Friday, November 25, 2022

Review of On Pauperism in Present and Past by Jan Breman

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Economics
Intriguing Connections = 1) What Poverty Means?, 2) The Persecuted and The Persecutors

Watch Short Review


“Remaining footloose and being prepared for shorter or longer sorties nearby or far away is not conditioned by an innate inclination to vagrancy, of which paupers stand accused wherever and whenever, but propelled by the dire need to scratch around for work hoping that the return will net enough for sheer survival.” – Jan Breman, Introduction, Page 2

“What the aid workers failed to do was give conclusive answers to questions about how things were to proceed from then on: how long the people would have to stay at the camp, who would actually decide that, where they would go from there, and where they could get more information on all these matters.  When the period of emergency aid came o an end, all the organizations that had provided it also disappeared.” – Jan Breman, Chapter 3: Clearing the City of the Undeserving Poor, Page 95

“When the union leaders filed a protest and met with the office-in-charge, he profusely apologized and confessed tat the charges against the workers were drummed up and had been instigated by the Superintendent of Police himself under pressure from wealthy residents of a posh colony nearby who experienced the ‘unruly mod’ daily gathering at the chowk as an eyesore, a nuisance to their comfort and privacy.” – Jan Breman, Chapter, Page 166



The Indian poor are not vagrants by inclination, but move around to find work.  Moving whenever and to wherever that work is found, while not knowing the duration of that work.  Their lives are immiserating, but they do survive.  The poor live in overcrowded conditions, without access to safe water and sanitation.  They lack education, and obtain information by hearsay.  Illiteracy exacerbates their marginality, and isolation from the society. 

Help to the poor can be provided by NGOs, but they tend to stay only as long as there is emergency aid available.  Not only is the help given to the poor limited, but there is also a dispute as to even help the poor.  A social Darwinism claim that care for the poor is counterproductive.  In an application of natural selection, that the unfit should be filtered out of society.  The poor are unwanted in the locations that they reside.  Many complain about them, and have instigated the police to invent charges against the poor, which has led to the poor being harassed and even physically assaulted. 



This is a difficult book to read.  Best for readers researching the history of poverty, and use as a source of practical information and examples.  Ideas about poverty come from various sources, but the context is limited to mostly within India. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How do the poor survive?
•How do the poor find work?
•How do the poor live?
•Do the poor have an education?
•How are the poor treated?
•How to NGOs interact with the poor?
•How is social Darwinism applied to the poor?

Book Details
Publisher:        Oxford University Press [University of Oxford]
Edition ISBN:  9780199464814
Pages to read:   257
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    1
Content          2
Overall           1

Monday, November 21, 2022

Review of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

This review was written by Eugene Kernes    

Book can be found in: 
Genre = History
Book Club Event = Book List (01/28/2023)

Watch Short Review


“Their migration was a response to an economic and social structure not of their making.  They did what humans have done for centuries when life became untenable.” – Isabel Wilkerson, The Great Migration, 1915-1970, Page 31

“Young people like them weren’t tied to a place like their slave grandparents had been forced to, and they weren’t content to move from plantation to plantation like their parents.  Even since World War 1 had broken out and all those jobs had opened up in the North, there had been an agitation for something better, some fast, new kind of life where they could almost imagine themselves equal to the white people.  An so they had gone off to wherever the money seemed to be raining down.” – Isabel Wilkerson, George Swanson Starling, Page 72

“Planters did not like to lose good help.  They had ways of keeping sharecroppers under them, claimed they owed money when they didn’t, that they had to work off the debt, which meant they were working for free and made fugitives of them if they left.  The planters kept the books, and, even if a sharecropper had the nerve to keep his own, a colored man’s numbers didn’t count.” – Isabel Wilkerson, Breaking Away, Page 182



During the 20th century, many American southern black individuals and families made a choice to go north.  This is considered a Great Migration.  They migrated for the same reasons various other peoples throughout history migrated.  When life in their region became untenable, they left to places where there was hope of a better life.  For improved social and economic opportunities.  Going to where they could be employed in their chosen fields.  Moving away from where they were relentlessly persecuted, to where there were less social restrictions and fears.  Reluctant to leave, but they left in search for freedom.

