From Publishers Weekly
Evolution seems a rushed process in which traits and attributes of humanity have been pieced together to make a functioning but far from perfect or rational being. Marcus explores the ways in which the human mind, while magnificent in its overall ability, still stumbles on several points. Focusing on areas such as memory, decision making and language, Marcus keenly identifies the makeshift devices humans have created in order to contend with what he describes as "evolutionary inertia." Stephen Hoye traverses the complicated aspects of the book with ease, his melodious voice providing just the right emphasis for listeners to understand Marcus's major points. Yet his delivery misses some of the more humorous elements of the book. And Hoye's lingering voice, which seems to trail off after the end of a sentence, may be good for poetry, but can wear on the nonfiction listener. A Houghton Mifflin hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 11).
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A university psychology professor who periodically writes for mass media, Marcus here punctures the high regard humanity has for its species-distinctive qualities. Whether it’s memory, rationality, language, or free will, our noble human traits are hopelessly entangled with our baser drives, which have survived the dynamics of evolution. Blending discussion of experiments from cognitive psychology with speculation about why people are far less logical than they believe, Marcus latches onto the term kluge, which comes from the engineering world and is jargon for a fix that ain’t perfect but good enough. It’s a productive figure of speech for Marcus’ argument that deliberative thinking probably had an evolutionary advantage (save seeds to plant next season), but seems in permanent conflict with reflexive impulses having more ancient evolutionary advantage (eat seeds now). Carrying the point across a gamut of behaviors, from money to mental illnesses to talking, Marcus develops his idea of the klugelike mind, in which emotion perpetually besieges the intellect, with appealing clarity. --Gilbert Taylor
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