Murray Clarke – Does Error Evolve?
Does Error Evolve?
Murray Clarke, Department of Philosophy, Concordia University
In this paper, I report evidence from Error Management Theory (by Buss, Haselton, Saal, Johnson, Abbey, et al.) and the Positive Illusions Literature (by Alicke, Cross, Gilovich, Taylor, et al.) that suggests that humans form systemically false beliefs about themselves and others. Error Management Theorists believe that such cognitive biases, formed when making judgments under uncertainty, are really psychological mechanisms that are designed to be biased when the costs of false-positive and false-negative errors were asymmetrical over evolutionary history. Such biases facilitated survival and reproduction, they were adaptive. Likewise, the Positive Illusions Literature suggests an adaptive advantage for the pervasive overconfidence bias. If these theorists are even close to the mark, it would seem that to err is human, but that to err systemically, is good for your genome. I offer a solution to these issues that allows that error evolves in some cases but denies it in other cases. I also contrast my view with a recent alternative analysis of this same literature by McKay and Dennett. Finally, I show how my view on this topic represents a consistent development of the epistemology of false belief that I advocated in my book, Reconstructing Reason and Representation (MIT, 2004).
Date: Friday, March 13, 2009
Place: Concordia University, Loyola Campus, Science Pavilion (Building SP), 7141 Sherbrooke Street West, 3rd Floor
Room: SP 365.01
Contact: 514-848-2424 ext 2595
Note: There are regular shuttle buses traveling between Sir George Williams Campus (1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.) and Loyola Campus; see Shuttle bus schedule.