The end of the American Civil War established liberties for black individuals.  But in the south, by the end of the 19th century, laws were created to segregate the peoples.  The Jim Crow laws removed the previously gained liberties.  But the era was different, with black individuals not restricted to a region.  The south did not want to lose the quality labor, and created laws to try and keep black individuals.  Yet black individuals found ways to leave.  Migrating north.  What black individuals found in the north was much better, but not ideal.  The north did not have segregation laws, but socially were still able to enforce segregation.  Black individuals left the dangers of the south, but the north had dangers as well.  Those who migrated could not warn their successors of the different dangers.  Nor did the north have the social cohesion that they had in the south, in which the community members would have looked after each other.   


Persecution and Jim Crow Laws:

Circa early 20th century, there were black individuals with no personal account of slavery.  They were free, but not free.  They lived under Jim Crow.  Jim Crow laws had official discrimination laws, but also unofficial social custom rituals.  Breaking a minor ritual or gesture, would have quickly led to the black individual being assaulted.  Everyday interactions favored white individuals, and subordinated black individuals. 



Sharecroppers were pinned to the land.  The master kept sharecroppers in debt, by not giving the sharecropper what they earned.  The sharecropper could not contradict the master, because that would have had terrible consequences.  The good bosses at least allowed the sharecroppers to break even, rather than get the sharecropper further into debt. 

As planters wanted to keep labor, they kept the sharecropper in debt.  The planter claimed that the sharecropper owned money, and needed to pay off the debt, even if there was no actual debt.  That meant that sharecroppers either worked for free, or became fugitives if they did not.  Should a sharecropper keep a record, it would not matter because black individual records did not count.  The reason for the lack of justice, was because black individuals could not make or enforce their demands. 

WW1 created a labor shortage.  Wartime labor shortages created various creative ways to force individuals into working.  Those caught not working were arrested, and obtained fines which were needed to be paid off working.  This was debt peonage, which was an illegal form of contemporary slavery.

Younger individuals did not obtain their predecessors debts, did not want to be coerced, and were not satisfied with working on plantations.  WW1 opened up a lot of jobs in the North, and the younger individuals were willing to go North.  They went North for the income, and because there was more liberty there.

There were those who went north for work, but later came back to the south.  The problem was that their perspectives have changed.  They became accustomed to fair wages, and various freedoms and liberties.  They had become used to their life not being in danger for even minor social infractions.  Going back south, the dissatisfaction with the lower income caused them to form groups and hold out for higher wages.

Those who earned money received more than they even through possible.  Not because it was a lot of money, but because it was far more than was possible in the past.  This was only due to the war.  They disapproved of the war, but secretly also did not want it to end.

There was a huge disparity in pay between white and black individuals.  White individuals could provide for their successors, and therefore accumulate wealth.  Black individuals could barely provide for themselves, and thereby save enough for successors.  This created an intergenerational disparity wealth gap.  A name was the only thing black individuals could give their successors, making that name very important.  Communities utilized the same beloved names.


Migration, and The North:

Those who left the south, took memories of the south with them.  Being reminded, by insignificant things, of the where they came from.  Generally, the more ambitious the migrant, the further they are willing to go and overcome greater obstacles.  Migration requires energy, and planning.  A desire and willingness to act.  They are more likely to be better educated than those of their original regions, and more motivated.  Leading them to become successful in the new region. 

In the north, black individuals were allowed to vote.  But they were not really sure how, but learned.  Their ability to vote changed who got into office.  And were able to remove individuals who wanted to keep the power to abuse black individuals.  In the south, black individual knew better than to try to vote even if they had the option.

Although there were no segregation laws in the north, people still found ways to segregate based on race.  To degrade black values and individuals.  As black individuals earned money, they started to move into better neighborhoods.  Neighborhoods that were primarily white.  There was an assumption that black individuals would reduce the value of the neighborhood, which set an expectation that lowered the retail value of the neighborhood.  With falling prices, white individuals could not finance investments.  Leading to many white people selling what they had at low prices and leaving the neighborhood.  White people left in advance of any black individuals moving there. 

