 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years.

    4. SystemsThinker Says:

      Earon,

      I’m not sure how we’re disagreeing on some of this. In this very blog post, in the paragraph about what I hope you take away from these pages, I myself point out that science is constantly evolving and honing in on the truth. And in all of these pages, I go to great lengths to point out that the most important thing here is to continuously keep seeking the truth about where those things many term evil - but feel free instead to focus on harm and suffering if you don’t like that word - come from.

      Systems thinking is simply a method, just as science itself is. They can both be used to help improve systems for people and other creatures or in ways harmful to them. I also make that point at great length in all of these pages. The entire point of this group of pages is to lay out specific approaches focused on developing cooperation, health and peace in a world where there is a fight over the use of science for help vs. harm.

      However, beyond any of this I feel like you’re missing the point of these pages. They are not arguments for systems thinking primarily in any general sense. In fact, I only mention systems thinking a handful of times. They are about the need to study psychopathology and its influence objectively - by which I mean NOT just accepting supernatural explanations, theological explanations or accepting that since we can’t know everything we should just resign ourselves to whatever harm comes our way. Do you oppose such study?

      When you say you oppose “medicalizing” sociopathy, I don’t see that as a choice to be made so much as simply a statement that is, by definition, true or false. When I say psychopathy (let’s be clear, sociopathy is slightly different as I explain on the psychopathy page) is a medical issue, I mean that it involves genetic and anatomical components that research is increasingly showing to be deeply embedded. The anatomical aspects, in many cases, look very similar to what we see in brain injuries. I link to much of that research and other sources that discuss that issue in the psychopathy page as well. So it isn’t up to us to debate if psychopathy is a medical issue. It either is or it isn’t and the research should inform that.

      I didn’t say something is “off” with the human race. I said I felt something “off” with our modern world and how it functions.

      I appreciate your views here. But I’m not sure you’re really zeroing in on the points I’m aiming at in these pages. In fact, I’m not sure if you’ve even read the pages. This blog post is only an introduction to the four other pages. The other pages are the main content. Just clarifying that in case there was any misunderstanding.

    5. Richard William Posner Says:

      Interesting conversation. A comparative analysis of science and philosophy.

      From what I have learned thus far, I’ve tentatively concluded that a point of some importance is to establish a clear differentiation between psychopathy and the various “personality disorders”; the former being a physical, genetic or biological condition while the latter seem more to stem from environmental and associative causes.

      It seems quite probable, to me at least, that in most, if not all, instances, such conditions as Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder are a direct result of contact and interaction with psychopaths or the harmful systems and hierarchies they have managed to bring into being.

      Focusing upon the prophylaxis of ponerogenesis and the consequent development of pathocracies would, as a happy byproduct, eventually result in a tremendous reduction of manifold, less dangerous, however widespread, neuroses.

      Tomorrow I will continue with the reading of Pathocracy.

    6. SystemsThinker Says:

      Richard,

      The distinctions between psychopathy and the various relevant personality disorders and other conditions are important. And, as you’ll read about in the ponerology page, Lobaczewski postulated that the various conditions play different complementary roles at various stages in the overall genesis of pathocracies. Part of ponerology’s mission should be to study the mechanisms of ponerogenesis in order to determine how these conditions interact and whether they do so as Lobaczewski proposed or in some other way within that process.

    7. Richard William Posner Says:

      Thinking of the roles played by such utterly negative conditions as “complementary”, even though completely accurate, seems very ironic; almost a non sequitur.

      I have prioritised the reading of your four pages ahead of completing Political Ponerology, which is even more clinical or academic in style. I had planned on several readings but I’m hopeful that reading your evaluations first will provide enough preparation to reduce the number of times I’ll need to read Lobaczewski.

      Today is Thursday. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I certainly should be able to get through the four pages by Monday.

    8. SystemsThinker Says:

      Richard,

      Well we have to keep in mind that, while we may deem ponerogenesis “negative,” some of the people involved in it view it as the greatest thing that could possibly be achieved. So from that standpoint, the conditions complement each other in the process. Also let’s not let the fact that “complementary” sounds like “complimentary” lead to any subtle notion that the former in any way implies something desirable or pleasant.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my work. I appreciate it.

    9. Richard William Posner Says:

      Don’t misunderstand Howard. I didn’t intend to suggest that the word was used incorrectly. I was merely waxing philosophical, which I am oft wont to do.

      Complementary, to my way of thinking, implies symbiosis, which, in most cases, I consider a positive and very often elegant solution to the problems of survival. It simply makes sense. It’s so utilitarian and conservative and all the players win.

      I’ve even caught myself musing about the possibility of a completely symbiotic world utterly devoid of predators and carnivores. A world of only plants and herbivores.

      Consuming part of a plant usually does not kill it and in fact helps spread seeds throughout the environment. Plant eaters, without predation to worry about, would soon develop a breeding cycle in balance with the available food supply.

      A balance would be struck between the pollination cycle of the plants, and the natural lifespan of the herbivores, whose digestive process and ultimate death, of natural causes, would return valuable nutrients to the soil.

      Each life form would provide sustenance for the other without the necessity of killing to obtain it.

      A serene and harmonious cycle of Life.

      I digress. A topic for discussion at another time.

    10. SystemsThinker Says:

      Richard,

      Organisms can be symbiotic with each other, yet destructive to parties not involved in their symbiosis. Symbiosis describes a mutually beneficial relationship between certain entities. It doesn’t necessarily imply any beneficial effects of that relationship on others.

      As for the possibility of a completely symbiotic world without predators and carnivores, well I think that is unlikely as these organisms pursue some very successful evolutionary strategies. In a cooperative system, there would seem to always be an incentive for a deceptive predator to spring up (as well as for co-evolving detection capabilities to develop in other organisms.) I discuss the dynamics of this deception-detection race in the writings. They are key to any strategy to respond to ponerogenesis.

      Utopian fantasy is fun and interesting. And it has its place. But I don’t think it will do us much good given the current situation. And in these writings, I hope to encourage a very pragmatic and objective approach.

    11. Richard William Posner Says:

      Then you should be forewarned that I am an unapologetic Utopian.

    12. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nothing wrong with being a Utopian if, by that, you mean you long for an ideal society. But if that longing keeps you from considering pragmatic responses to the world as it is, that becomes a problem. I hope my writing (and Lobaczewski’s) makes that point.

      Many people focus on Lobaczewski’s description of power structures and how they generate harm. But they often overlook the fact that he is very explicitly encouraging an objective, scientific approach to this material to replace mythology, theology and fantasy. In fact, he goes to great lengths to point out that these latter types of approaches end up counterintuitively helping to enable ponerogenesis. They are the very styles of thinking in which, in his view, pathocrats would wish us to engage as it makes their jobs far easier.

    13. Richard William Posner Says:

      As far as I am concerned, the only possible way to ever realise a Utopian reality is through the application of the scientific method.

