The New Start Journal

    Vol 2. Issue 6

    July 2021

    Odoo text and image block

    People, and the Flock and Shoal Factor.

    By Charles Pinwill

    Decades ago I spent some months in the “budgerigar country” of far Northern Australia. These birds would assemble in huge flocks; perhaps even at times exceeding 100,000 strong to come to the water holes. Not that they could ever be counted. One photographed the flock and then estimated density.

    The most amazing and mystifying thing with these flocks is that they acted as one. Continually whirling, veering left or right, swirling down or up or about in unison. There was never any evidence that one moved and then others followed. Multiple thousands moved instantaneously, as one, and in perfect coordination, and without any apparent communication one with another.

    Mostly these sudden and well-coordinated maneuvers were without any apparent cause or purpose. At times a move may be dictated from without the flock, by such as a hawk attack, though without a hawk in sight the flock would stagger and convulse about through the air far more than the drunkest of sailors.

    A shoal of fish is similarly organized; a fact which is exploited by the many sea predators, and shows the sardines’ surety that safety is in numbers. A concept of safety which often allows dolphins, tuna, sharks and the like to hold the school together until the very last one is eaten.

    Their complete coordination of their instantaneous movements in unison is just as impressive as is that of the budgerigar flocks. Attempts to explain this are sometimes made on the basis that fish live in a conductive medium, which of course is water. Water dwellers from sharks to pelicans and platypus, are known to detect the presence of prey by electrical detection of the voltage of the preys’ bodies. So perhaps the extraordinary coordination of fish shoals is done by communicating via electrical signals?

    Of course the budgerigars don’t have this option as they live in air, which is an electrical insulator rather than a conductor. When there is no external threat, we simply don’t know how they coordinate themselves. Coordinated consensual effort, action and thought, where the external environment does not suggest it, are a thus far unfathomable phenomenon. But is it confined to birds and fish? Lemmings and wildebeests have migrations and mass movements which may suggest it. 

    Robert Ardrey inquired into the territorial acquisitions of animals, and found that they are universal throughout nature. Mammals, birds and even worms insist upon having a territory in their social organization. This predisposition towards real estate is common to all creatures, as his work “The Territorial Imperative” shows, and man is not an exception.

    Is the spontaneous swirling of public opinion towards common ideas, or against them, and the surge and subsidence of popular human movements an echo of the unanimity often shown in the lower life forms in their universal, though inexplicable choices of directions? Although we risk giving offence to the human race in imputing irrationalities to it, the idea is worth a look.

    CO2 is now a public enemy, and every climate model done in the last ten years, has predicted that the climate would now be warmer than it is. We are all acting in unison, and with unanimity, whether scientists or laity, on the basis that CO2 offers a threatening global warming. The science for global warming is said to be incontestable. But what is the science? 

    CO2 is both an efficient and limited hothouse gas. It operates by grabbing the photons of infrared radiation attempting to escape back into space, vibrating, and emitting the heat in random directions into the atmosphere. This of course retains atmospheric heat quite efficiently.

    CO2 however, only intercepts very limited wave lengths of infrared radiation which has a range from .065 to about 20 microns. The wave lengths intercepted are 4.102 and 15.589 microns. Water vapor acts as a hothouse gas at all wave lengths of infrared radiation below 8 and above 15 microns, so is competing with CO2 at its wavelengths.

    CO2 will also grab infrared wave lengths in close proximity to 4.1 and 15.6 microns, though never more than 0.5 of a micron away from them. Between water vapor and CO2 at 400 parts per million, the radiation between 3.6 and 4.6 microns, and between 15.1 and 16.1 is nearly all now captured. The logarithmic factor with CO2 which is not disputed scientifically means that if CO2 doubles (from 400 to 800 ppm), then the temperature (other things being equal) will only increase about 0.3 degrees Celsius, and were it to double yet again to 1,600 ppm, the increase would be no more than another 0.3 degrees.

