Reader Comments about
The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin

"The Robot's Rebellion is not quite what it sounds like. It is a book on how evolutionary forces and human cognition interact, sometimes to our advantage, and sometimes to our despair. It is a brilliant book showing how we can either harness evolutionary forces to work in our favor, or, in effect, become victims of them. It will be of great interest to psychologists and laypersons who want to understand themselves better and find ways to make the most of their lives."

Robert Sternberg, Yale University, Past-President of the American Psychological Association

 

"This book combines a comprehensive treatment of the cognitive psychology of human judgment with an original and penetrating analysis of the uses and misuses of evolutionary ideas in this field. Some readers will use it as an accessible introduction to the topic, others as an advanced guide to its intricacies, and all will be well served."

Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics

 

"With immense erudition and compelling logic, Keith Stanovich argues how genetic biology and cognitive science force a fundamental reassessment of the human condition. While many cherished ideas fall by the wayside, a new vision emerges of what it is to be a flexible and thoughtful agent in a complex world."

David Perkins, Harvard University, author of Outsmarting IQ and The Eureka Effect

 

"This is a wonderful book full of challenging ideas and lucid examples. Stanovich describes the human situation in a way that seems absolutely right to me, and yet is very rarely articulated as clearly and starkly as this."

Susan Blackmore, Philosophical Psychology, 2005

 

"This is a brilliantly written book. It is sure to have a considerable impact and stimulate a great deal of comment. Stanovich has of course already done research of the highest value in cognitive psychology. But he is most impressive in this book in the sophisticated way he makes use, not only of a very wide range of work in cognitive psychology, but also of relevant literature in philosophy, evolutionary theory, economics, and other disciplines."

David Over, University of Sunderland, co-author of Rationality and Reasoning and
If: Supposition, Pragmatics, and Dual Processes

 

"This is a well-written and lively book. The author, in a nutshell, argues that Darwin's revolution has undermined all traditional conceptions of the self, of agency, and of meaning in life for these are based around a theological notion of a soul (though not always explicitly so): an unchanging centre that is the source of agency and meaning. Stanovich joins Dennett (and others) in thinking that nothing like a traditional concept of the self is salvageable in the face of modern science, and that we have no option of ignoring or bracketing off those uncomfortable truths. So he proposes to reconstruct a new notion of self on proper evolutionary and psychological foundations."

Kim Sterelny, Australian National University, author of Thought in a Hostile World and
The Representational Theory of Mind

 

"What does it mean to be rational in the modern world? The Robot’s Rebellion mines evolutionary biology and cognitive science in search of an answer. Believing that “our folk psychology remains sealed off from evolutionary insights and neurophysiological facts,” psychologist Keith Stanovich offers readers a sweeping tour of theory and research, advancing a programme of “cognitive reform” that puts human interests first. Who else, one may wonder, might benefit from our cognition?....By making the point that cognition is optimized at the level of genes, not of individuals, Stanovich puts a fresh spin on the familiar claim that people are sometimes woefully irrational."

Valerie M. Chase, University of Basel, review in Nature, July 1, 2004

 

"In arguing his case, Stanovich also presents a fascinating tour of some current ideas in cognitive science. A very readable and yet philosophically sophisticated book which anyone concerned with rationality and meaningful human goals will enjoy."

Taner Edis, author of The Ghost in the Universe

 

"According to Stanovich, we're only just beginning to grapple with the deep consequences of Darwin's theory of natural selection....While Stanovich (How to Think Straight About Psychology), a cognitive scientist at the University of Toronto, agrees with the basic idea of the selfish gene, he finds fault with the conclusion that we are simply at its mercy."

Publishers Weekly, April 5, 2004

 

"Stanovich intelligently and imaginatively builds upon mostly unrecognized and underdeveloped implications of findings in cognitive psychology, decision theory, and neuroscience to help humans become reconciled with their biological situation. In his call for a scientific and cultural responses to recent findings in biology and cognitive science, Stanovich offers an ambitious and bold assessment of some of the core issues that define us as humans."