    14. SystemsThinker Says:

      Richard,

      Wait until you read about Lobaczewski’s concept of a logocracy and see what you think of it.

    15. Richard William Posner Says:

      After reading the Psychopathy page I feel a certain heightened sense of validation. I first felt this when I stumbled upon Lobaczewski.

      All the bizarre ideas I had entertained and my speculations regarding a real, physical, identifiable cause for the incredible ruthlessness and lack of conscience in some people, which in turn led to all the needles suffering and death in the world, turned out to have some basis in science.

      Now that feeling, almost of relief, is raised to another level. It’s a sense of vindication.

      I like the Kunlangeta story. This relates directly to the archaeological data from Gobekli Tepe. It was not until people abandoned a nomadic or hunter/gatherer lifestyle that the psychopath was able to establish a foothold. It is my contention it was the machinations of psychopathic elements that brought about this fundamental societal change.

    16. Richard William Posner Says:

      Addendum: It’s encouraging to know that so many people from varied disciplines are becoming aware of the concept of ponerology and how critical it is to contain and neutralise the psychopathic element.

    17. Richard William Posner Says:

      First comment on the Ponerology page.

      A logocracy may be fraught with as many dangers as systems “shaped by our evolutionary heritage”.

      In my opinion, one of the earliest and most fundamental evils initiated by the first of the successful pathocrats was to instil and foster, through the vehicle of a proto-religion, the idea that humans are somehow superior to all other Life and therefore exempt from the laws of Nature.

      Great care must be taken to ensure that the logocracy is always planned and executed in a manner that works in concert with Nature. No matter how logical, rational and pragmatic it may seem at any given time to alter, by force, the natural order, doing so will ultimately result in disaster.

      The lines between adapting to an environment and forcefully modifying it to suit the dynamic and transient desires of humanity can become very blurry and difficult to perceive. This is especially the case when circumstances apparently make haste requisite.

      Evolution is an adaptive process, which is self-correcting. Any effort to fundamentally alter that process will set in motion a cascade of events, more powerful than the technological interventions that caused them, which will seek to restore a natural balance. Technological efforts to thwart such self-corrections will only exacerbate the problem leading to even worse negative consequences.

      I think our behaviour in this regard has led to a halt in our evolution. While we have experienced exponential “progress” in technology, our social, moral and philosophical condition has changed very little since we moved from hunting and gathering to sedentary farming.

      When we chose to forcibly alter our world instead of adapting to it, we began the creation of an environment that is not suitable for Life.

      I can conceive of only one scenario in which such an approach could be considered “successful”.

      This would involve a technocracy in which technology was so advanced that it enabled the transformation of the entire planet into a completely artificial environment in which no Life other than human would exist. Think of Earth being turned into something like the Starship Enterprise or any of the other “Federation” vessels from the iconic Star Trek series.

    18. Richard William Posner Says:

      Second comment on Ponerology page;

      If I attempt to reduce all this to the simplest, most fundamental level possible I am forced to conclude that anything short of the complete extirpation of psychopathy from the human genome would always leave the species vulnerable to attack.

      The most stringent prophylaxis may leave sufficient opportunity for the pathological to evade detection; even to the point of becoming respected members of the mental health field, from which position the slow and steady erosion of anti-ponerogenic safeguards could be initiated.

      The pathological have shown they are nothing if not relentless. They seem to possess an incredible degree of patience, which actually persists through many generations. So committed are they to the dystopian vision of “their” world that they have maintained this parasitic network for several millennia.

      As you yourself have noted;
      “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
      Henry David Thoreau in Walden

      Unless the root is utterly destroyed, the weed will always grow again.

      My apologies if this seems absolutist or even cruel. I have come to think of the pathological as something other than human. They have, for me, taken on the character more of a cancer or non-symbiotic parasite.

      If I find myself afflicted with such a condition, it is my conclusion that there is no middle ground; I may either attempt to live with it and thereby surrender to my fate or take every effort to completely eliminate that which seeks my demise.

      The very nature of the pathological is, in my opinion, anti-Life.

      I realise I have stepped upon an extremely “slippery slope”. It is this sort of thinking that has attempted to provide justification for such things as “ethnic cleansing”. I am indeed extremely torn by my current conviction but, on behalf of the human species and even Life itself, I cannot escape the instinct for the simple necessity of self-defence.

    19. Richard William Posner Says:

      Comment #3;

      “…use the aftermath of ponerologic catastrophes as teachable moments for exposing the underlying psychopathology and pathological tactics involved.”

      As I see it, at this point, the extremely advanced state of pathocracy, now dominating the entire human species, has reached a critical stage. The pathological have, for the first time in history, attained global dominance and are upon the verge of realising their dystopian vision of a “perfect world”.

      I see little if any chance of successful scientific intervention given the time factor. The rapid convergence of manifold crises, resulting from widespread ponerogenisis, has gained too much momentum.

      We are at the end of another cycle of pathocracy, which will run its course to the anticipated conclusion. The best those of us who are able can do is to prepare for what comes after the collapse of the current system. In my opinion, that collapse is now inevitable.

      If enough data can be kept intact and enough members of the mental health field are able to maintain a functioning base, then, as Lobaczewski suggests, the aftermath of the disaster may provide an opportunity to make meaningful and rapid progress.

      What makes this entire scenario unique is that, for the first time in history, this pathocratic cycle is genuinely global in nature.

    20. SystemsThinker Says:

      Richard,

      The idea of humans being separate from, rather than interdependent with, the rest of nature is central. When I showed this work to Daniel Quinn - who makes that issue central in his work, as you’ll see when you read Ishmael - he also reminded me to not lose sight of it. And I don’t think that I do.

      In the writing, I think I, at least to some extent, link the fact that this superior attitude continues to spread with the influence of pathocracy. They are intertwined, I believe.

      In my view, logocracy must also be sustainable ecologically. But this is impossible until we manage the pathological influences that keep us from even acknowledging or paying adequate attention to those challenges.

      So we agree, ecological sustainability must be paramount. But attempts to achieve that, at present, seem to me doomed until we first address the leverage point of managing pathological influence which remains an almost insurmountable roadblock to even opening up a meaningful discussion on a wider basis.

      As for your comment on the imbalance of our technological progress and our moral development, that’s why I mention in the writing the Einstein quote that “our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

      I highly doubt we are going to extirpate psychopathy. Even if we did, there are brain injuries that mimic many of the symptoms. Moreover, psychopathy has long existed within humanity, which was the point of the kunlangeta story. It has been possible to coexist and, in fact, most human societies did. What was different was that the social structures had ways of keeping such people from gaining too much influence.

      You are right that the detection-deception race will continue. I don’t see how it can be otherwise. The problem is that, at present, the detection is barely even being addressed. There are no safeguards specifically aimed at preventing those without conscience from achieving power and influence. It would be a remarkable step forward to somehow address even this.

