Sunday, February 2, 2014


Author Gary Marcus is a New York University psychologist. In his book, "Kluge: the haphazard construction of the human mind" (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), he provides an accessible and entertaining case for the human brain as something of an evolutionary mishmash. After providing a raft of evidence that suggests that if we were crafted by an Intelligent Designer, He was either a shockingly absent-minded engineer, or was off His meds, Marcus gets to the gist of it:

"It would be foolish to routinely surrender our considered judgment to our unconscious, reflexive system, vulnerable and biased as it often is. But it would just as silly to abandon the ancestral reflexive system altogether: it's not entirely irrational, just less reasoned. In the final analysis, evolution has left us with two systems, each with different capabilities: a reflexive system that excels in handling the routine and a deliberative system that can help us think outside the box."

In his concluding chapter, he even gives 13 suggestions for some strategies to deal with our sneaky and persistent "ancestral system." While not earth-shaking, they are sensible and useful. The last one leaves me thoughtful: "Try to be rational." In a host of ways, that's certainly a good idea, at least when it protects us from the more egregious traps our wee brains routinely fall for. And yet. There are times, surely, when the grand delusion is both more spontaneous and more creative.

At any rate, it's a fun and fast read.

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