Nature is rife with cheating. Possums play possum, feigning death to cheat predators. Crows cry wolf to scare off rivals. Amphibians and reptiles are inveterate impostors. Even genes and cells cheat. The Liars of Nature and the Nature of Liars explores the evolution of cheating in the natural world, revealing how dishonesty has given rise to wondrous diversity.
Blending cutting-edge science with a wealth of illuminating examples—from microscopic organisms to highly intelligent birds and mammals—Lixing Sun shows how cheating in nature relies on two basic rules. One is lying, by which cheaters exploit honest messages in communication signals and use them to serve their own interests. The other is deceiving, by which cheaters exploit the biases and loopholes in the sensory systems of other creatures. Sun demonstrates that cheating serves as a potent catalyst in the evolutionary arms race between the cheating and the cheated, resulting in a biological world teeming with complexity and beauty.
Brimming with insight and humor, The Liars of Nature and the Nature of Liars also looks at the prevalence of cheating in human society, identifying the kinds of cheating that spur innovation and cultural vitality and laying down a blueprint for combatting malicious cheating such as fake news and disinformation.
"The world is full of liars, a fact brilliantly depicted in Lixing Sun’s slender but important book about cheating and deception among animals and plants, as well as that hairless bipedal species that is the biggest deceiver of them all. . . . A tour de force of evolutionary biology. . . . Fascinating."—David P. Barash, Wall Street Journal
"The accessible prose offers an eye-opening take on lying in the natural world and how evolutionary pressures to deceive impact human behavior. The smart parallels between humans and animals make for an insightful outing."—Publishers Weekly
"[An] intriguing introduction to the domain of dishonesty."—Tony Miksanek, Booklist
"Buckle up for a riveting journey into the wide world of deception."—Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today
"Lixing Sun treats this topic with both a serious scientific demeanour and a welcome injection of wry humour."—David Gascoigne, Travels with Birds
“While our species has no lack of dishonesty and self-deception, we are not as exceptional as we think. This eye-opening book by Lixing Sun expertly explains how the natural world is filled to the brim with misleading signals and subterfuge.”—Frans de Waal, author of Different: Gender through the Eyes of a Primatologist
“With clarity, authority, and humor, Lixing Sun’s The Liars of Nature and the Nature of Liars presents the natural world as a source of insights for human interaction. Through superb scientific storytelling and compelling animal examples, Sun provides readers with a framework for detecting and decoding dishonesty in the human world. The Liars of Nature and the Nature of Liars is an engaging, fascinating, and important contribution.”—Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, coauthor of Wildhood and Zoobiquity
“In this wide-ranging book, Lixing Sun argues that lying and deceiving can be found in all domains of life ranging from bacteria, fungi, and genes to more complex plants and animals. Buckle up for a thrilling journey into the wide world of cheating. Sun’s book opened my eyes to ideas I had never before entertained.”—Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado Boulder, coauthor of Wild Justice and A Dog’s World
“A refreshingly fun take on cheating and free riding in the natural world. From cuckoos and crabs to cheating bureaucrats, Sun paints a brightly colored world filled with innovative impostors, creative liars, and brilliant nervous-system hackers.”—Athena Aktipis, author of The Cheating Cell: How Evolution Helps Us Understand and Treat Cancer and host of the Zombified podcast