      “Unless the root is utterly destroyed, the weed will always grow again.”

      Even if destroying the root in this case was feasible, the ethical questions are enormous. However, again, many cultures managed to contain those “weeds” without being taken over by them. Could this be accomplished today? It is a question worth debating.

      I know you’re not alone at all in being resigned to a collapse of some sort. And I know that you are not alone in your overall view on the subject. What I hope happens is that a public debate on these issues is opened up. I don’t claim to have the answers. But what bothers me is that the issue is not even being given adequate attention. And to simply ignore it or have people reading about it in a sensationalistic way and then going right back to life as usual or constantly focusing on symptoms while the pathological leverage points fail to come to consciousness are some of the more unethical and ineffective responses we can take.

    21. Richard William Posner Says:

      The story of the Kunlangeta demonstrates the only social structure I can imagine that can practically deal with the emergence of the pathological.

      I consider it quite possible to maintain a highly advanced, technological society without the need for massive, centralised hierarchical institutions. This is especially true if the level of instantaneous electronic communication available now continues to advance, is protected from censorship and made easily accessible to everyone.

      Knowledge is power.

      Communities could be both small and autonomous while still interconnected. This would make it possible for everyone to share in process of progress, both technological and cultural, while only interacting directly with groups that were small and intimate enough to allow for easy and early identification of the pathological.

      I feel that decentralisation is crucial if the human species is to continue to evolve into a long and prosperous future. After all, the concept of the “city”, a fixed location with a static but growing population, which promoted the development of hierarchies, was probably the earliest successful manipulation of the pathological; the first step on the path to millennia of ponerogenesis.

      As I said in my essay; “To become a successful sheep herder one must first acquire a flock of sheep.”

      I have always felt that our species is uniquely qualified to be the guardian of Life and the steward of the environment, not the killer and destroyer we have become.

      The most significant thing I ever gleaned from the experience of “christmas”, was hearing and identifying with the phrase, “Peace on Earth”. Everything else about that “holiday” always struck me as superficial. It became my deepest desire to see those three words become a reality during my Life.

    22. SystemsThinker Says:

      Richard,

      I appreciate you taking the time to think so much about what I’ve written and leave your thoughts. They are all valuable and part of the debate I’d like to see emerge more widely.

      I think that, sadly, we aren’t even at the point yet, as a system, where we are ready to debate solutions. We are still failing to even recognize and study the problem. So that’s why, at the current time, I think the most important step is simply promoting ponerology itself. If the field became more established, it would create a foothold for all of the scattered people starting to become interested in these topics.

      Once that happened, then hopefully we’d be in a better position to debate specific next steps. Unfortunately, right now, denial, ignorance, distraction and mistaking symptoms for causes is rampant.

      So it is my hope that ponerology becomes more established and that, furthermore, it does so as a serious scientific field, rather than being taken over by non-scientific new age thinkers or conspiracy theorists that make assertions without valid and reliable testing.

    23. Richard William Posner Says:

      All the pathological machinations and manipulations you enumerate and explain are presently in play, all over the world, to an overwhelming extent.

      The indoctrination of the vast majority of humanity has been so successful that willful ignorance has become the new intellectualism. Such is especially the case in the “first world” countries. This largely explains why so many cannot focus upon something that seems far-fetched and esoteric to them. Thus they have been “trained”.

      They are much too deeply engrossed in decisions about what show to watch, which team to cheer for, what the latest fashions are, which “superstar” to idolise and which pathological “candidate” to vote for.

      They are too distracted by the horror of gay marriage, how they’re going to pay off their 25 credit cards, where the money for the next mortgage payment will come from and “illegal aliens” stealing all their jobs.

      These and a plethora of other fabricated wedge issues produce precisely the desired result. They prevent people from paying attention to what’s actually going on.

      It’s not my intention to be defeatist or play devil’s advocate. It seems to me, attempting to be pragmatic, that this round goes to the pathological. But, as is always the case, in winning the battle, they bring themselves that much closer to losing the war.

      As you have noted, when pathocracies become too “successful”, the “Peter Principle” kicks in. Individuals utterly unqualified begin filling all positions of importance to the functioning of the system, which consequently collapses leaving the pathological once again on the outside looking in.

      What we must do this time is make sure they remain there.

      Rather than expend precious resources and effort on attempting to halt this cycle, an exercise in futility, I feel it makes more sense to spend this time building a solid foundation from which to launch a well prepared and highly aggressive counter-offensive to overwhelm the pathological at their weakest moment; after they have once again self-destructed.

      We must make sure not to become complacent again when things begin to “improve”. That is the time, when people are thinking once more, to embark on a massive, well coordinated and highly focused mission to awaken, educate and unify “normals” before the pathological have an opportunity to begin the process of ponerogenesis again.

    24. SystemsThinker Says:

      Richard,

      It would seem to me that, even given your perspective, the best thing we can possibly do is establish the field of ponerology and give it a firm scientific footing. Either people would be intrigued by its work and start paying attention sooner or, if your scenario played out, it would give the best chance of being ready to educate people when they are ready to pay attention.

      So again, I return to the same first step: strongly establish ponerology as a credible, respected, scientific discipline.

    25. Richard William Posner Says:

      Howard,

      I don’t disagree. I think it would be extremely beneficial, actually it’s essential, vital, to have ponerology very well established. To achieve this it will be necessary to form a large, solid and secure network across the mental health field, the medical community in general and as much of the scientific community as possible.

      The key word above is secure. Given the extremely entrenched state of the pathocracy that now holds sway worldwide, combined with the advanced technology it has at its disposal, whosoever would seek to confront its evil scientifically will face obstacles potentially far worse than those Lobaczewski and his colleagues encountered.

      If such a network, working openly, begins to intrigue people, to get their attention, make real progress and become a genuine threat to the pathocracy, no effort will be spared to discredit, disband, undermine and destroy it. We are dealing with the largest, most powerful and deeply entrenched pathocracy in history.

      I think it would be wise to keep this movement “underground” until such time as people are “ready to pay attention”. That is to say, after the cycle has played out and the pathological have lost their grip upon society and the minds of the people.

      It will require the talents of individuals, highly skilled at recognising the pathological, to recruit teams of professionals from mental health and the other fields. The network would be fatally compromised if it were infiltrated in its early stages by members or servants of the pathocracy.

      At the moment when the pathological are at their weakest and the minds of the people their most receptive, a properly prepared, well organised educational program, launched simultaneously across the widest possible demographic would have the greatest chance to create a wall of awareness around the normals. Adequate defences could be in place before the next wave of ponerogenesis could swell into a tsunami of another pathocracy.

      As distasteful as it may be, it is a simple matter of fact; this is a war. It is not as if the pathological are humbly seeking a cure for their disease and will happily roll up their sleeves to facilitate a mass inoculation.

