Continuing with part 2 of our series about evolution, we cover a special topic within evolutionary biology. We are joined by Dr. Gary Marcus to talk about the oft-overlooked evolutionary history of the human brain. Our discussion draws largely from some of the chapters of Dr. Marcus’ book Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind. Read it and love it.
Dr. Marcus’ book Kluge shows that our brain, like the rest of our bodies, has evolved not to function well, but to function well enough. Evolution works with what it has, and cannot start over with a better design, regardless of how much better a new design might be. As a result, our brains work with neuro circuitry which did not evolve to help us solve complex problems or think critically–and yet they do (or, at least, our brains tell us they do). This presents interesting problems which might undercut common notions of our own rationality.
Use your evolved brain to understand the following from our conversation:
- Decisions about chocolate cake and sex
- Quantified Self
- Evolution of cognitive biases (familiarity bias, status quo bias, etc)
- The strength of evolutionary accounts of homosexuality
- The halo effect and the pitchfork effect
- How can we use our evolved brains to become better thinkers?
Dr. Marcus is a professor of Psychology at New York University, whose research covers neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, and molecular biology. He is also a best selling author and contributor to The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, as well as other important popular media. He is a top-notch writer, so check out his other books about psychology and neuroscience.