    The geological records confirm this. The Professor of Geology at the Kalgoorlie School of Mines, Dr Robert Fagan’s work confirms this. Most ice ages have had higher CO2 levels than exist now, and the Cambrian period which saw the greatest explosion of life ever, had CO2 levels above 2,000 ppm and a temperature barely warmer. The full facts are at Dr Fagan’s website:  

    While this is known and accepted, it is irrelevant. The flock and shoal factor has decreed that we will wheel away from CO2. One is usually met with resentment for mentioning or explaining this. The inexplicable urge to do as the others do, is upon us, and anciently acquired conformity is still present and masterful. The scientist is no more immune to this than the dullard. 

    Examples worth considering abound. Like everyone else I was appalled at the treatment of George Floyd by the police. George called out thirty times “I can’t breathe….I can’t breathe …I can’t breathe….etc.”  Months later I tried yelling this out myself. I couldn’t do it twice without another big lungful of air. George convinced us that he wasn’t breathing. Somehow he got onto that wavelength that convinces in a “flock/shoal reacting” sort of way. No one who is out of breath can yell something thirty times.

    Most of us have observed objects falling. We’ve dropped something off a house roof or down a stair well. We know that bricks fall at an acceleration rate of 32 feet per second per second. Yes, through air they do, but not through water. Water offers some resistance. The only objects which descend at “free fall” speed are those not encountering any resistance.

    So how is it possible that the Twin Towers fell at free fall speed? The upper stories met no resistance as they fell through the concrete and steel of the lower ones. Ten thousand engineers and architects have signed statements that this is impossible without deliberate and well executed demolition practices. Just another irrelevancy! The facts are not a consideration when the budgerigars have somehow determined to move. Our instinctual reflexes are engaged and none can be left out of the moving mass mind. Fear and resentment are the lot of those offering logic. The stampeding herd is always sure it is “right”.

    I suspect that there are people somewhere selling this type of knowledge to advertisers. If the budgerigars can be induced to “take off” the mob will spend millions, and perhaps not even know why. Surely fashion companies like Nike know all about it. Budgerigar boots?

    It seems highly probable that those working at the highest levels of politics are cognizant of this. Five lobbyists are employed by financial interests for every US Congressional Representative. In spending this sort of money to lobby and influence, it is most likely that they are doing it well, and exploiting every psychological advantage.

    Could it be that the above examples of people acting unanimously, instinctively, instantaneously, in unison and with conviction at variance with logic, facts and known science, are but the tip of the iceberg? Does the human mass-mind follow the flight paths of the budgerigar? An understanding of the acting organism eludes the birds themselves?

    Is it like this for all organisms? Even for man himself? Can anybody explain fashion fetishes; why the French went into revolution, the Russians into communism and the Germans into Nazism? It did none of them any good, and we see it in retrospect as nonsensical. Oh yes, we invent reasons. Far be it for men to acknowledge compulsive irrationality as a feature in common, at least periodically in the collective, with all other organisms.

    The budgerigars’ exhibition of this is the most beautiful and wondrous. In the light of early morning, beside the lonely water holes, in the green and gold of their millions, they repeatedly display perfectly co-ordinated dancing without any rehearsal.

    Is it permissible to consider human beings in the collective, as strange organic phenomenon, ever given to transitions in the norms and fashions of collectively shared thought patterns, and this largely in disregard of logicality? Are we governed by some deep ancient herd orientated instinct; beyond conscious thought and not only undiscoverable, but even unsuspected in the sub-conscious?  A submariner governor in the collective mind which has driven the imperative of a folk impulse towards conformity time out of mind, and unmindful of the suasion of the conscious, the rational or logic? 

    What defenses does our organism have; how can this thing be bound back from excess and a descent into true madness? If such exists, it might lend credence to the above thesis.

    The Latin word ligare is the root word of ligament; that which binds. It is the origin of the modern word religion too. Cicero’s sense of it was “scrupulous or strict observance of the traditional cultus. 

    That religion has been part of every human society is a fact the even atheists would not deny. This indicates an awareness in some way that a “binding back” is needful. An ideology may serve here as the binding, but this only reaffirms the universal acknowledgment of the need.

    The tragedies of the Twentieth Century are but the most recent affirmation that men are never far from the vulnerability to collective madness. The only defense is in putting aside a false pride in our political correctness (which is a different thing in every generation), and acknowledging the persistent existence of the budgerigar factor.