    26. Pat Says:

      Only a person with a social conscience would invent such a page and discuss the topic herein. The world is in danger of normalizing absence of social conscience so that it can reward exploitation of the vulnerability of others. That’s as close to evil as most humans are capable of doing. There is no glorification of mankind in the ability to do it, nor in the tolerance of others to ignore it, look the other way, or turn their backs upon those so endangered.

      Politically, it becomes very important for any leadership to have compassion, and social conscience so that exploitation is not considered acceptable among humans to make a dog eat dog world tolerable. For mankind is reduced to animal status, be it wolf or more likely, hyena.

      All times in history where humans have allowed themselves to become, in this manner, animalistic, like hyenas, they has not fared well, and caused untold harms to others. Doing so in the justification of business or government is no excuse; the harms are absolutely as wrongful, or worse, more wrongful because of the status of leadership.

      No one needs to be led by exploitive persons without conscience to allow the wholesale violence that permeates the atmosphere, and considered normal. This is the dimension of the Holicaust dynamics where evil was not recognized, nor acted upon, to the point of genocide. Humans must be able to recognize evil when they see it.

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    31. FannieL Says:

      Everything you have written here resonates with me, Howard.

      I am an African-American psychotherapist and writer/editor. I have had a similar internal/external journey of coming into awareness of the systems approaches you outline. I have done extensive research on sociopathy (many consider pathological narcissism and psychopathology as interchangeable terms with sociopathy).

      Power and control seem to be central issues with sociopaths, who lack an internal guidance system or refuse to access this universal source of knowledge since they seem to want to view themselves as God-like.

      M. Scott Peck, MD, author of The Road Less Traveled and others books, wrote a book called People of the Lie (1983), where he encouraged a scientific study of evil. Erich Fromm and Dr. Peck used terms like malignant narcissism to describe evil.

      Peck’s work on the psychology of evil said that People of the Lie deliberately deceive others and also build layer upon layer of self-deception. This characteristic of those who can be deemed evil is not the same as us average sinners who make mistakes and must learn to live with our imperfections. “Lies confuse,” Peck wrote, indicating that it is those directly affected by evil people – whether relative, spouse, friend, co-worker, etc. — who suffer the most.

      “Evil is in opposition to life. Evil is also that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life – particularly human life – such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without destroying the body. Thus we may “break” a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head.” - M. Scott Peck, M.D.

      People of color across the globe have experienced upclose the reality of psychopathology as enforced through the false ideology of white supremacy. Part of the problem in society is when some groups are presumed to be superior, they do not want to “hear” the legitimate contributions from others who have suffered from being deemed “inferior.”

      Systems of superiority/inferiority are imposed delusions and not sustainable for humanity. They contribute to tremendous suffering and mental health problems for both those who want to believe they are inherently superior and those who are put in categories of the supposed inferior. As a result, society does not benefit from the contributions of diverse people who can add their voices to this very important discussion.

      While many white scholars, philosophers, sociologists and psychologists have played crucial roles in our understanding of humanity, a small group of so-called experts have advanced theories about good and evil that essentially amount to scientific racism.
      This framework based on race and racism, and people designated as experts to lead conversations on a variety of related issues impacting humanity, have been highly destructive. Yet scientific racism has been historically publicized as if based in truth due to political agendas to promote white supremacy, IMO.

      Due to the lack of competence of scientists who promoted racist agendas, all of us have been led astray on many different levels, by allowing external factors about human beings to determine how we view people.

      Psychopaths/sociopaths benefit from these divisions — whether they are based on race, gender, socioeconomic or other factors used to determine the “worth” of human beings. This makes it possible to take focus off of those who are truly evil — those without conscience, who lack empathy. As long as most human beings think in a lazy fashion, external factors like race and gender can be used by those who benefit most from manipulating and exploiting others. The most important characteristics to consider — matters of character and whether someone has a personality disorder — then get easily overlooked as a result.

      Society has lost much knowledge and valuable insights contributed by women of all races and “minorities” who are excluded from the mainstream as a result of the social and political hierarchies imposed on humanity.

      Many scholars of color have written extensively about the psychopathology of racism. Race is the path of lease resistance — a visible, simple and easy way to identify people, and from the privilege of racism, many actual psychopaths get to hide in plain sight because they are presumed to be normal when in fact they are among the abnormal. And they have many enablers who have been programmed to believe the illusion that color (as in race-based classification) is a defining factor in who is good or evil.

      Bottom line is that sociopathy can be found among all groups of people (in the full range of adult ages, all races and both genders), but the world in which we live uses simplistic ways to identify good and evil.

      Evil thrives from creating chaos and confusion. People have been historically defined in ways that complicate true understanding of who and what are really good and evil.

      We have tremendous challenges ahead of us in attempts to raise consciousness. We must first come to terms with the many ways in which we have been lied to, programmed and misled.

    32. SystemsThinker Says:

      Fannie, thanks for your interesting comment. You come at these ideas from a somewhat different angle than most people I’ve talked with about them so I appreciate you adding your thoughts.

      I am familiar with People of the Lie and have heard about some of its contents though I haven’t read it. I have read some of Fromm’s work.

      I think you make an important point when you mention how we can “break” someone without physically harming them. Many of the tactics pathological people use are designed to exploit the loophole that exists due to our society’s failure to adequately recognize and take seriously just how much damage emotional harm, even on its own, can do. It’s scary how many people get away with emotionally harming others repeatedly, often with the victims later being blamed for the consequences that flow from the trauma, because without a physical trace there is no way to really hold them accountable.

      As far as racism, I find it very interesting and heartening to hear that there are scholars that wrote about this topic from the perspective of psychopathology. I haven’t read those works but I’d be interested in hearing more about them. As you probably know, I agree with you that a focus on more superficial distinctions like race, gender, etc. serves to distract us from the more important distinction between (as Lobaczewski called them) the pathological and the normal. I think you made this point very well when you said:

      >The most important characteristics to consider — matters of character and whether someone has a personality disorder — then get easily overlooked as a result.

      I agree with you that systems of superiority/inferiority, whether between certain groups of people or even humanity and the rest of the ecosystem, can do great damage to those on both sides of the equation. But what makes the pathological different than the rest seems to be that, unlike the vast majority of us, they are sort of adapted to be able to participate in and encourage these sorts of structurally imbalanced systems without really experiencing much damage to themselves. Systems of superiority/inferiority are more of a natural habitat for them in which they apparently are quite comfortable, while the rest of us suffer on various levels in such circumstances.

      I have a slight mixed reaction to your comment because, on one hand, you are agreeing with me that this focus on race and gender and so on distracts us from focusing on the more important pathological/normal divide. Yet, much of your comment itself focuses on the race/gender level. I don’t think there is anything wrong with spending some energy focusing on that level as long as we never forget that it is secondary and not primary.