Seminary Co-op Bookstore Review, May 26, 2004

 

"Going against nature is what rationality is all about. That, stripped of theology, is a good first approximation to the message of Keith Stanovich’s lucid and passionate book….an ambitious and compelling updating of the ancient characterization of human beings as rational animals….In some stories by Jorge Luis Borges, we are plunged into a radically unfamiliar world, where lottery outcomes comprise all possible life events, or a library contains all possible books. By the end, it dawns on the reader that the real world is actually equivalent to the strange world of the story: our destinies are pervaded by chance, and finding the book that reveals the secrets of nature is no easier than trying to pierce those secrets in the laboratory. This book may have a similar effect on the reader. A fantastic story of robots controlled by two species of alien masters turns out to be nothing but the plain truth about our own familiar world. But having once been seen in such a light, that world will never seem the same again."

Ronald de Sousa, University of Toronto, review in Literary Review of Canada, September, 2004

 

"Two new concerns have entered fairly recently the epistemological horizon of psychology: emotions and Darwinism….Both concerns, which are central to the argument of The Robot's Rebellion, resurface with a vengeance. James's salvaging of religious belief has indeed become difficult to hold in the context of the New Synthesis and its memetic offspring. Keith Stanovich confronts the problem of meaning in this new context with courage and determination. When the fundamental assumptions of a worldview are undermined by scientific discoveries or compelling arguments, how can humans survive this sudden collapse of the meanings they previously ascribed to things, thoughts and actions? These problems should be of utmost interest to semioticians and the way in which they are tackled by this brilliant cognitive psychologist."

Review in Semiotix: A Global Information Bulletin, October, 2004


"Stanovich's exposition of the logic of gene-level selection is insightful and thought-provoking. He adopts a radically Darwinian perspective that is refreshing compared with the currently popular view of evolution as merely adding glitches and irrationalities to a mind that is otherwise a content-free, general-purpose problem solver. His discussion of memes – cultural replicators that can also hijack vehicles for their own purposes – is also excellent, and challenges many deeply held intuitions in just the right way."

H. Clark Barrett, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, October, 2004


"Keith Stanovich is an accomplished behavioral scientist (psychologist) who applies all his scientific knowledge to answer a single question. We humans are the genetic product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, during most of which we lived as menial hunter-gatherers with a 35 year life expectancy. Given this genetic heritage, Stanovich asks, is there any way we can free ourselves from being the captives of our genetic pre-history?"

Herbert Gintis, University of Massachusetts

 

"In this fascinating book, Keith Stanovich combines two big ideas: the selfish gene hypothesis of Dawkins and a strong form of the dual process theory of reasoning. The consequence is an intriguing argument...Although not without flaws, as I have indicated, the Robot ’s Rebellion is a brilliant and thought-provoking book. It is an unusual work for an academic, written with great passion and with a deep concern that society should understand science and its implications. Stanovich believes that 150 years on, the Age of Darwin is only just beginning, as people start to come to terms with the frightening implications of evolutionary theory....He does not want a society in which only a small intellectual elite understand the truth. He argues instead that human rationality depends on an understanding of our evolutionary heritage and the cognitive science of our minds. This book represents his fascinating attempt to achieve this mission."

Jonathan Evans, review in Thinking & Reasoning

 

"The Robot's Rebellion is filled with thought-provoking demonstrations of some of the problems one encounters when taking too narrow a view of human rationality. Put at its simplest, our much-vaunted rationality comes with strings attached...Overall, if you're curious about how we think and what we can do to improve it, The Robot's Rebellion is highly recommended."

Richard Restak, review in The Washington Times

 

“The Robot's Rebellion is a fine book which might radically alter your view of yourself and the world around you. Although he covers a wide range of scientific ground, some of it quite technical, Stanovich maintains a fluent and accessible style. Here we have a first-rate scientist who is concerned not simply to communicate his knowledge to a wider audience, but also to stress its social implications. It is central to his view of rationality that people must understand their evolutionary history, their status as vehicles of their genes and the cognitive architecture of their brains.”

Review in Prospect magazine (UK), January, 2005

 

There are some wonderful nonfiction writers beginning to use science to understand deep aspects of the human condition, such as Keith Stanovich’s The Robot’s Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin.

Scotland on Sunday, March, 27, 2005