Natural Selection and Social Theory: Selected Papers of Robert L. Trivers

By Robert Trivers | Go to book overview

8
SELF-DECEPTION IN SERVICE OF
DECEIT

I was interested in self-deception well before I became interested in evolutionary biology, and I was conscious of deception as a problem from a very early age. At the end of my freshman year at Harvard in 1962, when I left mathematics in despair and disrepute (stripped of my scholarships, placed on academic probation, etc. ), I decided to devote my life—not to science— but to fighting the good fights in society, toward justice instead of truth. Toward that end, I saw myself becoming a lawyer, concentrating on civil rights, poverty, and criminal law. I asked someone what you majored in if you were going to become a lawyer, and they said U. S. history—the Federalist papers, the Bill of Rights, Supreme Court decisions, that kind of thing. So, I studied U. S. history. It was at once apparent that U. S. history was not so much an academic discipline as an exercise in self-deception. They were title of the books gave away the game, for example, The Genius of American Democracy, a popular book in the early 1960s by Daniel Boorstin. The chief problem in U. S. historiography was, why are we the greatest nation that ever existed and the greatest people who ever strode the face of the earth? The competing schools of thought in U. S. history were competing answers to those questions. For example, the existence of a frontier was said to inspire such virtues, the benefits of upper-class Englishmen designing a new government, or the wave of immigrants that populated the United States, and so on. So, I saw the field as an exercise in self-deception.

During the Vietnam War, one could see, perhaps, some of the negative consequences that accompanied the self-glorification that was the study of U. S. history. I also remember being astonished, then, at how often in defense of a particular administration official or the president himself, someone would say, “Yes, but he sincerely believes that we are acting in the best interests of the Vietnamese. ” Such a person was believed to be superior to

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Natural Selection and Social Theory: Selected Papers of Robert L. Trivers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents *
  • Natural Selection and Social Theory *
  • 1 - Reciprocal Altruism 3
  • The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism *
  • List of Literature *
  • Postscript *
  • 2 - Parental Investment and Reproductive Success 56
  • Parental Investment and Sexual Selection 65
  • Notes *
  • References 104
  • Postscript *
  • 3 - The Trivers-Willard Effect 111
  • Natural Selection of Parental Ability to Vary the Sex Ratio of Offspring 115
  • References and Notes *
  • Postscript *
  • 4 - Parent–offspring Conflict 123
  • Parent–offspring Conflict *
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Postscript *
  • 5 - Haplodiploidy and the Social Insects 154
  • Haplodiploidy and the Evolution of the Social Insects - The Unusual Traits of the Social Insects Are Uniquely Explained by Hamilton's Kinship Theory *
  • References and Notes *
  • Postscript 206
  • 6 - Size and Reproductive Success in a Lizard 207
  • Sexual Selection and Resource-Accruing Abilities in Anolis Garmani *
  • Literature Cited *
  • Postscript *
  • 7 - Selecting Good Genes for Daughters 241
  • Asymmetry in the Evolution of Female Mating Preferences *
  • References *
  • Postscript *
  • 8 - Self-Deception in Service of Deceit 255
  • The Crash of Flight 90 - Doomed by Self-Deception? *
  • Postscript *
  • The Elements of a Scientific Theory of Self-Deception *
  • References *
  • Postscript 293
  • 9 - Genomic Imprinting 294
  • Genetic Conflicts in Genomic Imprinting *
  • Note 306
  • References *
  • Postscript 308
  • 10 - Fluctuating Asymmetry and the 2nd: 4th Digit Ratio in Children 309
  • The 2nd: 4th Digit Ratio and Asymmetry of Hand Performance in Jamaican Children 316
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Postscript 328
  • References 329
  • Index 335
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