      What I really would like to see is these various aggrieved groups of all races, classes, gender, etc. that are working for a healthier, more sustainable system in a disconnected fashion based on identity politics to realize the common issue that empathy-reducing psychopathology represents for them and come together to pour their efforts into awareness of that leverage point issue by focusing, for example, on ponerology. Unfortunately, there are so many social and financial incentives for them to stay separated and each focused on their respective pet issues that this might be hard to accomplish. But I’d certainly like to see us try to move things in that direction as much as possible.

    33. FannieL Says:

      Howard, I see tremendous value in the extensive research and compilation of information from diverse sources that you provide on your blog. I will be sharing links to this information with various people I know who are concerned about the impact of pathology and the suffering it continues to cause in this world.

      Let me state clearly that I completely respect your intelligence, Howard. We really are on the same page, but coming at it from different angles. The angle I offer helps bridge the gap for understanding ponerology from an abstract concept to concrete awareness, and makes room for many paradoxes we must integrate in our understanding of evil, in order to fully grasp how it is manifest in reality and does tremendous damage to humanity and human lives.

      Howard, you wrote: “Many of the tactics pathological people use are designed to exploit the loophole that exists due to our society’s failure to adequately recognize and take seriously just how much damage emotional harm, even on its own, can do. It’s scary how many people get away with emotionally harming others repeatedly, often with the victims later being blamed for the consequences that flow from the trauma, because without a physical trace there is no way to really hold them accountable.”

      You are describing racism and the psychosocial and emotional toll it takes on people, not to mention the real-life impact on reducing options including quality of life indicators due to discrimination that limits and prevents people from access to various opportunities. Race is used to promote inclusion or exclusion; insider versus outsider dynamics, in terms of access to resources. Some exceptions to all rules are applicable, of course, but we are talking about how the masses of people are impacted by systems.

      No doubt individuals of all races may be affected by a pathological parent, partner or supervisor at work. But we need to distinguish between individual versus group dynamics, because it is through influencing larger populations that sociopaths are able to inflict far greater damage.

      This is where conscious and decent white people often get stuck. They really don’t understand that racism is one form of psychopathology — and a major one! So they have a hard time wrapping their mind around the fact that most people of color intuitively understand how sociopaths operate due to our experiences with racism. So we all can use this point of reference to better understand the larger concept of ponerology.

      Many whites across the globe have either been unclear about what constitutes racism, oblivious to racism when it happens, or have in some ways benefitted directly or indirectly from privileges associated with the system of racism. Some whites (as well as diverse people of color) have been complicit, often in roles as enablers to sociopaths.

      Racism is what allows sociopathic white males to be assumed as “normal” in leadership roles despite their obvious pathology. This makes it possible for them to be able to go undetected (as the pathologicals they really are), operating in plain sight. Let that sink in.

      The masses of white people don’t recognize how they have been victimized by the same white male sociopaths who have victimized people of color — the victimization just happens in different ways. Racism is a RELATIONAL DISORDER. Racism is defined on a basic level as a SYSTEM of privilege for some and victimization for the many.
      It is the equivalent of white supremacy, a false ideology that results in the imposition of propoganda, intimidation and violence in many forms to enforce the system. PSYCHOPATHOLOGY IS A RELATIONAL DISORDER — psychopaths relate to other human beings across demographic groups, as if people are objects. Let that sink in.

      If you find yourself resisting these facts, it may be an instinctive or defensive reaction to resist the reality that white people can actually learn from people of color. Racism has “programmed” many white people to not consider that people of color as a whole can be as intelligent and insightful about some matters that white people may not be as aware of. If this is hard to wrap one’s mind around, it may be indicative of some aspects of racist ideology being more ingrained than one expects within oneself.

      Let this sink: Racism is a major piece of the puzzle for grasping the reality of how psychopathology is manifested in the real world, in real life.

      Howard, you wrote: “What I really would like to see is these various aggrieved groups of all races, classes, gender, etc. that are working for a healthier, more sustainable system in a disconnected fashion based on identity politics to realize the common issue that empathy-reducing psychopathology represents for them and come together to pour their efforts into awareness of that leverage point issue by focusing, for example, on ponerology.”

      Focusing on ponerology is important, but that approach can only work with intellectuals and other deep-thinking or highly-sensitive people (HSP) whose empathy allows them to really relate to what other people who are different from them, experience.

      We have to offer concrete information and examples to the masses who are average in how they think. Racism is more concrete than ponerology. Sexism is more concrete than ponerology. Classism as a system is more concrete. But all three serve as specific ways in which ponerology can be understood. These examples help explain systems of ponerology by starting out with concrete examples and then moving toward abstract concepts to tie together all the “isms” and other forms of harm caused by pathological people.

      Howard, we really are on the same page. But you seem to have an instinctive reaction — similar to what I see among other white people — to want to downplay or diminish the true and full impact of racism and the recognition of racism as the original expression of pathology not only in American history and culture, but in some form throughout the world.

      I think decent white people as a whole have a concern about being linked with the guilty white racists who actively perpetuate racism, and there is a tendency to become defensive or to feel like one should not have to pay the price for what a small group of people in one’s race has done or continues to do.

      Let’s flip the script. I am an intelligent black woman but I have had to pay the price of being perceived and treated in certain ways despite the fact that I don’t fit most accepted stereotypes about black women. ALSO Keep in mind that black people as a whole have suffered to some extent due to MANY negative stereotypes imposed on us, regardless of how decent and empathic we may be as individuals.

      Ponerology is a new science but it defines evil as both biological and acquired pathology — RACISM is an acquired pathology for the most part, but it may also be in the DNA of some people. Until you fully accept that people cannot create pathological institutions and uphold pathological systems without having ACCESS to privilege and power within those systems, you will not accept that racism is the foundational pathology from which other pathological systems take root.

      Psychopaths are lazy — they use that which is the path of least resistance. Race is the one characteristic that can be used to achieve the greatest mileage through manipulation of the masses using ideology, group identity and associated factors (like making oppressed whites feel that they are at least “better than” those blacks and other color people). Let this sink in…

      Promoting public education and consciousness can be advanced a great deal by a lot of decent, empathic and conscious white people doing the inner work first, then starting discussions within their own communities and social/professional circles. They can say that ponerology is a problem affecting all humanity, and that racism is a major example of how ponerology/evil is mainfested in the world.

      Decent whites would need to understand two basic concepts so they can distinguish the racism within themselves from racism found among the sociopathic:

      1) Socialized racism — All people have been socialized to buy into various aspects of racism, including people of color who may be affected by what is known as “internalized racism” — so whether it’s a white person acting out racism or a black person behaving in ways showing self-hatred, it is a sign of the influence of pathological ideology and systems.

