EDGE 3rd Culture: Animal Minds
The Third Culture

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Edge 54

A Talk With Marc D. Hauser [4.18.99]

Introduction by
John Brockman

Harvard evolutionary psychologist, Marc D. Hauser, argues that to understand what animals think and what they feel, we must ask about the kinds of selection pressures which shaped their minds and see the creature for what it is, no more, no less. Using the tools of evolutionary biology, linguistics, neuroscience, and cognitive science, he asks questions such as Why can't animals be taught to speak? How do animals find their way home in the dark? Do animals lie or feel guilty? Do they enjoy sex? Why were emotions designed into animal systems? Why are certain emotions universal and others highly specialized?

Hauser works on both captive and wild monkeys and apes as well as collaborative work on human infants. His research focuses on problems of acoustic perception, the generation of beliefs, the neurobiology of acoustic and visual signal processing, and the evolution of communication.

Along with Irv Devore, he teaches the Evolution of Human Behavior class, a Core Course at Harvard with 500 undergraduate students. The interdisciplinary course, "Science B29" (nickname: "The Sex Course"), has been running for 30 years, was started by Devore and Robert Trivers, and is the second most popular course on campus, behind "Econ 10". Section teachers over the years comprise a who's who of leading thinkers and include people such as John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, and Sarah B. Hrdy. In 1997-98, he sponsored a trial run of "Edge University" in which the students in Science B29 received Edge mailing as part of required reading in the course.


MARC D. HAUSER is an evolutionary psychologist and a professor at Harvard University where he is a fellow of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Program. He is a professor in the departments of Anthropology and Psychology, as well as the Program in Neurosciences. He is the author of The Evolution of Communication, and Wild Minds: What AnimalsThink (forthcoming).

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