Human and natural systems oppose the second law of thermodynamics by importing inputs for replacement and maintenance

Maximum Power

By Jay Hanson — — Jan 1, 2001
Graphic from Richard Duncan: .

The Maximum Power Principle states that all open systems (Bernard cells, ecosystems, people, societies, etc.) evolve to degrade as much energy as possible while allowing for the continued existence of the larger systems they are part of. [[1]]

"The Easter Islanders, aware that they were almost completely isolated from the rest of the world, must surely have realized that their very existence depended on the limited resources of a small island. After all, it was small enough for them to walk round the entire island in a day or so and see for themselves what was happening to the forests. Yet they were unable to devise a system that allowed them to find the right balance with their environment."
— Clive Ponting

"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."
— Charles Darwin

In the last one hundred years, governments have killed about 170 million people. [[2]] The "Maximum Power Principle" and evolution theory explain why this is so, and why the "peak" in global oil production (est., 2005) must lead directly to a new generation of global wars with billions killed.

In order to understand our future, we must first understand our evolutionary history. It is a difficult subject to learn because we are genetically biased against knowing our true natures. But if we pay close attention to the following paragraphs we will learn something about our family and friends; we will also learn the terrible truth about our collective future.


"It rapidly became clear to me that the most imaginative way of looking at evolution, and the most inspiring way of teaching it, was to say that it's all about the genes. It's the genes that, for their own good, are manipulating the bodies they ride about in. The individual organism is a survival machine for its genes."
 — Richard Dawkins

"Watch the action without the sound track and this truth becomes obvious."
— Reg Morrison

Most people are working with an incorrect version (a "cartoon" [[3]] version, or a social scientist's version) of evolution theory. The truth is that Darwin was a naturalist and possibly the greatest observer of all time. This great scientist devised a theory to explain his observations of the natural environment. The term "Neo-Darwinism" refers modern evolution theory. Neo-Darwinism is not reductionist (studied out of context) nor is it to be confused with "Social Darwinism" (a political ideology).

One of the most respected evolutionary biologists has defined biological evolution as follows:

"Biological evolution … is change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. The ontogeny of an individual is not considered evolution; individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next. Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions." [[4]]

It is important to note that biological evolution refers to populations — not to individuals — and that the changes must be passed on to the next generation. In practice this means that, evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.

Evolution is both a "theory" and an observed "fact" — it happens. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. For example, Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but gravity still happens. So does evolution:

"Dogs provide a dramatic yet familiar example of genetic variability within species. Despite their great variability in size and physical appearance, they are all members of the same species. Dogs also illustrate within-species genetic effects on behavior. Although physical differences are most obvious, dogs have been bred for centuries as much for their behavior as for their looks. In 1576, the earliest English-language book on dogs classified breeds primarily on the basis of behavior. For example, terriers (from terra, which is Latin for "earth") were bred to creep into burrows to drive out small animals. Another book, published in 1686, described the behavior for which spaniels were originally selected. They were bred to creep up on birds and then spring to frighten the birds into the hunter's net. With the advent of the shotgun, different spaniels were bred to point rather than to spring. The author of the 1686 work was especially interested in temperament: 'Spaniels by Nature are very loveing, surpassing all other Creatures, for in Heat and Cold, Wet and Dry, Day and Night, they will not forsake their Master'.

"Behavioral classification of dogs continues today. Sheepdogs herd, retrievers retrieve, trackers track, and pointers point with minimal training. Breeds also differ strikingly in intelligence and in temperamental traits such as emotionality, activity, and aggressiveness. The selection process can be quite fine tuned. For example, in France, where dogs are used chiefly for farm work, there are 17 breeds of shepherd and stock dogs specializing in aspects of this work. In England, dogs have been bred primarily for hunting, and there are 26 recognized breeds of hunting dogs. Dogs are not unusual in their genetic diversity, although they are unusual in the extent to which different breeds have been intentionally bred to accentuate genetic differences." [[5]]


Although the basic principles set forth in the 1800s by British scientist Charles Darwin still serve as the bedrock of evolutionary theory, the study of evolution has been refined over the years, particularly in light of new genetic knowledge made possible by advances in molecular biology.

Genes are chemicals that direct the combination of more chemicals. Edward Tatum and George Wells Beadle investigated the transmission of hereditary characteristics of genes and proved that particular genes are responsible for particular enzymes, and therefore genes regulate all biochemical processes. For their work on genetics, they shared the 1958 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Joshua Lederberg.

An English moth is a frequently cited example of observed evolution. A single gene primarily determines whether the color of this moth is light or dark.

Prior to 1848, dark moths constituted less than 2% of the population. But in the late eighteen hundreds, soot from English factories darkened the normally light colored birch trees the moths landed on. Against a dark background, birds could see the light colored moths and ate them. As a result, more dark moths survived until reproductive age and left offspring.

By 1898, the 95% of the moths in Manchester and other highly industrialized areas were dark. So, the change in frequency of dark colored moths represented a change in the gene pool. This change was, by definition, evolution. The increase in relative abundance of the dark type was due to "natural selection" (i.e., selection by environment).

Natural selection favors genes (or groups of genes) that succeed at reproducing the most copies –that generate "maximum power" — under existing environmental conditions. The theory of natural selection is well established in scientific circles and rarely questioned.