      If we are all socialized to some extent to believe premises of racism (that some people are inherently superior or inferior based on external factors and related concepts), those of us who are not pathological — who have adequate levels of empathy and conscience — can also UNLEARN what we’ve been taught.

      Anyone who says they are color blind is lying or in denial. You cannot live in America and not be influenced by the bombardment of racial messages, images, assumptions, stereotypes and perceptions that people operate from both consciously and unconsciously.

      2) Sociopathic racism — This points to the fact that all racists are sociopathic because racism requires people to distort reality about themselves and others in ways that promote lies, false information and irrational ideology. ALL RACISTS are SOCIOPATHS, but NOT ALL SOCIOPATHS ARE RACISTS. Some sociopaths are serial killers. Some are corporate CEOs and others are in governmental roles; some are in prisons and some are in urban gangs — they are equal opportunity destroyers who will victimize anyone regardless of color, gender, age, etc. if they are motivated for their own benefit.

      Pathology education requires an unfolding journey where we provide specific examples first, in order to help humanity arrive at the broader awareness of real-life evil — psychopathology, the skeleton in humanity’s closet, as one writer defined it. This is the path to helping people understand that psychopathology/sociopathy is an equal-opportunity disease — that people of all races, adult age groups and both genders — can be pathological.

      Last but not least, Howard, using the term “various aggrieved groups” buys into the sociopathic agenda by leaving you and other white males who are generally decent, empathic and conscious, with the impression that the concerns of these groups are not relevant to you. IN FACT, these concerns affect us all because the sociopathic systems of exploitation overlap. Please let this sink in….

    34. SystemsThinker Says:

      Fannie,

      I agree with you that throughout history, in various places, pathology has manifest in racism. And I am very interested in understanding what role psychopathology plays in racism. But these pathologies also play out in other forms of prejudice and exploitation besides those based on race. There are pathological societies where we see pathological leaders preying on people who share their own race.

      It goes completely against what I’m after to become overly focused on any one form of injustice where psychopathology may play out. A huge goal of the writing was to get people to focus on the more transcendant issue of ponerology and realize that it is primary. You said it yourself in your first comment: when we fail to do this:

      >The most important characteristics to consider — matters of character and whether someone has a personality disorder — then get easily overlooked as a result.

      Matters of character and whether someone has a personality disorder that affects conscience need to be viewed as primary in my view.

      Now I don’t have a problem at all if each group uses a strategy where they focus on their pet issue as a starting point to then bring into the open the role of ponerology. But that larger viewpoint should be the goal, in my opinion.

      I don’t believe only intellectuals or HSP’s can learn about or take interest in ponerology. Indeed, that’s exactly why I started PonerologyNews.com - to offer evidence that, in fact, there is a fast-growing amount of attention on subjects related to ponerology all throughout our society and in every form of media. Many people are absolutely fascinated with material related to ponerology and it isn’t just intellectuals and HSP’s. Look at the popularity of shows like Dexter throughout the population, for example.

      Remember, by far the vast majority of people are not biologically pathological. They do have the capacity for empathy and conscience.

      I can tell this topic is very important to you and I can understand why. And I don’t want to diminish any of what you said because we do agree on much.

      I agree with you that racism is and has been a huge problem in many societies.

      I agree with you that those who have been hurt by racism have much to teach us as a result of their experience.

      I agree with you that many who have been hurt by racism likely have a deep first-hand experience with certain forms of pathology and hopefully some of them have come to realize that and place some of the focus on that aspect of it.

      However, I simply refuse to take any one form of prejudice, whether racism, sexism or any other and claim it is primary. We have countries in the world right now where female babies are killed just for being female and little girls are killed for trying to go to school. And the relationship of humanity to the rest of the ecosystem has plenty of examples that challenge the relationship between the races for cruelty and consciencelessness. There are plenty of incredibly pathological things that happen based on divisions other than race. What ties all of these things together is the lack of conscience and empathy involved. And that is the division I want to get people focused on.

      This has nothing whatsoever to do with minimizing or trying to deny or avoid awareness of the importance of racism. It is a strategic decision to place these things in what I believe is an accurate context that leads us to a more effective leverage point.

      I don’t expect any of what I said to make you feel any less passionate about focusing on the racial aspect of this. Given your experience, it would make sense that that is the particular manifestation of these dynamics that feels closest to you and most intense. I would simply say that there is a fine line between using racial examples to help open people’s eyes to the underlying pathology and becoming so one-track focused on racism to the exclusion of other forms of pathology that you lose the ability to cross over and reach people for whom racism does not feel like the closest, most intense aspect to them.

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your passion for improving the world, which we share. I hope you’ll understand this not in any way as an attempt to diminish your experience, but simply as a strategic discussion of what is the most likely approach to bring about widespread awareness and change. And I’m sure with our different backgrounds, but similar interests, there is much we can offer to help each other learn more about that.

    35. FannieL Says:

      Hi Howard, I agree we can learn from each other. I think I’ve made this clear in my obvious complimentary comments about the intellectual work you’ve done. And I have no intention of engaging in any effort to suggest you might be wrong. We both make legitimate points, IMO, and I clearly see the importance of understanding ponerology as you indicate.

      Yet, with that said, am I correct that you apparently view racism and sexism as “group” problems? I recognize the need to integrate the race/gender information in understanding how systems of sociopathy operate versus seeing them as “group” problems since these issues impact ALL OF HUMANITY to some extent, IMHO.

      I ask this based on the point you make: “I simply refuse to take any one form of prejudice, whether racism, sexism or any other and claim it is primary. We have countries in the world right now where female babies are killed just for being female and little girls are killed for trying to go to school.”

      What you describe in the examples you cited are in fact among the mainfestations of sexism. By defining racism and sexism SIMPLY AS forms of prejudice, you leave out all the systemic factors involved in pathology. It is NOT EITHER/OR. IT IS BOTH/AND.

      It is NOT EITHER/OR. IT IS BOTH/AND. It is about racism/sexism/classism and other sociopathic systems AND it is about ponerology on macrosocial levels…..

      BTW, my passion isn’t simply about addressing racism. My passion is about promoting mental health. And so any systems that negatively impact mental health are concerns of mine. I support the rights of gay people to love and marry whomever they choose as consenting adults, but I am a heterosexual woman. I am able to be concerned for children of any race who are harmed by abuse. We all have particular areas of specialized knowledge, and social justice and mental health are among my areas of interest and expertise.

      I really think that part of the disconnect I’m sensing in our discussion is that we use language terminology differently — our definitions of racism and sexism apparently differ in major ways.

      Prejudice is not the same as racism. Racism is an ideological system, an entity of sorts. Prejudice is about attitudes — something all individuals have in common since we are prejudiced against something.