Many who left the south due to dangers, did not consider the different dangers of the places that they moved to.  They were usually small-town individuals, moving to urban environments without knowing the problems of their new region.  In the south, migrants had a community that could warn the people of dangers, and watch other others.  But where the migrants moved to, they did not have a support network.  They were not warned of the dangers of drugs, guns, and violence.  They did not know these dangers, and therefore could not warn their children of these dangers.  The conditions of the northern cities brought down many migrants.



The book is composed of mostly narrative and examples.  Not much explanation of the content.  The history is told from the perspective of various peoples, with different stories to tell about their migration.  Can be hard to keep track of the different narratives. 

The book is polarizing.  Showing the struggles of black individuals, and how they were persecuted by white individuals.  The problem is what is not expressed, that not all white people supported Jim Crow laws.  The white people who undermined Jim Crow laws.  The caste system is very difficult to overcome, from each perspective.   

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is the Great Migration?
•Who was migrating, and for what reason?
•What were the Jim Crow laws?
•Where the migrants successful in their new places?
•What persecutions did black individuals face in the south?
•What dangers did black individuals face in the north?
•How did planters keep sharecroppers on the land?
•What gave many black individuals economic opportunities?
•How did individuals who went north for work, feel when they came back south?
•How much were black individuals paid and what effect did the income have?
•How did black individuals influence who became an official?
•Did the north meet black individual expectations of liberties and equality?
•What was missing in the north, that black individuals had in the south? 

Book Details
Publisher:         Vintage Books [Penguin Random House]
Edition ISBN:  9780679604075
Pages to read:   548
Publication:     2011
1st Edition:      2010
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          3
Overall           3

Friday, November 18, 2022

Review of Tibet on Fire: Self-Immolations Against Chinese Rule by Tsering Woeser

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Politics

Watch Short Review


“the need to take action, and to make one’s voice heard in an environment in which there is no other means of doing so. ” – Tsering Woeser, Chapter 2: The Protestors, Page 41

“For decades, the Chinese state has proudly proclaimed that it “liberated” Tibet and “emancipated the serfs,” giving the Tibetan people the opportunity to lead a “happy life.”  But how can we account for the fact that half a century later these “liberated serfs” are standing up and even setting their bodies on fire to resist their “liberators”?” – Tsering Woeser, Chapter 3: State-Sponsored Slander and Media Blockades, Page 45

“self-immolators employ an extreme form of suffering, unbreedable for the average person, so as to embody the most powerful form of protest and recapture their human dignity.” – Tsering Woeser, Chapter 5: Self-Immolation as Protest, Page 85



The Chinese government has been trying to force their values and symbols upon the Tibetan people.  China demands the Tibetan people to renounce their faith, denounce their leaders, and change their lifestyles.  These actions have ignited the protests.  Although utilizing peaceful protests, the protestors have been unrelentingly suppressed by the Chinese government.  Peaceful protests that have been violently suppressed, in which people were killed.  Tibet has become a prison state enforced by armed military police, and surveillance.  Chinese see themselves as liberators, but the Tibetan people are protesting these liberators, and are even self-immolating themselves to resist them. 

In 2009, monk Tapey self-immolated as an act of protest.  A series of self-immolations followed.  The self-immolations are shocking, and the act requires determination.  Self-immolation is an act that enables the Tibetan voice to become heard, in a political system that silences them.  Self-immolation is not suicide, but a sacrifice for a greater cause.  Self-immolation is not a gesture of despair, but an ask for change.  These acts are flames that light a way for peoples trapped in the darkness of ethnic oppression.


A Form Of Protest:

Although those committing self-immolation are Tibetan monks, their acts are asked not to be judged under Buddhism, but by their political results.  The self-immolators are protesting for taking action, supporting the Dali Lama, taking responsibility, national identity and solidarity, Tibetan independence, and protecting the Tibetan way of life.

Self-immolation is not about violence.  Tibetan people are restrained by religious beliefs and Dalai Lama’s stance on nonviolence.  Self-immolation declares that while the self can be annihilated, not one else is harmed. 