Recent advances in evolution theory have led to the first scientific theory of human evolutionary psychology". At the heart of evolutionary psychology is the notion that animals have an evolutionary history that predisposes [[6]] them to behave in ways that are uniquely adaptive for survival and reproduction.

Evolution theory clicked into focus when Dawkins explained that animals might be seen (by analogy) as nothing more than a gene's way of making more genes — so-called "selfish genes" (not the same as "selfish animals"). What appears to us as un-selfish behavior (technically known as "reciprocal altruism" [[7]]) evolves from selfish genes. Here's how it could happen:

Suppose a gene for "poop-on-the-rocks" and a gene for "poop-on-the-grass" are both present in a population of carnivores. Each of these genes is "selfish" in that it only cares about its own reproduction. Moreover, each of these genes controls the pooping habits of the carnivores they inhabit.

Those carnivores who "poop-on-the-grass" fertilize the ground, cause the grass to grow, the grass feeds the rabbits, the carnivores eat the rabbits, and finally make more "selfish, poop-on-the-grass" genes. Those carnivores who "poop-on-the-rocks" will starve to death, which in turn causes the "poop-on-the-rocks" gene to be eliminated from the gene pool.

The rabbits believe that the surviving carnivores are benevolent gods. The carnivores don't even think about it. When you boil it all down — and cut through all the jargon — evolution theory is simple and elegant!


"All species expand as much as resources allow and predators, parasites, and physical conditions permit. When a species is introduced into a new habitat with abundant resources that accumulated before its arrival, the population expands rapidly until all the resources are used up. In wine making, for example, a population of yeast cells in freshly-pressed grape juice grows exponentially until nutrients are exhausted — or waste products become toxic."
 — David Price;

Highly ordered complex systems (e.g., people, institutions) evolve at the expense of increasing disorder at higher levels in the system's hierarchy. This is commonly seen in the pursuit of individual gain at the expense of the larger community. When individuals maximize gain, populations experience overshoot and die off.

In 1944, 29 reindeer were moved to St. Matthew Island. The reindeer thrived on their rich natural resources. The island had no natural predators to keep the reindeer population in check, so the population swelled to 6,000 animals during the next 19 years. Suddenly the natural resources were depleted and the population crashed until only 42 animals remained alive! [[8]]

Just like the Easter Islanders, the reindeer were unable to devise a system that allowed them to find the right balance with their environment. So naturally they died off too.


"The human mind evolved to believe in gods… Acceptance of the supernatural conveyed a great advantage throughout prehistory, when the brain was evolving. Thus it is in sharp contrast to [science] which was developed as a product of the modern age and is not underwritten by genetic algorithms."
— E.O. Wilson

"DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Delaware (CNN) — The remains of the last four sailors who were among the 17 killed in the attack on the USS Cole have arrived at Dover Air Force Base."

The recent USS Cole tragedy was a poignant reminder of how natural selection favors mysticism over realism. It's because of the kind of behavior it generates:

"Precisely what we believe is immaterial; what matters is the kind of behavior it generates. This is why humanity is characterized by such astonishing diversity in its belief systems. As far as our genes are concerned, we can believe that the universe is driven by an overweight fairy on a green cheese bicycle provided that such belief effectively coerces us into adopting genetically advantageous behavior in all matters of evolutionary consequence, such as feeding, mating, nurturing, bonding, and protecting family, tribe, and territory." [[9]]

Suppose two groups of men oppose each other on the battlefield to defend their tribes (gene pools) — each with equal numbers, skill, and arms. One group believes that if they die killing the enemy, they will spend eternity sitting on clouds playing harps. The other group has studied evolution theory carefully and believes that they will totally cease to exist when they die.

Which tribe (set of genes) has the advantage? Those who believe in everlasting harp playing have the advantage. Why? It's because those who didn't evolve to believe in gods are less likely to sacrifice their lives for the tribe. So genes for scientific thought tend to be removed from the gene pool while genes for mysticism are promoted:

"In the introduction to his book The Blind Watchmaker, the distinguished British evolutionist Richard Dawkins was even moved to complain: 'It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and find it hard to believe.' Our universal, and therefore genetic, need to see ourselves as separate from the rest of the animal world ensures that most of humanity will continue to be at least suspicious, if not thoroughly antagonistic, to Charles Darwin's heretical propositions. We conveniently contend that we alone of all earth's species are not normal animals, an extraordinary claim that demands extraordinary proof. And none exists.

"Not the slightest scrap of hard evidence, either morphological or genetic, exists to suggest that Homo sapiens is not, like all other animals, a natural product of evolution. Therefore we, like they, are uncontaminated by supernatural influences, good, bad, or divine. We may well be excellent communicators and toolmakers, and tile most logical, self-aware, mystical, and malicious animals on earth, but overwhelming evidence shows that these distinctions are of degree, not of kind. The only irrefutable argument in favor of humanity's specialness is in fact purely mystical — and entirely circular. Yet the myth lives on." [[10]]

Since we are genetically inclined to deceive ourselves into believing in gods — just as a child believes in Santa Claus — we naturally prefer to remain ignorant of our true natures. When confronted with "harsh reality", we demand scientific proof that Santa doesn't exist. Of course, it's impossible to prove that Santa doesn't exist. So we ignore the harsh reality and believe that Santa (either as "the market", or as some marvelous new "technology") will deliver the goods.


