Subscribe
Subscribe
MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
Logo IMG
HOME > ON THE BOOKSHELF > Bookshelf Detail

Ecology and Environment


Vol. 62, No. 6 (November–December 1974)

ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT: Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins. Konrad Lorenz. Trans. by Marjorie Kerr Wilson. 107 pp. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974. $4.95.

This is the translation of the author’s 1973 work Die acht Todsünden der zivilisierten Menschheit, a thoughtful analysis by a distinguished zoologist–ethologist of mankind’s pathological deviations leading to ecological, environmental, and social crises.

The eight “deadly sins” Lorenz describes include overpopulation and inhuman enclosures of persons in small spaces; devastation of the environment and loss of awe; the blind pursuit of technology and loss of the resource of time. These three “sins” illustrate ecological and environmental decay.

Lorenz goes further, however; his analysis is never concerned with the merely physical, as was, for example, The Limits to Growth. Together with the above, he catalogs and describes five additional ills, each of which represents pathological disorders of mankind, the appearance of structures, institutions, and attitudes which fill no natural purpose in the survival of the species and which, in fact, defeat natural purposes. This concept, explained in an introductory chapter, is reinforced by reference to the concepts of homeostasis and feedback. The five further ills include the loss of strong emotion and the inability to experience joy; the failure to preserve instinctive norms of social behavior and the rise of infantilisms; the break with tradition and the growing schism between generations; the increased indoctrinability of the population; and, finally, the threat of nuclear armament.

Lorenz attempts to trace these ills to the doctrine of ontogenetic conditioning as counterposed to phylogenetic evolution, and he does so with some success. The argument is strongest when he discusses “indoctrinability,” weakest when he discusses “genetic decay.” His claim that the eight “sins” are pathological disorders is well made; his use of the word sin remains unsupported, for sin is not necessarily the same as disease. Nonetheless, Lorenz’s analysis coolly spotlights eight severe maladies; whether understood in the language of systems analysis or in the language of ethology, and whether it refers to “ills” or “sins,” it deserves a careful and critical audience.—Jay Martin Anderson, Chemistry, Bryn Mawr College


comments powered by Disqus
 

Connect With Us:

Facebook Icon Sm Twitter Icon Google+ Icon Pinterest Icon RSS Feed

Sigma Xi/Amazon Smile (SciNight)


Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

  • American Scientist Update

  • An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.

  • Scientists' Nightstand: Holiday Special!

  • News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.

    To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.


RSS Feed Subscription

Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.


Read Past Issues on JSTOR

JSTOR, the online academic archive, contains complete back issues of American Scientist from 1913 (known then as the Sigma Xi Quarterly) through 2005.

The table of contents for each issue is freely available to all users; those with institutional access can read each complete issue.

View the full collection here.


EMAIL TO A FRIEND :

Subscribe to American Scientist