There are disagreements within the monks on whom should self-immolate.  There is as ask for elderly people to self-immolate rather than the youth.  The youth have the potential to make further contributions to the people.  While the elderly are those who experienced various extreme persecution and torments.

There are views that blame the protestors for the actions of the oppressive government actions.  That the oppression comes because of the protests.  But the oppressive acts have historically been done before the protests.  Accepting oppression does not make oppression disappear.  China condemns self-immolation as a form of terrorism.  They have accused self-immolators of violating Tibetan Buddhism against killing living beings. 


Propaganda Campaign:

Tibetan people have been under Chinese oppression since the 1930s.  As the passing Red Army plundered Tibet, and left it with food shortages while massacring the peoples. 

China has been trying to re-educate the Tibetan people since the 1990s.  China has been trying to force monks to denounce the Dalai Lama, while expelling or arresting those who do not.  There have been an ongoing propaganda campaign to rewrite history, and the reasons for the protests.  Claiming that the Tibetan people are happy, even though they resist and protest.

Chinese government considers itself a liberator.  Claiming to have liberated Tibet, and emancipated the serfs.  An effort that gives Tibetan people an opportunity at a happy life.  Yet the liberated serfs are self-immolating themselves to resist the liberators.  Dalai Lama claims that China lacks legitimacy in Tibet, as China is unable to negotiation policies with the Tibetan people, and unable to gain Tibetan confidence. 

Many Chinese people travel to Tibet for holidays, but only see the Tibetan tourist sites that the Chinese tour company wants them to see.  Tourists do not care much for the local peoples of the sites that they visit. 



Although there is some history of Tibet from the 20th century, the book lacks a history on Tibet, and prior interactions with China.  There is also a lack of political understanding.  How the Tibetan people are oppressed is expressed, but not the why.  Not much is provided on explaining what China wants from Tibet and the Tibetan people.  Learning how China benefits from their political activities in Tibet, can provide an understanding for how to potentially negotiate with China and Tibet. 

There are common references to Buddhism being a dominant way of thinking and living within Tibet.  Some interactions between Buddhism and the political claims are made, but there is a lack of details about how Buddhism is incorporated in the Tibetan way of life.  An understanding of Buddhism would have clarified the political actions being taken.

There are many ways to protest, but only self-immolation is accepted in the book.  Alternative ways to protest seem to be dismissed.  There is an explanation for some of the lack of alternative ways to protest, but also that some Tibetans have found ways around the restrictions.  As the results of the protests are considered in this book, maybe there are better alternative ways of protests that should be considered. 

The acts of self-immolation appear to be decentralized, while the Chinese government claims that they are a centralized organization.  Maybe actually making the protests more centralized and organized would be a better alternative.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Why are Tibetan people protesting against China?
•How to Tibetan’s protest? 
•Why did self-immolation start?
•What does self-immolation symbolize?
•Under what conditions do Tibetan people live under?
•How to does the Chinese government respond to the protests? 
•How does Chinese government see themselves within Tibet?
•How did China and Tibet interact historically?

Book Details
Publisher:         Verso [New Left Books]
Edition ISBN:  9781784781538
Pages to read:   98
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall           5

Monday, November 14, 2022

Review of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

This review was written by Eugene Kernes    

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (12/17/2022)

Watch Short Review


“No value, no meaning.  Between value systems, however, there is the possibility of conflict.  We are thus eternally caught between the most diamantine rock and the hardest of places: loss of group-center beliefs renders life chaotic, miserable, intolerable; presence of group-centered belief makes conflict with other groups inevitable.  In the West, we have been withdrawing from our tradition-, religion- and even nation-centered cultures, partly to decrease the danger of group conflict.  But we are increasingly falling prey to the desperation of meaninglessness, and that is no improvement at all.” – Jordan B. Peterson, Overture, Page 31

“The ancient part of your brain specialized for assessing dominance watches how you are treated by other people.  On that evidence, it renders a determination of your value and assigns you a status.  If you are judged by your peers as of little worth, the counter restricts serotonin availability.  That makes you much more physically and psychologically reactive to any circumstance or event that might produce emotion, particularly if its negative.” – Jordan B. Peterson, Rule 1: Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back, Page 36