"Nor did a prince ever lack legitimate reasons by which to color his bad faith. One could cite a host of modern examples and list the many peace treaties, the many promises that were made null and void by princes who broke faith, with the advantage going to the one who best knew how to play the fox. But one must know how to mask this nature skillfully and be a great dissembler. Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions."
— Niccolň Machiavelli

Studies have shown that people are not "rational" (in the Bayesian sense). Although the notion that people are "rational utility maximizers" was common a hundred years ago, only economists are still taught it. Scientists now know that human behavior is driven by "irrational" brain chemistry and then "rationalized" after the fact:

"When a split brain subject is subjected to tests where the left half of their brain does not know the correct answer, it will often make something up based on the information it does have." [[11]]

In the late 50s, the social scientist Erving Goffman made a stir with a book that stressed how much time we all spend on stage, playing to one audience or another. Goffman marveled that sometimes a person is "sincerely convinced that the impression of reality which he stages is the real reality."

What modern evolution theory brings to Goffman's observation is an explanation of the practical function of self-deception: we deceive ourselves in order to deceive others better. In his foreword to Richard Dawkins' THE SELFISH GENE, Robert Trivers noted Dawkins' emphasis on the role of deception in animal life and added, in a much-cited passage, that if indeed "deceit is fundamental to animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray — by the subtle signs of self-knowledge — the deception being practiced." Thus, "the conventional view that natural selection favors nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution." [[12]]

In business, love, and politics, "sincerity" is everything. If you can fake that, you've got it made:

"There are two other large realms in which the presentation of self, and the perception of others, has great Darwinian consequence: reciprocal altruism and social hierarchy. Here, as with sex, honesty can be a major blunder. In fact, reciprocal altruism and social hierarchy may together be responsible for most of the dishonesty in our species — which, in turn, accounts for a good part of the dishonesty in the animal kingdom. We are far from the only dishonest species, but we are probably the most dishonest, if only because we do the most talking." [[13]]

QUESTION: Mr. President, if there is a semen stain belonging to you on a dress of Ms. Lewinsky's, how would you explain that?

CLINTON: I do not believe that I violated the definition of sexual relations I was given by directly touching those parts of her body with the intent to arouse or gratify. And that's all I have to say. [[14]]

Biologist Lyall Watson summarizes the universal political agenda: 1) "be nice to insiders"; 2) "be nasty to outsiders"; 3) "cheat whenever possible". Under the third rule we find the intricate deception whereby plants and animals evade predators, capture prey, secure sexual services — and in the case of H. Sapiens, attain public office.


"The problem is, of course, that not only is economics bankrupt but it has always been nothing more than politics in disguise … economics is a form of brain damage."
— Hazel Henderson

"No other discipline attempts to make the world act as it thinks the world should act. But of course what Homo sapiens does and what Homo economicus should do are often quite different. That, however, does not make the basic model wrong, as it would in every other discipline. It just means that actions must be taken to bend Homo sapiens into conformity with Homo economicus. So, instead of adjusting theory to reality, reality is adjusted to theory."
— Lester Thurow

"Politics" is simply an attempt to compel one to act in a certain way — either by reward or punishment. All social animals are born politicians.

Modern scientists discover knowledge about the real world by first visualizing physical interactions, and then attempting to prove themselves wrong with experiments. This is known as the "falsification" principle. If scientists cannot prove themselves wrong, then they may be right.

Hundreds of experiments have confirmed that we are not natural scientists — we are natural politicians! We naturally adopt a "falsification strategy" with respect to social issues, but a "confirmation strategy" with respect to real-world issues:

"Consider first a phenomenon I call the deontic effect in human reasoning (Cummins, 1996b, 1996c). Deontic reasoning is reasoning about rights and obligations; that is, reasoning about what one is permitted, obligated, or forbidden to do (Hilpinen, 1981; Manktelow & Over, 1991). Deontic reasoning contrasts with indicative reasoning, which is reasoning about what is true or false. When reasoning about deontic rules (social norms), humans spontaneously adopt a violation-detection strategy: They look for cheaters or rule-breakers. In contrast, when reasoning about the truth status of statements about the world, they spontaneously adopt a confirmation-seeking strategy. This effect is apparent in the reasoning of children as young as three years of age (Cummins, 1996a; Harris & Nuńez, 1996) and has been observed in literally hundreds of experiments on adult reasoning over the course of nearly thirty years, making it one of the most reliable effects in the psychological literature (see Cummins, 1996b, 1996c, and Oaksford & Chapter, 996 for reviews of this literature)." [[15]]

Our mind is not like a general-purpose computer that can switch from Word, to Excel, to Autocad instantly; instead it's an extremely complex collection of "wetware" (neurons, dendrites, endocrine responses, neurotransmitters, receptors, etc.) that comes from the factory optimized for politics:

"The social intelligence hypothesis posits that the large brains distinctive cognitive abilities of primates (in particular, anthropoid primates) evolved via a spiraling arms race in which social competitors developed increasing 'Machiavellian' strategies." [[16]]

In short, the biological goal of any social animal's mind is "maximum social power" — to reproduce as many of the genes that created it as possible — and every social animal's most important tool is politics.

Scientists have found that how we think and what we think causes profound physical changes in our maturing wetware. Moreover, these changes are more-or-less hardwired by age 25. In short, minds are like muscles: use it or lose it.

All doctors, engineers and mechanics who successfully solve real-world problems employ a variety of "visualization and falsification" techniques; i.e., "rule things out", and thus develop the wetware required to see oneself as part a real-world life-support system. By contrast, social scientists do not solve real-word problems, and never develop the required wetware. In short, they just don't have the brains for it.

