Institutional Pathology

1) The inability of an institution, or the people running that institution, from ceasing to do what they know to be harmful and destructive.

2) It is where a manager’s duty to a company or organization outweighs all other concerns, including his or her concerns about the viability of the planet to support the human beings and the other species that now reside on it. It is duty to an institution being stronger than anything outside of that institution, including the concerns for his or her own family.

3) It is the mixture, among those running an institution, of a) the knowledge by those running an institution that their actions and decisions cause harm to the living systems of the planet and b) the inability or unwillingness to halt that destruction.

The duty of a manager of a corporations is definite and unqualified: it is to serve the interests of the corporation—increasing profits, avoiding risks, perceiving threats, acting so that the company is unfettered in its growth and its plans to secure profits for its owners. Furthermore, institutions often defend themselves at all costs. A company has no investment in anything but itself and so sees no cost as too great to preserve itself and its source of financial support. In short, a manager is often a servant to an entity that is indifferent to what it destroys.

This pathology results in a dilemma for managers of those institutions. It is the dilemma of being torn between their duty to the institution and their feelings of obligation towards others and toward the planet’s living systems—as well as toward the lives of future generations. One response to this dilemma may be denial among the group of people running the institution or even a culture of silence surrounding these concerns. Another response to this ambivalence may to be to adopt destruction as a social norm by subsuming it into an ideology which gives a different meaning to the act and holds it as a virtue.


What Are Your Choices?

What can you do? Here are some choices that are available to you.

1) Share this definition with others.

2) Require corporations make public all internal and commissioned studies about the environmental impacts of their actions.

3) Subject managers of corporations who violate environmental regulations to criminal prosecution and change the law so they are not insulated from the consequences of their actions.

4) Make a company’s owners and shareholders financially liable for the actions of the managers they hire to run the company or institution.

5) Alter the legal framework of companies so that the legal and ethical responsibility to ecosystems and those outside of the company are equal or greater than the legal and ethical responsibility to their employer.

See also Risk Asymmetry.


1) Beliefs are ideas held without question even when evidence exists that shows that the idea is false or incorrect.

2) A set of claims or ideas sapiens use to form their identity.

3) A rigid position unsupported by the facts; another word for nonsense.

4) A claim given to circular logic: “It’s true because I believe it.”

An intelligent person has knowledge. An unintelligent one has beliefs.

A belief is a closed system. It is immune to new information. It is not subject to change and is resistant to logic and evidence. The holders of beliefs claim them as a type of knowledge but refuse to subject these beliefs to any scrutiny or the challenges that everything that is called knowledge must face.

The process used in the acquisition of knowledge—information, suppositions, evidence, hypothesis, counterarguments, the openness to the discovery new information in the future—are all avoided by the individual with a belief. For instance, the scientific method is the best procedure for the testing of claims. But beliefs resist the scientific method as the hypothesis and the conclusion are always the same regardless of the evidence.

The resilience of beliefs in the face of facts are one of the reasons sapiens are so slow to respond to the dangers posed by the looming environmental threats.


1) A person willing and able to be an advocate for any claim, regardless of the merit of the claim.

2) A person hired by a company to hold a view that advances the company’s interests.

3) A person who subordinates the facts and their own convictions to the interests of the company that hired them.

Corporate lawyers and people in advertising are sophists. Such people are hired to advance ideas and claims which may be at odds, prior to the payment, with what they believe and which may be at odds with the facts.

Q: “What view will you hold today?”

A: “It depends on who’s paying me.”

A sophist can and is willing to advocate any idea or claim. But there are many ideas and claims that are not profitable to advocate (such as trees are important to ecosystems) and therefore funds are not allocated to advance these claims. However, others claims—such as those that give a company access to resources and those that allow companies to pollute—are not only profitable but fundamental to a company’s operations.

In corporate law and advertising, the sophists are hired to advocate the claims of corporations. When they select a claim to advance it is only because it is in their vested interest to do so. If the claim is accepted by the public or by legislatures then company will be allowed to strip a resource from an ecosystem, pollute or avoid liability. This reduces costs for the corporation and increase profits. Because it is in the interests of corporations to gain access to resources as inexpensively as possible and to push the costs of pollution its operations produce, they hire sophists to defend those practices, conceal them, mislead the public about them, or argue that these practices are beneficial to us.


One example of the work of sophists are the television commercials claiming that natural gas is good for the environment when in fact CO2 concentrations are already causing the extinction of many species. Another example of the work of sophists are those lawyers representing the coal company who challenged the Clean Power Act, which sought to reduce CO2 emissions, at the Supreme Court.


A company selects a claim  >  a sophist is hired  >  the sophist finds the best way to persuade others of that claims  >  the sophist presents that argument to the public (via the media) or the courts or via lobbying of legislators  >  the argument is accepted as a fact  >  the decisions and behavior of public change accordingly  >  ecosystems bear the consequence of those actions and behaviors.


It is unique to humans to be able to propose an idea that is in opposition to the laws of evolution or that harms ecosystems or construct an idea in contradiction of the laws of physics, chemistry and biology.


1) A poor explanation for a phenomenon; a flawed description of cause and effect.

2) An explanation for a phenomenon that employs an element of magic to describe the event’s cause.

3) The use of magical thinking to predict an outcome.

One contemporary superstition is the belief that markets can cure any environmental problem. Another is the belief that human ingenuity can and will ultimately undo the destruction to ecosystems so that current societies and their behaviors can continue without interruption or change. These beliefs (which result from endowing markets and human ingenuity with magical properties) allow individuals to avoid questioning their current behaviors and what the cost of them is to ecosystems, the biosphere and the viability of the planet for human beings in the future. These beliefs can serve as a justification for inaction.

Belief-induced Blindness

1) The inability to perceive sights and sounds and phenomena that contradicts existing beliefs or the inability to receive information that conflicts with those same beliefs.

2) A person unaware of the process in which beliefs are shaped (or how error prone and indifferent to reality this process is) and so invests more his or her beliefs than in any type of evidence.


A terms that organizes all living things into two categories: first there is “us” and then there is “all other living things.” The term claims, implicitly, that human beings and the world’s habits are divisible and independent from each other, an illusion fostered for hundreds of years.

Also implicit in the term is the notion that all other living things are subordinate to human will, interests and concerns. Out of it comes the belief that “human beings have primacy over the earth” and that the planet is “under our rule.”

This ideology is widely-accepted and is complicit in the ecological degradation of the earth as this ideology is used as a rationale and justification for most habitat destruction.

Terms which more accurately reflect our dependence on the planet’s living networks are ecosystem, habitat and biosphere.