“Error necessitates sacrifice to correct it, and serious error necessitates serious sacrifice.  To accept the truth means to sacrifice – and if you have rejected the truth for a long time, then you’ve run up a dangerously large sacrificial debt.” – Jordan B. Peterson, Rule 8: Tell The Truth – Or, At Least, Don’t Lie, Page 236



Reality is vastly complex, while the human mind has limits to the mental bandwidth.  No matter how different, everyone is trying to make sense out of the complexity of reality.  Complexity is difficult to understand, especially in all things.  To get a grip on complexity, simplicity in many understandings is needed.  By having structure and rules, can habits be built by repeating behaviors.  Repeated acts that become automated, which makes them simplified, and predictable.  A disciplinary structure that facilitates competence in choices.  Freedom, requires constraints.

Rules are not meant to be restrictive.  They are meant to be liberating, and facilitate fulfillment of goals.    Rules that enable order within the lives of everyone, as everyone is dealing with uncertainty and chaos.  Complexity cannot be ignored, as confusion and suffering come from ignoring reality.  Each individual needs to manage the chaos of complexity, and the order of simplicity.  To manage the static and dynamic aspects of life.  To manage the continuous flux of interactions between the values of chaos and order.  New instabilities make way for new orders.

Ideology is cautioned against, for it simplifies the complexity of life.  Ideologues have a pretentious claim on having all the needed information, and how to resolve problems.  Ideologies substitute the complexity of reality, with a simplified understanding.  The complexity of the world becomes known when something that has been dependent on and invisible, no longer functions. 


Values, And Choice:

When individual’s understanding does not coincide with the reality faced, the individual needs to error correct decisions making.  Error corrections requires considering alternative possibilities.  To sacrifice prior beliefs, and behaviors to become better.  Those who are inauthentic continue with their acts, even with evidence of problematic outcomes.  Those who are authentic learn from experiences and errors, which allows them to adjust themselves for better outcomes. 

Everyone has some values, and wants to learn.  A conversation is a mutual exploration of ideas.  Requiring reciprocity in listening and speaking.  Each trying to learn from the conversation.  But when trying to advise others, better to figure out how the advice impacts one’s own values and choices, before criticizing others.  Peterson welcomes challenges to Peterson’s ideas.  Peterson thinks through problems in a dialogic process.

Much like a conversation requires negotiation of values, friendship and loyalty are a negotiation.  The company someone keeps can brighten their life, or make them miserable.  The worthy friendships are those with individuals that want to help each other, and are willing to reciprocate the help given.  There is no obligation to help those who want to make the world worse.  Even with children, behavior should be restricted to prevent disliking them and rewarding misery with more misery. 

Values are derived from the groups individuals belong to.  Individual get a sense of meaning from belonging.  But with different value systems comes the possibility of conflict.  Loss of values makes the individual’s internal life chaotic and miserable, while values generate external group conflict.  As the West withdrew from traditions and historical values to limit group conflict, the society has fallen to desperation of meaninglessness. 

To justify existence, the individual needs to take responsibility.  To be part of a society with rules, standards, and values.  Humans are social animals, and produce value together.  For that, we need routines and tradition which create order.  Too much order is a problem, but so is chaos.  It takes a lot of effort to take responsibility for individual life, society, and the world.  Responsibility to breakdown values but also create them, in order to prevent or reduce suffering.  The alternative of chaos is worse for that leads to authoritarian beliefs, and purposeless individuals. 

Much suffering comes not from external sources, but internal values.  The individual knowns all of their transgressions and inadequacies, making the individual not feel worthy of being helped.  Not seeking help when needed is a form of punishing oneself for failings.  To enable oneself to become better, the individual has to take make oneself worthy of being helped.  To take responsibility for their life.  Everyone has advantages, and disadvantages.  Everyone suffers in some way, and has pains. 

Individuals take risk to obtain competence, which enables safety.  By taking away various risky activities, leads people to search for safety in other ways, such as looking for authoritarian leaders to make them safe.  Cannot trust policy makers motives. 