Now we know why the Easter Islanders were unable to devise a system that allowed them to find the right balance with their environment! It's because politicians ruled them — and politicians never develop the wetware required to see that they are doing to their life-support system. What's more, even those individuals, who had developed the necessary wetware, were naturally biased against realism in favor of mysticism.

What happened to the Easter Islanders was the natural outcome. Naturally, it will happen to us too.


"War is a male reproductive strategy. All that is needed for the strategy to evolve, is that aggressors fight and win more often than they lose."
— Michael P. Ghiglieri

"A corrupt and disorderly multitude can be spoken to by some worthy person and can easily be brought around to the right way, but a bad prince can not be spoken to by anyone, and the only remedy for his case is cold steel."
— Niccolň Machiavelli

The Maximum Power Principle (or "MPP") states that all open systems (Bernard cells, ecosystems, people, societies, etc.) evolve to degrade as much energy as possible while allowing for the continued existence of the larger systems they are part of. Thus, the MPP gives direction to evolution and is consistent with modern biological evolution theory.

The MPP suggests that as systems are moved away from equilibrium they will take advantage of all available means [[17]] to resist externally imposed reductions in power. As the MPP suggests, we social animals are natural-born killers:

"Chimp social structure would be unique were it not for humans acting similarly. This is no coincidence. By most taxonomic criteria, chimps and humans are sibling species. Overall, chimp society is not only extremely sexist — with all adult males dominant over females-but also xenophobic to the extent of killing all alien males, many infants, and some old females who enter their territory. To some readers, my use of the word war may seem too strong to describe what male kin groups do. But systematic, protracted, deliberate, and cooperative brutal killings of every male in a neighboring community, plus genocidal and frequent cannibalistic murder of many of their offspring, followed by usurpation of the males' mates and annexation of part or all of the losers' territory, matches or exceeds the worst that humans do when they wage war.

"Wild chimps reveal the natural contexts of territoriality, war, male cooperation, solidarity and sharing, nepotism, sexism, xenophobia, infanticide, murder, cannibalism, polygyny, and mating competition between kin groups of males — behaviors that have evolved through sexual selection. Also significant is the fact that none of these apes learned these violent behaviors by watching TV or by being victims of socioeconomic handicaps — poor schools, broken homes, bad fathers, illegal drugs, easy weapons, or any other sociological condition. Nor were these apes spurred to war by any political, religious, or economic ideology or by the rhetoric of an insane demagogue. They also were not seeking an 'identity' or buckling under peer pressure. Instead, they were obeying instincts, coded in the male psyche, dictating that they must win against other males." [[18]]

The MPP suggests that when tribes face a reduction in critical resources, they will wage war on weaker tribes:

"War analyst Stanislav Andreski concluded that the trigger for most wars is hunger, or even 'a mere drop from the customary standard of living.' Anthropologists Carol and Melvin Ember spent six years studying war in the late 1980s among 186 preindustrial societies. They focused on precontact times in hopes of collecting the 'cleanest, least distorted' data. Andreski, it seems, was right. War's most common cause, the Embers found, was fear of deprivation. The victors in the wars they studied almost always took territory, food, and/or other critical resources from their enemies. Moreover, unpredictable disasters-droughts, blights, floods, and freezes — which led to severe hardships, spurred more wars than did chronic shortages.

"This also holds true among modern nations. In 1993, political scientists Thomas E Homer-Dixon, Jeffrey H. Boutwell, and George W. Rathjens examined the roots of recent global conflicts and concluded, 'There are significant causal links between scarcities of renewable resources and violence.' "In short, many wars seem to be a mass, communal robbery of another social group's life-support resources." [[19]]

Any so-called "motive" given for murdering the competition (e.g., "jobs, jobs, jobs.") is nothing more than a "rationalization" designed to win social approval for defending one's genes:

"Jim Baker attempted to explain the economic stakes of Iraq's invasion for the US by saying the issue was 'jobs, jobs, jobs.' Immediately the press jumped all over him… In fact, Jim was simply echoing what we had been saying… a point I myself had made in a speech in mid-August. There was no inconsistency." — President George Bush Sr. [[20]]

We are really accomplished killers! It's hard to believe we have slaughtered so may of our fellows in the last 100 years:




USSR 1917-1987 61,911,000
China (PRC) 1949-1987 35,236,000
Germany 1933-1945 20,946,000
China (KMT) 1928-1949 10,075,000
Japan 1936-1945 5,964,000
China (Mao Soviets) 1923-1949 3,466,000
Cambodia 1975-1979 2,035,000
Turkey 1909-1918 1,883,000
Vietnam 1945-1987 1,670,000
Poland 1945-1948 1,585,000
Pakistan 1958-1987 1,503,000
Yugoslavia (Tito) 1944-1987 1,072,000
North Korea 1948-1987 1,663,000
Mexico 1900-1920 1,417,000
Russia 1900-1917 1,066,000
China (Warlords) 1917-1949 910,000
Turkey (Ataturk) 1919-1923 878,000
United Kingdom 1900-1987 816,000
Portugal (Dictatorship) 1926-1982 741,000
Indonesia 1965-1987 729,000
Miscellaneous Murder 1900-1987 13,636,000




We will do even better in the next 100 years! We will kill billions!


