Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Boston.com / News / Boston Globe / Ideas / The evolutionary revolutionary: "He's certainly returning to the ideas generated by that work. The book on deceit and self-deception that he's now starting grows out of a brief but widely cited passage from his introduction to Dawkins's ''The Selfish Gene.'' If deceit, he wrote, ''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 idea that the brain evolved to produce ''ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution.'' We've evolved, in other words, to delude ourselves so as better to fool others-all in the service of the great game of propagating our genes. For Trivers, this isn't a mere technical question but the key to unlocking all sorts of deep human mysteries."

I find this approach extremely fascinating. While I have no idea if his conclusions will hold up to scrutiny, it should be quite apparent, especially in America at this point in time, that deception, of ourselves and others, is if not hard-wired then pretty darn close.

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