Aggression has value.  Lack of aggression usually means avoiding problems, while sacrificing themselves for others without reciprocity.  Compliant people lack independence.  While violence is innate, peace needs to be taught.  Humans know the pain that can be inflicted on themselves, which provides an understanding on how to inflect pain on others.

Within many species which includes human species, the few take all the winnings.  The rest get barely anything.  Social status is an influencing factor in physical and psychological health.  Lower status members have more negative attributes, and emergencies.  Should not matter how others are doing, as that brings misery.  What should matter is how behavior and outcomes are compared to prior behaviors and outcomes.



This is a book full of examples, but has a lack of systemic explanation of the content.  Associating various ideas, from various sources, but they do not necessarily explain the claims that are made.  While the reasons behind a claim do not necessarily lead to the claim, the way the claims are used are also inappropriate, for they lack complexity and alternative potential outcomes. 

Some of the rules and claims contradict each other.  They are internally inconsistent for to adhere to some, other rules need to be sacrificed.  In part this is a dynamic aspect of the static rules, and depending on the individual, some rules would take priority over others.  Putting the rules in practice will have conflict.

The author discusses society that loss their values, and the consequences of that omission.  The author tries to rectify that by bringing in values.  Values coming from a moral (religious) perspective.  The author in part recognizes and discusses the consequences of the moral perspective, but those views are underrepresented.  The moral perspective leads to self-affirmation of those values, rather than considering the possible alternative values and ways of thinking.  Within trying to provide values, there are many claims on cultural and social aspects, which are polarizing and underdeveloped.  They have errors of omission, which can legitimize terrible acts.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How complex is reality?
•What happens when complexity is denied?
•Why simplify reality?
•What are consequences of simplification?
•How to simplify reality?
•How to bring order to chaos?
•What are rules for?
•How can constraints make people free?
•What are ideologues ad ideologies?
•How to become better?
•Who is considered authentic, and inauthentic?
•How to have a conversation?
•Who is worthy of friendship?
•Why do people want to belong to groups?
•What are consequences of having values?
•What are consequences of not having values?
•What are sources of suffering? 
•How and why do individuals take responsibility for their own life?
•Why do individuals take risks?
•What value does aggression have?
•How does social status impact health?
•Can there be equality between people? 
•Are people social or antisocial? 
•What is natural selection?  How does chaos and order apply to natural selection?

Book Details
Publisher:         Random House Canada [Penguin Random House Canada]
Edition ISBN:  9780345816047
Pages to read:   376
Publication:     2018
1st Edition:      2018
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall           2

Monday, November 7, 2022

Review of The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Science
Book Club Event = Book List (01/14/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) The Evolution of Evolution, 2) To Cooperate Or To Defect?

Watch Short Review


“Now, given that natural selection for selfish genes tends to favour cooperation among genes, it has to be admitted that there are some genes that do no such thing and work against the interests of the rest of the genome.” – Richard Dawkins, Introduction to 30th Anniversary Edition, Page 12

“To put it in a slightly more respectable way, a group, such as a species or a population within a species, whose individual members are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the welfare of the group, may be less likely to go extinct than a rival group whose individual members place their own selfish interest first.  Therefore the world becomes populated mainly by groups consisting of self-sacrificing individuals.” – Richard Dawkins, Chapter 1: Why are people?, Page 38

“It is possible for humans to enter into pacts or conspiracies that are to every individual uses his conscious foresight, and is able to see that it is in his own long-term interests to obey the rules of the pact.  Even in human pacts there is a constant danger that individuals will stand to gain so much in the short term by breaking the pact that the temptation to do so will be overwhelming.” – Richard Dawkins, Chapter 5: Aggression: Stability and the selfish machine, Page 106



Genes are selfish.  And in their selfishness, they cooperate.  Genes do not necessarily have to be obeyed.  Natural selection favors selfish genes to cooperate.  But even for an altruistic group, difficult to prevent an individual dissenter from being introduced, or developing.  An individual dissenter who is unwilling to sacrifice for the other individuals.  The selfish individual would them have higher chances of reproduction.  Producing more selfish individuals.  Over time, the altruistic group will gain more selfish members, and become indistinguishable from the selfish group.