"To the free man, the country is a collection of individuals who compose it … He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive."

"We may well call it 'the tragedy of the commons,' using the word 'tragedy' as the philosopher Whitehead used it: 'The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things.'"

America's overall political structure is something like this (this is not a "model", it's a "heuristic"):

The rich minority determines the "logic of profit":
America’s laws and trade agreements regulate the overall workings of society at a highly aggregate level. (The rich rule the poor by virtue of the First and Fifth Amendments.)


Large corporations:
Large corporations are autonomous technical structures (machines) that follow the "logic of profit" inherent in their design. Those that don’t are cancelled by bankruptcy.


Corporations hire media to program the "consumers".


Consumers do as evolution and the media have programmed them: consume their own life-support system and elect the "traitors".


Elected traitors:
Traitors do what they were elected to do: sell the commons to corporations for personal gain. Those who don’t are cancelled by campaign advertising.


In a so-called "free society" such as ours, individuals will tend to self-select positions within the system where they can maximize inclusive fitness. For example, "election by popularity contest" will tend to elect those who are the best liars and the least realistic.

The structure of our social system will tend to reinforce its power centers until it runs out of energy — and then it will collapse as so many civilizations have in the past. [[21]]

In his 1968 classic, THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS, [[22]] Garrett Hardin illustrates why the why communities everywhere are headed for tragedy — it's because freedom in the commons brings ruin to all:

Visualize a pasture as a system that is open to everyone. The carrying capacity of this pasture is 10 animals. Ten herdsmen are each grazing an animal to fatten up for market. In other words, the 10 animals are now consuming all the grass that the pasture can produce.

Harry (one of the herdsmen) will add one more animal to the pasture if he can make a profit. He subtracts the original cost of the new animal from the expected sales price of the fattened animal and then considers the cost of the food. Adding one more animal will mean less food for each of the present animals, but since Harry only has only 1/10 of the herd, he has to pay only 1/10 of the cost. Harry decides to "exploit" (make the best use of) the commons, so he adds an animal and takes a profit.

Shrinking profit margins force the other herdsmen either to go out of business or add more animals too. This process of mutual exploitation continues until overgrazing and erosion destroy the pasture system, and all the herdsmen are driven out of business.

Most importantly, Hardin illustrates the critical flaw of freedom in the commons: all participants must agree to conserve the commons, but any one can force the destruction of the commons. Although Hardin describes exploitation by humans in an unregulated public pasture, his commons and "grass" principle fit our entire society.

So-called "private property" is inextricably part of our commons because it is part of our life support and social systems. Owners alter the emergent properties of our life support and social systems when they alter their land to "make a profit" — cover land with corn or concrete.

Neighborhoods, cities and states are commons in the sense that no one is denied entry. Anyone may enter and lay claim to the common resources. One can see "profits" as a commons when any number of corporations — from anywhere in the world — and drive down profits by competing with local businesses for customers.

One can see "wages" as commons when any number of workers — from anywhere in the world — can enter our community and drive down wages by competing with local workers for jobs. People themselves even become commons when exploited by others. Everywhere one looks, one sees the tragedy. There is no technological solution to the problem of the commons, but governments can act to limit access to the commons, at which time they are no longer commons.

In the private-money based political system we have in America, everything (including people) becomes the commons because money is political power, and all political decisions are reduced to economic ones. In other words, we have no political system, only an economic system — everything for sale. Thus, America is one big commons that will be exploited until it is destroyed.


"Oil has literally made foreign and security policy for decades. Just since the turn of this century, it has provoked the division of the Middle East after World War I; aroused Germany and Japan to extend their tentacles beyond their borders; the Arab Oil Embargo; Iran versus Iraq; the Gulf War. This is all clear."
— Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson, December 9, 1999

One of the most important aspects of energy is its "quality". Different kinds of fuel have different qualities. For example, coal contains more energy per pound than wood, which makes coal more efficient to store and transport than wood. Oil has a higher energy content per unit weight and burns at a higher temperature than coal; it is easier to transport, and can be used in internal combustion engines. A diesel locomotive uses only one-fifth the energy of a coal-powered steam engine to pull the same train.

Oil is the most important form of energy we use, making up about 40 percent, or 152 quadrillion Btu, of the world energy supply (DOE, 1998). No other energy source equals oil’s intrinsic qualities of extractability, transportability, versatility and cost. The qualities that enabled oil to take over from coal as the front-line energy source in the industrialized world in the middle of this century are as relevant today as they were then. Oil's many advantages provide 1.3 to 2.45 times more economic value per kilocalorie than coal. [[23]]

Petroleum experts Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere, Brian Fleay, Roger Blanchard, Richard Duncan, Walter Youngquist, and Albert Bartlett (using various methodologies) have all estimated a "peak" in "conventional oil" around 2005. Moreover, the CEOs of Agip, ENI SpA, (Italian oil companies) and Arco have all published estimates of peak in 2005. So it seems like a reliable estimate. [[24]]

Studies show that nothing can replace oil: "A recent review of the future prospects of all alternatives has been published. The summary conclusion reached is that there is no known complete substitute for petroleum in its many and varied uses." [[25]] When the oil's gone, food production will drop to a fraction of today’s numbers: "If the fertilizers, partial irrigation [in part provided by oil energy], and pesticides were withdrawn, corn yields, for example, would drop from 130 bushels per acre to about 30 bushels." [[26]]


"If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation."
— Sir Arthur Eddington

"This [energy crisis] comes as a surprise."
— INTEL spokesman (12/07/00)

By definition, energy "sources" must produce more energy than they consume, otherwise they are called "sinks".

