Evolutionary Guru Deceives Himself
Maybe you’ve had this experience: you’re in class, taking notes, and after a long lecture, the teacher realizes something wrong, and announces, “Forget everything I just said.” Frustrating, isn’t it? That’s what a recent article on evolution did. An evolutionary psychologist explained the origin of lying, then admitted he is self-deceived.
The irony of the situation was apparently lost on Graham Lawton, reporter for New Scientist, who interviewed evolutionary psychologist Robert Trivers about the evolution of self-deception. It’s intuitive that both parties must speak honestly to discuss such a subject, or else one or both could be deceiving the other. Trivers undercut his own credibility in two ways. First, he ascribed deception as a pervasive trait in the living world, something that evolved to increase the number of offspring. Second, he said this at the end of the interview:
Are you a self-deceiver?
I end the book with a chapter on fighting our own self-deception. I've been remarkably unsuccessful in my own case. I just repeat the same kinds of mistakes over and over. If you ask me about my self-deception, I can give you stories, chapter and verse, in the past. But can I prevent myself doing the same damn thing again tomorrow? Usually not, though in my professional life as a scientist, I feel that I probably practice less self-deception, I'm more critical of evidence, a little bit harder nosed.
You could be deceiving yourself about that.
Forget everything he just said. We must leave him as he shows himself in the photo accompanying the article, asking a lizard, “Tell me the truth, lizard; am I deceiving myself?”
Update 10/20/2011: In a Nature review of the book, (478, 20 October 2011, pp. 314–315, doi:10.1038/478314a] Stuart West believed Trivers implicitly, never doubting for a moment the author’s complete honesty and trustworthiness. He said, “he [Trivers] conveys a powerful and focused message: if we can learn to recognize and fight our own self-deception, we can avoid negative consequences at levels from the individual to the national, and live better lives.”
Shiver me Trivers, this is too funny. Both interviewer and interviewee are holding fast to the Absolute Truth of Evolution, the pinnacle of man’s efforts to overcome their own self-deception, only to realize they have no guarantees that they are not deceived about the Absolute Truth they have chosen. On what basis, Dr. Trivers, are we to grant you any credibility? Let us put forth the hypothesis that your own apostasy from the Presbyterian Church has caused you to deceive yourself and accept evolutionary theory because it lets you sin with impunity. What are you going to say in response? That you now have found Absolute Truth in Darwin, when Darwin himself preaches a gospel of self-deception?
You pad your own self-deception with statements that “I stand back and I read the creed that I was taught as a child and it's utter, utter nonsense.” Maybe you are deceiving us about the way you really feel. How could we know? You just told us that “Religion has been selected for. It has given many benefits to people – health benefits, cooperative benefits.” So why would you go against what evolution has selected? Why would you choose Darwinism, that glorifies deception as a good thing? If evolution selected nonsense, then nonsense is good. Why fight it with science? Do you believe that science is a path to Truth? What is truth?
None of this "I take an intermediate position" escapism, occasionally attending your old church but calling the creed nonsense. This is not about creeds; it’s about issues of truth and deception. Evolution glorifies deception and provides you with no way to know you are being self-deceived. You replied “Absolutely” to Lawton’s question that you could be deceiving yourself about scientists practicing less self-deception than other people. How can you defend yourself from our charge that you are, in fact, deceived? This is not an accusation; it’s an exercise in philosophy so that we can see whether or not your position is self-refuting (see Brett Miller cartoon). Even your word Absolutely implies truth, unless you want us all to believe you are not really a scientist but a walking stick on a grander scale, trying to outcompete us for resources or hide from our predatory philosophical jaws (see another Brett Miller cartoon).
New Scientist’s article shows why you can never trust a Darwinist. For them to preach their theory as if it is true, they have to steal the Judeo-Christian values of truth and honesty. That’s deception on the one hand, because they don’t believe those values are real. For them to teach that evolution favors self-deception is deception on the other hand, because it undermines their own credibility. It’s deception all around. Don’t be deceived. Lawton and Trivers just gave you another performance of Flimflam for the Common Man, by Error Catastrophe.
Encore: Dr. Trivers has a new book coming out called The Folly of Fools. He should have given the whole proverb by Solomon (Proverbs 14:8): “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.” Now, Dr. Trivers tell us about the evolution of prudence. This should be fun because we already know you’re deceiving us.