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?”
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?….
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