Lie Hard: The Survival of the Fibbers
Forbes, Peter, The Independent (London, England)
DECEPTION: FOOLING YOURSELF THE BETTER TO FOOL OTHERS by Robert Trivers Allen Lane, Pounds 25, 416pp Pounds 22.50 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Robert Trivers is a distinguished biologist with an enormous reputation in the trade. He is to some extent the minence grise behind Richard Dawkins, having written the foreword to the first edition of The Selfish Gene. Dawkins acknowledges Trivers's huge influence on his own work and contributes the cover eulogy to what he calls "a remarkable book, by a uniquely brilliant scientist".
If this suggests that Trivers is a retiring academic figure compared to the omnipresent celebrity, you'll have a shock in reading this book. Trivers has had quite a life. The Black Panther Huey P Newton was one of his closest friends. Trivers recounts scabrous incidents, such getting fleeced by a petty conman in Jamaica, where he now lives, and numerous scrapes involving girlfriends, jealousy, drink and car crashes.
Trivers has nibbled away at the theme of self-deception, the subject of this book, for over 30 years: it featured in that Selfish Gene foreword and in some of his papers. Now we have the full-blown version. It starts from the premise that deception is a proven survival strategy right across the animal kingdom and that the enhanced ability to deceive bestowed by language has been a major factor in the evolution of human intelligence.
The struggle between cheaters and the honest is a classic evolutionary arms race in which, as Trivers says, the advantage lies with the cheaters, "while detection of deception plays catch-up". Or as Macduff's son puts it in Macbeth: "there are liars and swearers enough to beat the honest men and hang up them".
Trivers's added twist is that self-deception is not always the loser's game one might suppose. The rationale is that that deceivers give themselves away in many ways: the self-deceiver avoids these traps by behaving perfectly naturally because he …
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Publication information: Article title: Lie Hard: The Survival of the Fibbers. Contributors: Forbes, Peter - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 14, 2011. Page number: 20. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.