Five simple concepts help explain these human currents. Each section of this book concentrates on one of those concepts... and its sometimes startling implications. Together, these concepts are the foundation underlying the Lucifer Principle.
Concept number one: the principle of self-organizing systems--replicators--bits of structure that function as mini-factories, assembling raw materials, then churning out intricate products. These natural assembly units (genes are one example) crank out their goods so cheaply that the end results are appallingly expendable. Among those expendable products are you and me.
Concept number two: the superorganism. We are not the rugged individuals we would like to be. We are, instead, disposable parts of a being much larger than ourselves.
Concept number three: the meme--a self-replicating cluster of ideas. Thanks to a handful of biological tricks, these visions become the glue that holds together civilizations, giving each culture its distinctive shape, making some intolerant of dissent and others open to diversity. They are the tools with which we unlock the forces of nature. Our visions bestow the dream of peace. They also turn us into killers.
Concept number four: the neural net, the group mind whose eccentric mode of operation manipulates our emotions and turns us into components of a massive learning machine.
Concept number five: the pecking order. The naturalist who discovered this "dominance hierarchy" in a Norwegian farmyard called it the key to despotism. Pecking orders exist among men, monkeys, wasps... and even nations. They help explain why the danger of barbarians is real, and why the assumptions of our foreign policies are often wrong.
Five simple ideas. Yet the insights they yield are amazingly rich. They reveal why doctors are not always as powerful as they seem, but why we are compelled to believe in them nonetheless. They explain how Hinduism--the religion of ultimate peace--grew from the greed of a tribe of bloodthirsty killers, and why nature disposes of men far more casually than women. They shed light on America's decline... and the dangers that lie ahead of us.
Above all, they illuminate a mystery that has eternally eluded man... the root of the evil that haunts our lives. For within the five small ideas we will pursue there lurks a force that rules us.