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Tuesday
Aug232011

Gary Marcus

Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind 

When: Saturday September 17th, 2011 @ 2PM

Where: Jefferson Market Library, 425 Avenue of the Americas (map)

Admission: Free and open to the public!

Are human beings "noble in reason" and "infinite in faculty" as William Shakespeare famously wrote? Perfect, "in God’s image," as some biblical scholars have asserted? Hardly. 

If mankind were the product of some intelligent, compassionate designer, our thoughts would be rational, our logic impeccable. Our memories would be robust, our recollections reliable. Our sentences would be crisp, our words precise, our languages systematic and regular; in reality, or our minds besodden with irregular verbs (sing-sangring-rang, yet bring-brought, and we humans are the only species smart enough to systematically plan for the future —yet dumb enough to ditch even our most carefully made plans in favor of short-term gratification. ("Did I say I was on a diet? Mmm, but three-layer chocolate mousse is my favorite…Maybe I’ll start my diet tomorrow.").  

I don’t mean to suggest that the "design" of the human mind is a total train wreck, but if I were a politician, I’m pretty sure the way I’d put it is: "mistakes were made." The goal of this lecture is to explain what mistakes were made—and why.

Gary Marcus is an award-wining Professor of Psychology at New York University and director of the NYU Center for Child Language. He has written three books about the origins and nature of the human mind, including Kluge (2008, Houghton Mifflin/Faber), and The Birth of the Mind (Basic Books, 2004, translated into 6 languages). He is also the editor of the The Norton Psychology Reader and the author of numerous science publications in leading journals, such as Science, Nature, Cognition, and Psychological Science, and and has frequently written articles for the general public, in forums such as Wired, Discover, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. His newest book, Guitar Zero, on the science of how people become musical, will be published by The Penguin Press in January 2012.

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