      Hypothetically — Let’s say I don’t like you because you are a man. You can say so what, right? But what if I have institutions and ideology I can use to dehumanize and oppress you…this would make a difference in whether my prejudice against men can impact your life or not, and to what extent. And what if I had power through position and a lot of enablers who supported me (and others like me) in my prejudice toward you — and went along with decisions I made to exclude you and others in your male group from upward mobility on a large scale?

      You have already clearly articulated the dynamic research you outline on these pages. Everything you describe about pathocracy and ponerology fit with how racism operates. Sociopathy always spreads its poison from original targets to targets who are secondary — that is the nature of pathology, that everything in its path will become infected.

      So, it is indeed true as you said that, “these pathologies also play out in other forms of prejudice and exploitation besides those based on race,” and that “There are pathological societies where we see pathological leaders preying on people who share their own race.”

      And are we not talking about the ISM of classism here? Does this support in part some explanations for why extreme income inequality has been able to spread more and more to impact the lives of more white people, including the middle class?

      All systems of pathology touch other systems, and this overlap is inevitable due to the course of any destructive force that has no intervention — whether it is a physical or psychological disease.

      Remember the classic statement (paraphrased here): “First they came for the handicapped, then the gays, then the gypsies, then the Jews….and now they’re coming after me/us….”

      And so it is. When we look the other way or enable sociopathy that affects one group or another on a large scale, the pathology ultimately encompasses the rest of us in some way or form over time….

      Sociopaths are anti-humanity, other beings in general. They will exploit and view anyone as objects. But you know as I do that we will never be able to look at someone and say definitively that they are a sociopath. We will only be able to glimpse their lack of empathy and no-conscience by observing patterns of thinking and behaving and how people operate in the world….and so it is easy for many sociopaths to hide in plain sight, all the more so when they are not under suspicion due to “privileges” and benefit of doubt accorded to them due to race, gender, income or other reasons.

      Regarding your point: “Remember, by far the vast majority of people are not biologically pathological. They do have the capacity for empathy and conscience.”

      But many people’s conscience is deadened and their capacity for empathy extends only to that which affects themselves or those closest to them. This diverse group are among those who enable sociopaths in different ways, to be able to maintain influence.

      I’m sure you are familiar with studies on people who have authoritarian personalities, who do whatever their leaders (civic, church/religious, social, political leaders) tell them because they do not think for themselves. Because they do not want the existential angst of having to struggle with uncertainties and despair. Because they can avoid true freedom and full responsibility by not thinking for themselves. So that they can have someone else to ultimately blame in some way, in part.

      M. Scott Peck suggested that laziness (in thinking) may be mankind’s original sin. I happen to agree. Few people are willing to truly engage in ongoing personal growth inner work as a lifetime journey if they are comfortable and not challenged enough to explore life on many levels — whether through new experiences beyond their comfort zone or encounters with pain, suffering or from seeing someone close to them suffer….

      It is what it is.

    36. SystemsThinker Says:

      Fannie,

      I offered more examples than just racism and sexism. I also mentioned our relationship to the ecosystem. And there are plenty more examples. In different societies, pathological forces affect different people in different ways. Why one pathological system harms one category of people more than another is a whole study in itself. This is discussed a little bit in my ponerology page.

      But the point is that everyone is at risk when pathology is allowed to dominate. We never know who will happen to become the victims or scapegoats in any particular case. Pathological people can be quite fickle. If they had a bad experience with a certain type of person, the next thing you know that’s the type they are obsessed with exploiting. How can you possibly predict this kind of thing? You can’t. Thus, it’s in the best interest of everyone of conscience to resist the domination of pathology for its own sake.

      Ideally we would resist pathological values because they pose an inherent threat and a risk, without having to argue about which group is more affected in any case vs. another.

      I see all of the problems you list - racism/sexism/classism as well as abuse on the domestic and family level and national disputes and ecological crises ALL as possibly linked to pathology. And I would like us to focus in and determine to what extent this one common thread - psychopathology - is involved in all of these. That’s what leverage point thinking is about. Finding the root and focusing on it rather than focusing on the symptoms.

      I understand what you mean about institutionalized structural racism or sexism vs. simply individual prejudice. And my point is that systems that have institutionalized discrimination not based on any form of merit may likely simply be different faces or expressions of pathology. We would do better, I think, to stop getting caught up on the different faces or expressions and look at what’s behind the mask that’s in common.

      >>All systems of pathology touch other systems, and this overlap is inevitable due to the course of any destructive force that has no intervention — whether it is a physical or psychological disease.

      Exactly my point. Which is why I think focusing in on the pathology itself is the highest leverage thing we can do. That’s quite possibly the root of the symptoms that spread through all these areas.

      >>Remember the classic statement (paraphrased here): “First they came for the handicapped, then the gays, then the gypsies, then the Jews….and now they’re coming after me/us….”

      Funny I was going to quote that one myself just before I read you mentioning it :) That quote is why I think we all should come together around ponerology rather than get caught up on and divided by a focus on any particular type of harm to any particular group. The point of that quote is not to focus on discrimination against any one group but rather unmerited discrimination as a principle. I just take it one step further and say we should focus on the pathology that motivates the discrimination which I think is even more at the root.

      >>Sociopaths are anti-humanity, other beings in general. They will exploit and view anyone as objects. But you know as I do that we will never be able to look at someone and say definitively that they are a sociopath. We will only be able to glimpse their lack of empathy and no-conscience by observing patterns of thinking and behaving and how people operate in the world….and so it is easy for many sociopaths to hide in plain sight, all the more so when they are not under suspicion due to “privileges” and benefit of doubt accorded to them due to race, gender, income or other reasons.

      Well on the new site I do document the growing body of evidence on brain and genetic differences in psychopaths. We are learning more and more to recognize markers. I don’t know how far that will get and if we’ll ever be able to identify such people reliably enough. But there is a huge discussion and debate around that.

      I just posted yesterday about an essay by Adrian Raine in the Wall Street Journal relevant to this. Raine is someone I wrote about before who (quite controversially) advocates screening children for psychopathy.

      I of course understand that it is the hijacking of normals by pathological people that allows pathological power to be so influential. But the fact remains that these normals do still have a biological capacity for empathy and conscience. Our best hope is to reawaken it and I think a big part of that comes from education and awareness about the nature of the pathological so normals come to see them for what they are. The Milgram subjects would not have gone along with the experimenter if they realized it was just an experiment. Hopefully when people realize the pathological are what they are, they will be less willing to follow along.

      But don’t get me wrong. I am fully aware that this may not be a successful effort in the end. I simply see it as the best bet.

    37. FannieL Says:

      Howard, we really are saying the same things. I say a BOTH/AND approach will work better than an EITHER/OR approach.

      Why? Because people are different — diverse levels of intelligence, stages of development and awareness. The approach that works for some people will not work for others to truly understand that evil is real. Denial is an easy path when people need to feel they live in a world that is safe and makes sense. We all require some degree of denial to cope. Afterall, existential angst is real. Life does not come with an instructional manual.