The ratio of cooperators to defectors depends on group stability.  A group of only dissenters has less chance to survive than a group of cooperators, but a group of cooperators have limited ability to prevent dissenters.  A stable group, even a collection of atoms, are permanent enough or common enough.  Groups of atoms that obtain a stable pattern, tend to stay in the stable pattern.  This is the general law of survival of the stable.  In which survival of the fittest is a subset.  That species evolve by natural selection.  An idea that explains how complexity can arise from simplicity.  Earliest form of natural selection was the rejection of unstable groups of atoms, while maintaining stable groups.


Evolution, Natural Selection, and the Gene:

Molecules that survived a primordial chemical pool, had the property of being able to produce copies of itself.  A property that was highly improbable.  Not all copies are perfect replicas, as mistakes happen.  As copies are made from copies with errors, the errors cumulated.  Errors within copies is usually seen as substandard, but within genes, they can create improvements.  It is the mistakes and errors that make evolution possible. 

Every species evolved through a process of natural selection.  Inheritable traits from genes come from the surviving offspring of the species.  Individuals which have more surviving offspring, have more influence over the traits of next generations.  Natural selection is the non-random differential reproduction of genes. 

Genes do not die or go senile.  They utilize a succession of mortal bodies.  Manipulating the body for self-interested purposes.  Genes replicator using the body as a survival machine.  DNA molecules are transient, but they do live on in copies. 

Genes have a complicated way of controlling the body, and impossible to separate contributions to specific genes.  Sometimes a single gene controls a variety of biological aspects, sometimes an aspect is controlled by many genes. There are genes that work against the rest of the genome.  The environment impacts the effect of the gene.  Gene success depends on a more predictable environment.  The development of a capacity to learn came about as a means to compensate for lack of predictive power within unpredictable environments. 


Group Formation, And Application:

Altruism is when an individual aids the welfare of another, at its own expense.  Selfish behavior is when the individual benefits in welfare, at the expense of others.  Even a trivial survival probability can change the course of evolution.  Even within a group of altruists, there will be who dissent to make a sacrifice.  

Groups composed of individuals willing to sacrifice themselves for other members of the group, have a higher chance of survival than a group containing individuals who place their own selfish interest first.

A strategy becomes an evolutionary stable strategy when there are no better alternative strategies.  Which means that the individual’s best strategy, is the what most of the population is doing.  An evolutionary stable strategy penalizes those trying to deviate from it.  An evolutionary stable strategy is immune from treachery from within.  Conspiracies, such as human pacts, have individuals that are constantly tempted to break the pact.

There are many examples of animals fighting in a restrained manner, as they do not provide a killing blow.  There is more to the restraint shown than just reduction in costs for time and energy.  Animal societies are complex systems in which it does not help the individual to kill all rivals.  Removing a rival, can even be more beneficial to other rivals than the individual. 



The writing can be difficult.  Concepts about evolution, natural selection, and genes have advanced.  There are a variety of examples showcasing how evolution influenced various species.  Some of the examples are too theoretic and abstract, as they explain a potentially evolutionary stable concept.  There are practice examples as well.

The focus is on genetics, which can miss alternative factors that influence how a species behaves.  A factor that influences behavior is culture.  Culture is social learning, that can override many self-interested behaviors.  There is a reference of learning compensating for uncertainty in the environment, but the alternative factors are limited.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Are genes selfish?
•Why cooperate?
•Why dissent from sacrifice?
•What are genes?
•What is a stable group?
•What is the law of survival of the stable?
•What is the survival of the fittest?
•Wat is evolution by natural selection?
•What impact to errors have on DNA?
•Are genes immortal? 
•How do genes manipulate behavior? 
•What is altruistic behavior?
•What is an evolutionary stable strategy? 
•What happens to conspiracies?
•Do animals have restraint? 
•Is there a difference the moral consideration for one’s own species and other species? 
•What is the trouble with conspiracies? 
•How are individuals with handicaps influence their reproductive capacity?
•Is there an objective basis for favoring certain species above others? 

Book Details
Publisher:         Oxford University Press
Edition ISBN:  9780191093074
Pages to read:   307
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      1976
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          3
Overall           3