Bob Trivers is a bit of an eccentric character, but his ideas on parental investment, parent-offspring conflict, and altruism have been landmarks in evolutionary psychology, and even though some of his ideas may be far-fetched, they’re never boring. He’s one of the most important evolutionary thinkers of our era.
I’ve just received a copy of his new book, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, whose thesis, as stated on the book jacket, is that “in order to deceive others, we often deceive ourselves first.” In other words, we have evolved brain “modules” to hide our own motivations, or suppress data or arguments that conflict with our genetic interests.
This is definitely a book worth reading if you’ve any interest in the evolution of human behavior, and you can get it for less than seventeen bucks on Amazon. (It’s officially out October 25.) This book has been in the works for a very long time: as I recall, it was originally supposed to have been co-authored with Huey Newton, a founder of the Black Panther party (now that would have been interesting!), but Newton was shot to death in 1989.
I note that the back dustflap comes with a ringing endorsement from Richard Dawkins:
This is a remarkable book, by a uniquely brilliant scientist. Robert Trivers has a track record of producing highly original ideas, which have gone on to stimulate much research. His Darwinian theory of self-deception is arguably his most provocative and interesting idea so far. This book is enlivened by Trivers’s candid personal style, and is a pleasure to read. Strongly recommended.
Some of the chapter titles are “Deception in nature,” “False historical narratives,” “Religion and self-deception,” and “Fighting self-deception in our own lives.”