      My AND/BOTH position is based on my personal journey toward becoming increasingly conscious (always in progress) as well as my professional experience working with diverse populations as a mental health professional. People’s levels of awareness can be blunted and blocked for a variety of reasons, including abuse in childhood and adulthood, substance abuse, accidents and injuries, environmental and genetic factors.

      AND, the reality is that many things we learn in childhood needs to be unlearned and/or updated for our effective functioning as adults. That’s just a reality we cannot escape due to the unfolding of psychosocial developmental stages of life.

      Some people need concrete examples and others can work with abstract concepts.
      There is no one size-fits-all, as you know.

      Besides, until all human beings accept their own capacity for doing evil, people will not be able to easily distinguish between what is choice and what may be biologically-rooted in ourselves or others.

      EXAMPLE: Many people become stuck in child-like ways of viewing the world if they are not nurtured properly or they otherwise lag in maturing psychologically as they become adults — and this does not contradict the fact that they may be very talented, skilled and intelligent in subject matters. As a result of immaturity (not willing to take personal responsibility,etc.), they may “project” their Shadow self onto others — seeing “badness” out there (external to them) in order to protect their ego from awareness of their own potential for doing wrong, even if their sin is not evil per se.

      This is one reason that people who have had personal and direct experience with sociopaths (whether in their family or with a significant other) often begin to think there’s a sociopath hiding around every corner. As they heal, they come to understand their own ulterior motives may not always be pure. As they develop clearer boundaries, they learn to have a greater sense of ownership about what thinking and behavior is theirs and what thinking/behavior belongs to someone else.

      And most people at some point in their journey of growth must reconsider beliefs they were raised with in order to ask themselves are their beliefs borrowed from others (parents, teachers and other authority figures) or are their views based on their own sense of truth rooted in learning and life experience.

      I think the gift of having a conscience speaks to why so many basic moral values and ethical principles are shared by people the world over. That’s one reason why many people also have a hard time embracing the reality that some human beings (primitive or pathological people) do not abide by the same dictates that influence the conscience and empathy-based perspectives espoused by normal people.

      Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, wrote a list of 13 recommendations people can use to prevent themselves from being manipulated by sociopaths, particularly in order to avoid doing unnecessary harm to others. One of those mandates is to question authority. I would add it’s not simply a matter of being rebellious, but more for the purpose of determining the motives of those in authority and not assuming that those with authority always have good intentions. Are they contributing more to harm or to the greater good?

      I will end on a positive note: I am extremely encouraged by the growing levels of consciousness I see in America and across the globe. It is a beautiful development to witness.

    38. SystemsThinker Says:

      Fannie,

      It’s not as easy as just saying both/and is better and leaving it at that. The concept of leverage points exists because that simply isn’t always the case. There are many cases where focusing more energy on the root of a problem is far more effective than spending much of it on non-root symptoms. Whether that is the case here I don’t know. If racism is, as you say it may be, largely an emergence tied into psychopathology, then it may well be strategically less effective to focus on racism directly than on psychopathology for a variety of reasons.

      But I am not well-versed enough to claim to know if this is the case. It may or may not be. I’d leave it to people who have more experience in investigating the roots of racism to decide whether psychopathology is a key leverage point or not and, if so, to what extent it would be more effective to concentrate energy on that root.

      You mention that people are different and, thus, different approaches wake them up. But it’s important to realize that the concept of leverage points also applies to groups of people. Not everyone’s changed mind is equal on a particular issue. For example, in The Tipping Point, we learn about how certain influencers have far more impact than others in a society. So if you want to change culture, you may not need to focus on everyone and every different type of person. You may need to focus more on particular people in particular positions.

      It can be easy to just assume things like both/and and using a wide variety of strategies to reach a wide variety of people are best because it sounds good on the surface. But strategically, for many reasons that tie into systems thinking, that is not an assumption that’s valid to make.

      So you might be right that in this situation those approaches are most effective. But I don’t think that can be assumed. It is something that should be really investigated and we should allow the evidence to reveal what is more effective. I’ve never seen anyone actually try an approach of focusing on psychopathology education as a way of reducing racism. I’d at least like to see it tried and then compare results rather than just assume which approach is more effective.

      I feel strongly, however, that, in general, when it comes to pathological symptoms, the dispersal of energy on disaparate symptom-focused causes has been part of the problem, not the solution. It is keeping too many people from focusing on the leverage point issue of psychopathology.

      Now I’m not saying you can’t use the concrete examples, as you say, as an inlet. But hardly anyone I’ve heard uses them to lead back to the core issue of psychopathology. They use them and then stick to that issue, not going further toward root causes to reveal what’s really driving the symptom after all. That is a big problem and, in my view, likely serves to support the maintenance of pathological systems.

      I agree that, when someone first learns about these issues, there is a risk of projection and of becoming paranoid and seeing pathology everywhere. But that is also an issue of healing and education about the issue. That is also not an issue that is likely to be healed until we focus on the influence of pathology directly.

      Of course, as Milgram showed us long ago, questioning authority is key.

      I am also heartened to see growing awareness on this issue. That’s why I started PonerologyNews.com to help reinforce that inspiring pattern.

    39. FannieL Says:

      Ah, but AND/BOTH helps keep us humble — M. Scott Peck, MD, called it “knowing with humility.” Indeed, some uncertainty leaves room for embracing the paradoxes of life (where AND/BOTH are really true).

      Relevant to this is a book that introduces the concept of scientometrics, “the science of science” — The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date by Samuel Arbesman (Release date: September 27, 2012). Arbesman is an applied mathematician and network scientist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, New Scientist, and The Boston Globe.

      Brief book review by David Pitt, from Booklist: “There are facts, and then there are facts. We expect some facts to be fluid—the population of Earth, for example—but, as it turns out, we probably shouldn’t expect anything we know to remain static. Things that feel like unalterable truths, like the number of chromosomes in human cells (which was 48, until somebody noticed it wasn’t), can suddenly shift….Knowledge, like life itself, evolves; science regularly revises its truths to include new discoveries… scientometrics, “the science of science” is a way of quantifying the growth of ideas. The author shows, too, how the principles of scientometrics can be applied to other fields.”
      (http://www.amazon.com/Half-Life-Facts-Everything-Know-Expiration/dp/159184472X/).

    40. SystemsThinker Says:

      Fannie,

      What keeps us humble is not prejudging what works but using experimentation and testing to find out. Sometimes both/and works best. Others times laser focus on a leverage point works best. It is not humble to assume to know in any case which one is best without testing them out or at least applying some process to consider the question in a way that reduces bias.

      You are basically giving an argument against dogma. But meanwhile you seem to be claiming that both/and is always a better approach in all situations. I think that is dogmatic. I believe both/and is one strategy that works best in some situations but not others.


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