Kluge by Gary Marcus is the most exciting and important book on human evolution since The Language Instinct and The Blind Watchmaker.
Gary Marcus is a Professor of Psychology at New York University and Director of the NYU Infant Language Learning Center. A high-school dropout, Marcus received his PhD at the age of twenty-three from MIT, where he was mentored by Steven Pinker. He was tenured professor by the time he was thirty. The author of The Birth of the Mind and editor of the Norton Psychology Reader, he has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. His writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other American newspapers.
The noble mind? Psychologist Marcus lets us in on a little secret: it's a mess. With a seven-city tour. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Why are we subject to irrational beliefs, inaccurate memories, even war? We can thank evolution, Marcus says, which can only tinker with structures that already exist, rather than create new ones: "Natural selection... tends to favor genes that have immediate advantages" rather than long-term value. Marcus (The Birth of the Mind), director of NYU's Infant Language Learning Center, refers to this as "kluge," a term engineers use to refer to a clumsily designed solution to a problem. Thus, memory developed in our prehominid ancestry to respond with immediacy, rather than accuracy; one result is erroneous eyewitness testimony in courtrooms. In describing the results of studies of human perception, cognition and beliefs, Marcus encapsulates how the mind is "contaminated by emotions, moods, desires, goals, and simple self-interest...." The mind's fragility, he says, is demonstrated by mental illness, which seems to have no adaptive purpose. In a concluding chapter, Marcus offers a baker's dozen of suggestions for getting around the brain's flaws and achieving "true wisdom." While some are self-evident, others could be helpful, such as "Whenever possible, consider alternate hypotheses" and "Don't just set goals. Make contingency plans." Using evolutionary psychology, Marcus educates the reader about mental flaws in a succinct, often enjoyable way. (Apr. 16) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.