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Journal Article

A Field Study of Con Games

Erika Lorraine Milam
Vol. 105, No. 3 (September 2014), pp. 596-605
DOI: 10.1086/678175
Stable URL:
Page Count: 10
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ABSTRACTIn 1978, the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers and Huey P. Newton, cofounder of the Black Panthers, began a collaboration exploring the evolution of self-deception. Together they published a brief paper that used their ideas about the naturalistic basis of deceit and self-deception to explain the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 in Washington, D.C. Given the continued power of the naturalistic fallacy in the modern life sciences, historical attention typically focuses on highly visible controversies with great popular traction. This essay instead mobilizes the muted legacy of Trivers and Newton’s publication to underscore the inherent difficulties scientists face in finding a receptive audience for their theories, even naturalistic ones.