Neither capital nor labor nor technology — nor wishful thinking — can "create" energy (the first law of thermodynamics). Instead, available energy must be spent to transform existing "stocks" of energy (e.g., oil), or to divert an existing energy "flow" (e.g., wind) into more available energy. The engines that actually do the work in our society (so-called "heat engines", such as diesel engines) waste 50 percent of the energy contained in their fuel (the second law).

A "stock" of energy (e.g., oil) is not sustainable because stocks are ultimately depleted. Thus, sustainable energy systems must be based on "flows" such as solar radiation, oceanic tides, or geothermal heat.

H.T. Odum's solar "eMergy" (eMbodied energy) measures all of the energy (adjusted for quality) that went into the production of a product. Odum's calculations show that the only forms of alternative energy that can survive the exhaustion of fossil fuel are burning biomass (wood, animal dung, or peat), hydroelectric, geothermal in volcanic areas, and some wind electrical generation. Nuclear power could be viable if one could overcome the shortage of fuel. No other alternatives (e.g., solar voltaic) produce a large enough net energy to be sustainable. In short, there is no way out.

The fact that our society can not survive with alternative energy should come as no surprise, because only an idiot would believe that windmills and solar panels can run bulldozers, elevators, steel mills, glass factories, electric heat, air conditioning, aircraft, automobiles, etc., AND still have enough energy left over to support a corrupt political system, armies, etc.

We like to believe they are in charge of our own destinies. But in truth, the MPP has condemned us to a fight to the death over dwindling resources.


"Interests can always be compromised and accommodated without undermining our very being by sacrificing values. Under the impact of electronic media, however, this psychological distance has broken down and now we discover that these people with whom we could formerly compromise on interests are not, after all, really motivated by interests but by values. Their behavior in our very living room betrays a set of values, moreover, that are incompatible with our own, and consequently the compromises that we make are not those of contract but of culture. While the former are acceptable, any form of compromise on the latter is not a form of rational behavior but is rather a clear case of either apostasy or heresy. Thus we have arrived not at an age of accommodation but one of confrontation."
 — Beryl Crowe

"The would-be savior of a disintegrating society is necessarily a savior with a sword."
— Arnold J. Toynbee

For want of a nail the shoe is lost,
for want of a shoe the horse is lost,
for want of a horse the rider is lost.

IN THE VERY EARLY HOURS OF JULY 13, 1942, the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 were roused from their bunks in the large brick school building that served as their barracks in the Polish town of Bilgoraj. They were middle-aged family men of working- and lower-middle-class background from the city of Hamburg. Considered too old to be of use to the German army, they had been drafted instead into the Order Police. Most were raw recruits with no previous experience in German occupied territory. They had arrived in Poland less than three weeks earlier.

It was still quite dark as the men climbed into the waiting trucks. Each policeman had been given extra ammunition, and additional boxes had been loaded onto the trucks as well. They were headed for their first major action, though the men had not yet been told what to expect.

The convoy of battalion trucks moved out of Bilgoraj in the dark, heading eastward on a jarring washboard gravel road. The pace was slow, and it took an hour and a half to two hours to arrive at the destination — the village of Józefów — a mere thirty kilometers away. Just as the sky was beginning to lighten, the convoy halted outside Józefów. It was a typical Polish village of modest white houses with thatched straw roofs. Among its inhabitants were 1,800 Jews.

The village was totally quiet. The men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 climbed down from their trucks and assembled in a half-circle around their commander, Major Wilhelm Trapp, a fifty-three-year-old career policeman affectionately known by his men as "Papa Trapp." The time had come for Trapp to address the men and inform them of the assignment the battalion had received.

Pale and nervous, with choking voice and tears in his eyes, Trapp visibly fought to control himself as he spoke. The battalion, he said plaintively, had to perform a frightfully unpleasant task. This assignment was not to his liking, indeed it was highly regrettable, but the orders came from the highest authorities. If it would make their task any easier, the men should remember that in Germany the bombs were falling on women and children.

He then turned to the matter at hand. The Jews had instigated the American boycott that had damaged Germany, one policeman remembered Trapp saying. There were Jews in the village of Józefów who were involved with the partisans, he explained according to two others. The battalion had now been ordered to round up these Jews. The male Jews of working age were to be separated and taken to a work camp. The remaining Jews — the women, children, and elderly — were to be shot on the spot by the battalion. Having explained what awaited his men, Trapp then made an extraordinary offer: if any of the older men among them did not feel up to the task that lay before him, he could step out. [[27]]

 “Why didn’t they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree?”
— Jared Diamond, EASTER'S END;

What were the Easter Islanders thinking as they cut down the last palm tree? What are YOU thinking right now?


[1] In 1991, Kay and Schneider explained Lotka's (1922) suggestion that living systems will maximize their energy flow, H. T. Odum's (1955) Maximum Power Principle for ecosystems, and Lieth's (1976) maximum energy conductivity. . Energy efficiency is tuned for maximum power. Energy conservation leads to more power production.

