Sapiens, by Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan (Softcover, 2009)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
I found Bozo Sapiens to be engaging,
informative, well-written, and occasionally humorous. It was a pleasure
to read. It's also very timely material. The nation is in the midst of a
stupidity epidemic that shows no signs of abating any time soon, and
this epidemic appears to be driven by deliberate choices. Among other
things, this book helps shed light on why those particular choices get
This book intrigued me, because I have a strong
interest in books on human intelligence or the lack thereof. Bozo
Sapiens talks about the mistakes we make and misperceptions we have,
and the reasons behind them. It explained some things I have been
wondering about and caused me to think about other things I hadn't
Bozo Sapiens was also well-researched. Since it
draws from the literature in areas of brain research, neurochemistry, behavioral
science, evolutionary biology, and other related topics,
many of its references will be familiar to a person who is reasonably
well-read in these topics.
One of the key concepts this book brought to me is
there are good reasons for why we get things wrong. The brain adapts and
alters its perceptions of reality to fit its expectations of reality. If
we can account for that, we can avoid pointless self-flagellation and
get on with things. We can also understand others better by recognizing
that people can see the same facts or situation differently for reasons that
have nothing to do with comparative intelligence.
The authors devote a
significant amount of page space to exploring how and why our illusions
and delusions serve good purposes. This concept that such mechanisms are
helpful is a fundamental assumption behind treating maladaptive coping
behaviors with talk therapy (what used to work no longer works).
This book consists of seven chapters and an extensive
Chapter One is titled From the Logbook of the Ship
of Fools. It doesn't have a single theme or thrust. Mostly, it
explores some basic concepts of logic and reasoning. This includes
discussions of fallacious reasoning, the philosophies of Plato and
Aristotle, word connotations in arguments, and the scientific method.
Chapter Two is titled Idols of the Marketplace.
Here, the authors say things that would make any Libertarian pause. A
major point in this chapter is that the markets are not rational. Computers
(which are purely rational) make choices one way and humans make them in another
way. Therefore, the market
on its own won't produce the best outcomes. But for the same reasons,
neither will a centrally-controlled economy. This chapter is full of
great stuff for fascinating dinner conversation. For example, loss
aversion typically causes people to cheat themselves.
Chapter Three is titled Tinted Glasses. This
chapter draws heavily on recent works (of original research) to explain
why the brain sees a different version of reality than what's actually
there. I like the way the authors thread things together. I've read many
of the works they reference, but then I read more books in a year than
40% of Americans read in their adult lifetimes. It simply is not
possible to write accurately on this topic without drawing from
Chapter Four is titled Off the Rails. It
naturally follows the previous chapter. In this chapter, the authors
look at what we do with the distorted information our brains
produce from our senses. One subtitle in "Complex systems, simple
mistakes." That is the territory where this chapter takes you.
Chapter Five is titled One of Us. The focus here
is on kinship, group formation, belonging, and various aspects of
becoming "us" as opposed to "them."
Chapter Six is titled Fresh Off the Pleistocene Bus.
Subtopics include sex, marriage, and food. The authors discuss cultures,
anxiety, and the tragedy of the commons. They briefly discuss why the
French use a great deal of butter and sugar in their cooking, but manage
to stay lean.
Chapter Seven is titled Living Right. Here, they
discuss how people arrive at different views about what's right. They
discuss moral axioms, national characters, altruism, and polarized
politics. Quite a discussion of ethics, and not just in the human realm.
One subheading is "Why the Great are Rarely the Good." The discussion
that ensues helps explain the Dilbert work environment.
This book is a good one to add to your collection. It
helps you understand more about what makes us human, and why we do some
of the crazy things we do.