Steven Pinker writes in Nautilus:
With his wife, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby transformed our understanding of human nature.
BY STEVEN PINKER November 14, 2023
On November 10, 2023, my dear friend John Tooby died—or as he would have put it, finally lost his struggle with entropy.
John was a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who together with his wife, Leda Cosmides, founded the field of evolutionary psychology. But that academic accomplishment doesn’t do him justice; it’s the institutional embodiment of the way his mind worked. John had insight into human nature worthy of our greatest novelists and playwrights, grounded in an understanding of the natural world worthy of our greatest scientists. Evolution for him was a link in an explanatory chain that connected human thought and feeling to the laws of the natural world.
… But John’s greatest accomplishment was bringing to fruition Darwin’s prediction that “psychology will be placed on a new foundation.” That foundation is natural selection, since it alone can carve nooks of beneficial organization out of a universe that relentlessly slides into disorder. As he and Leda put it in a paper title, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics Is the First Law of Psychology.” The primary challenge for a science of mind is to explain how such improbable feats as perception, reasoning, and goal-seeking could have arisen in a world in which overall entropy must increase. The answer ultimately lies in the only force in nature that can temporarily shape matter into functioning organs, including the human brain....
His influence on me is retroviral, chimeric: I can barely distinguish his thinking from my own.
It says a lot for the field of evolutionary psychology that it more or less was founded by a healthy, happy married couple, John and Leda.
John was a great guy.