[2] DEATH BY GOVERNMENT, R.J. Rummel; Transaction Publishers, 1997; —

[3] THE DARK SIDE OF MAN: Tracing the Origins of Male Violence, by Michael P. Ghiglieri; Perseus, 1999;

[p. 179] "The central 'truth' of sociologists is that nature, especially that of humankind, is nice and that people are designed to do things that, all in all, favor the survival of their species. Hence people could never be equipped by nature with instincts to kill other people. This idea comes from the Bambi school of biology, a Disneyesque vision of nature as a collection of moralistic and altruistic creatures. It admires nature for its harmony and beauty of form and for its apparent 'balance' or even cooperativeness. It admires the deer for its beauty and fleetness, and it grudgingly admires the lion for its power and nobility of form. If anything is really wrong with us, it explains, it is a sociocultural problem that we can fix by resocializing people. It is not a biological problem.

"Nature, however, is actually a dynamic state of recurring strife of relentless competition, dedicated predators and parasites, and selfish defense. The deer owes its beauty and fleetness to predators such as mountain lions, which kill the clumsiest and slowest deer first; to competitors for food; and to competition between males to mate. Without predators, deer would not only lack fleetness; they would lack legs altogether. They would be slugs oozing from one plant to another. Yet even if these deer-slugs were the only animals out there, natural selection would favor the evolution of faster and more aggressive deer-slugs and would favor any other trait that made them superior competitors against each other. This would include the killing of one deer-slug by another in situations where it boiled down to kill or die.

"Moreover, the power and noble visage of the lion (or of the family cat or dog, for that matter) rest entirely on natural selection having shaped not only a fleet predator and efficient killing machine but also a very violent competitor against its own kind in situations where the options were narrowed to exclude or kill, or else kill to survive or reproduce."

THE SEARCH FOR SOCIETY, by Robin Fox; Rutgers Univ Pr., 1989;

pp. 2-3, 4, 28 "I am not convinced that the social and behavioral sciences, at least implicitly, accept the fact-value distinction. I argue that they are committed to a utopian program by their history and by the expectations that keep them alive and funded, namely, that they will help to improve the future prospects of mankind. This is so taken for granted that many people will not see that there is an issue: 'of course these disciplines are intended for the future betterment of mankind; why else would we have them?' One answer might be to look for the truth about human social nature whether or not the ensuing news be good or bad. In other words, it is certainly a logical possibility that there is no improvable future for mankind, that the news is indeed bad. At least the issue must be faced, not assumed to be settled. It is hard for the social sciences to face it, however; it is a poor basis for research proposals.

"The result is that there is a tremendous bias in all the sciences towards the bearing of good news. It is inconceivable that any news refuting any part of the utopian program should be well received, however incontrovertible. The funds would immediately dry up."

"The reader not familiar with the present state of sectarian fragmentation in the social sciences — anthropology in particular — may be baffled by some of the responses this book will provoke. The social sciences, unlike most of the natural sciences, do not have a consensus of 'normal science' to which appeal can be made in judging a contribution. What they have are competing ideologies. And as with all sectarian disputes, judgments are made on the basis of ideological purity versus heresy. It is almost impossible these days to get a reasoned discussion of issues in the social sciences. The dominance of neo-relativist, hermeneutic, critical, symbolic, deconstructionist, and interpretative versions of the social science enterprise involve a retreat from science and the very idea of objective knowledge."

"Man is different from other primates, not because he has in some way overcome his primate nature, but because he is a different kind of primate with a different kind of nature. At the level of forms and processes man behaves culturally, because mutation and natural selection have produced an animal that must behave culturally — invent rules, make myths, speak languages, and form men's clubs, in the same way as the hamadryas baboon must form harems, adopt infants, and bite his wives on the neck."

[5] pp. 58-59. BEHAVIORAL GENETICS: Third Edition, Plomin et al; Freeman, 1997;

[6] Genetic algorithms form the baseline for animal behavior, and then these algorithms are modified by environment factors (social and otherwise).

[7] There is a great deal of literature on "reciprocal altruism". A good place to start would be THE ORIGINS OF VIRTUE: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation, by Matt Ridley; Viking, 1996;

[9] p. 186, THE SPIRIT IN THE GENE: Humanity's Proud Illusion and the Laws of Nature, by Reg Morrison, Lynn Margulis; Cornell, 1999;

[ Jacket ] "From famines and deforestation to water pollution, global warming, and the rapid rate of extinction of plants and animals — the extent of the global damage wrought by humankind is staggering. Why have we allowed our environment to reach such a crisis?

"What produced the catastrophic population explosion that so taxes the earth's resources? Reg Morrison's search for answers led him to ponder our species' astonishing evolutionary success. His extraordinary book describes how a spiritual outlook combined with a capacity for rational thought have enabled Homo sapiens to prosper through the millennia. It convincingly depicts these traits as part of our genetic makeup — and as the likely cause of our ultimate downfall against the inexorable laws of nature.

"The book will change the way readers think about human evolution and the fate of our species. Small bands of apes walked erect on the dangerous plains of East Africa several million years ago. Morrison marvels that they not only survived, but migrated to all corners of the earth and established civilizations. To understand this feat, he takes us back to a critical moment when these hominids developed language and with it the unique ability to think abstractly. He shows how at this same time they began to derive increasing advantage from their growing sense of spirituality. He convincingly depicts spirituality as an evolutionary strategy that helped rescue our ancestors from extinction and drive the species toward global dominance.

"Morrison concludes that this genetically productive spirituality, which has influenced every aspect of our lives, has led us to overpopulate the world and to devastate our own habitats. Sobering, sometimes chilling, consistently fascinating, his book offers a startling new view of human adaptation running its natural course."

[page xiii-xv] "In the introduction to his book The Blind Watchmaker, the distinguished British evolutionist Richard Dawkins was even moved to complain: 'It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and find it hard to believe.' Our universal, and therefore genetic, need to see ourselves as separate from the rest of the animal world ensures that most of humanity will continue to be at least suspicious, if not thoroughly antagonistic, to Charles Darwin's heretical propositions. We conveniently contend that we alone of all earth's species are not normal animals, an extraordinary claim that demands extraordinary proof. And none exists.

"Not the slightest scrap of hard evidence, either morphological or genetic, exists to suggest that Homo sapiens is not, like all other animals, a natural product of evolution. Therefore we, like they, are uncontaminated by supernatural influences, good, bad, or divine. We may well be excellent communicators and toolmakers, and tile most logical, self-aware, mystical, and malicious animals on earth, but overwhelming evidence shows that these distinctions are of degree, not of kind. The only irrefutable argument in favor of humanity's specialness is in fact purely mystical — and entirely circular. Yet the myth lives on.

"Is it not strange that our genetic makeup should allow, perhaps even prescribe, such naďveté? I will argue that our peculiar genetic heritage purposefully blinds us to reality to make us malleable and compliant to its demands, and that our habit of assigning ourselves an imaginary specialness is the mechanism that delivers us willingly into genetic servitude. Our purported spirituality is a consequence of 2 million years of painstaking Darwinian selection.

"Having evolved as a cooperative species, Homo sapiens seems to have retained almost all of those mammalian characteristics we most admire-selfless devotion, compassion, courage, generosity, and wit — to the point that one of the truly remarkable things about human beings is not how bad we can be but how good most of us are, most of the time — even by animal standards. Unfortunately we take this goodness for granted and usually fail to note it. When we do, however, we assume it to be uniquely human, an expression of human spirituality. In fact, altruistic behavior is common throughout the animal world, and in other species it seems to be entirely free of tedious sermonizing and self-congratulation. They, like us, simply do what works best for their genetic line. To this end, many species mate for life; feed, protect, and educate their offspring with obsessive fervor; and willingly lay their lives on the line whenever family, tribe, or territory is threatened.

"The attribution of human motives and emotions to animals used to be considered sloppy science. The underlying fear was that such thinking might erode some of the respect that we felt we were owed as a uniquely sentient and rational species. That particular academic taboo is less rigidly observed these days, yet in a perverse sense it remains entirely sound. Indeed, no animal displays human behavior. Quite the reverse. Humans display only animal behavior. Watch the action without the sound track and this truth becomes obvious.

"I will therefore argue that our much-vaunted spirituality is a cultural illusion that became cemented into the foundations of early human society by our potent combination of language and imagination. Meanwhile the universality of our fascination with things mystic and spiritual displays its genetic origins as plainly as does our compulsion to communicate with one another. I also believe that our obsessive urge to imbue our existence with mystical meaning was once the Excalibur of our species, the invincible weapon that carried our branch of the hominid line from the brink of extinction to the conquest of the planet. Since mystical beliefs of various kinds have also played a primary role in the catastrophic growth of the human population, the final chapters of the book are devoted to exploring mysticism's present and future impact on our already bruised and destabilized environment.

"We may not be able to hurl our troublesome Excalibur back into the gene pool from whence it came, but surely it is time we momentarily lowered that dazzling weapon, and for once, with unclouded eyes, saw ourselves for what we are in the only context that ultimately matters: the evolutionary context."

[10] ibid.

[11] Several chapters of THE MORAL ANIMAL: Why We Are the Way We Are — The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, Robert Wright; Pantheon; 1994; are available on-line at .

The quote cited is in chapter #13 at .

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

[15] pp. 39, 40, THE EVOLUTION OF MIND, Denise Cummins & Colin Allen Eds; Oxford, 1998;

[16] p. 240, MACHIAVELLIAN INTELLIGENCE II, Andrew Whiten & Richard W. Byrne Eds; Cambridge, 1997;

[17] Here "all available means" says everything and nothing because it varies depending upon the systems involved. For example, individual people will usually work within social norms to increase political power because it usually maximizes their inclusive fitness. Countries will usually follow norms because it usually provides maximum fitness for its citizens. However, when individuals and countries perceive that fitness is best served by violating established norms, they will invent rationalizations and violate the norms.

[18] p. 176, Ghiglieri, 1999;

[19] p. 190, Ghiglieri, 1999;

[20] President George Bush Sr., in p. 399, A WORLD TRANSFORMED, George Bush & Brent Scowcroft;

[21] COMPLEXITY, PROBLEM SOLVING, AND SUSTAINABLE SOCIETIES, by Joseph A. Tainter, 1996; in GETTING DOWN TO EARTH: Practical Applications of Ecological Economics, Island Press, 1996; ;

[23] p. 87, BEYOND OIL, by John Gever et al., Univ. Pr. Colorado, 1991;

[24] The latest estimates by country can be found at — —

[25] THE POST-PETROLEUM PARADIGM — AND POPULATION, by Walter Youngquist; Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies Volume 20, Number 4, March 1999;

[26] ibid. Pimentel, D. (1998a).

[27] pp. 1-2, ORDINARY MEN: Reserve Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland; by Christopher R. Browning; Harperperennial, 1993;