Is Steven Pinker Right?

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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=magazine

"Julie is traveling in France on summer vacation from college with her brother Mark. One night they decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. Julie was already taking birth-control pills, but Mark uses a condom, too, just to be safe. They both enjoy the sex but decide not to do it again. They keep the night as a special secret, which makes them feel closer to each other. What do you think about that — was it O.K. for them to make love?

"[...]

"Most people immediately declare that these acts are wrong and then grope to justify why they are wrong. It’s not so easy. In the case of Julie and Mark, people raise the possibility of children with birth defects, but they are reminded that the couple were diligent about contraception. They suggest that the siblings will be emotionally hurt, but the story makes it clear that they weren’t. They submit that the act would offend the community, but then recall that it was kept a secret. Eventually many people admit, “I don’t know, I can’t explain it, I just know it’s wrong.” People don’t generally engage in moral reasoning, Haidt argues, but moral rationalization: they begin with the conclusion, coughed up by an unconscious emotion, and then work backward to a plausible justification."

Mordechai Shinefield, Sunday, 13 January 2008 05:28 (eleven years ago) link

This is pretty much yesterday’s news, but yeah, of course he’s right. Haidt appearance on the New Yorker Festival last spring, explaining his views:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/video/conference/2007/haidt

Some of his papers on this can be found online too, if you are interested.

Jeb, Sunday, 13 January 2008 06:07 (eleven years ago) link

THIS FORUM IS NOW INCESTED

gff, Sunday, 13 January 2008 06:28 (eleven years ago) link

I read this title as a question posed by a Russian with broken English of a person who looked liked Steven Pinker.

moley, Sunday, 13 January 2008 08:45 (eleven years ago) link

ugh steven pinker ugh ugh ugh

max, Sunday, 13 January 2008 12:03 (eleven years ago) link

The crap thing about this story is not the question at the end of it, but the story itself: "one night they decided it would be interesting and fun..."

The whole thing smacks of professorial brain fog, where he is so smitten with his intellectual cleverness at discovering that 'geewhiz, there's nothing wrong with incest that birth control can't fix', that he can't see that his story is about as linked to reality as celebrity slash fiction.

When he tells this story to people, they are so gobsmacked by the whole thing that they can't tell him why it is wrong and he takes this as evidence that he must be right. The real reason is that he is asking them to take a piece-of-crap premise seriously.

Aimless, Sunday, 13 January 2008 19:27 (eleven years ago) link

"Spock is traveling in France on summer vacation from college with her brother Kirk. One night they decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. Spock was already taking birth-control pills, but Kirk uses a condom, too, just to be safe. They both enjoy the sex but decide not to do it again. They keep the night as a special secret, which makes them feel closer to each other. What do you think about that — was it O.K. for them to make love?

max, Sunday, 13 January 2008 19:28 (eleven years ago) link

aimless, whatever else is going wrong in that article, pinker is not arguing for the rightness of incest

gff, Sunday, 13 January 2008 19:30 (eleven years ago) link

lol max

gff, Sunday, 13 January 2008 19:30 (eleven years ago) link

"In the case of Julie and Mark..."

The gaffe here is that the people interviewed do not realize that Julie and Mark not exist except in the confines of a very crappy, almost nonsensical story. The fact that the story consists of sentences that make some sort of grammatical sense and the unfolding of the story meets the usual and expected criteria for a story about people confuses them into thinking the story is about two quasi-real people.

But Julie and Mark don't exist outside this story and their reality quotient is sadly lacking. If Pinker were to make it plain that Mark and Julie are magical puppets, his auditors' confusion would vanish.

Aimless, Sunday, 13 January 2008 19:38 (eleven years ago) link

Dued Kiwi that article rules.

Abbott, Sunday, 13 January 2008 19:39 (eleven years ago) link

I like that he's doing "man on the street" type takes asking people to reason out this basic, cross-cultural taboo on the spot in a few succinct sentences and then concluding humanity's fucked when they don't say what he wants to hear.

Abbott, Sunday, 13 January 2008 19:40 (eleven years ago) link

wait, aimless, you mean there WASN'T a fat man not pushed in front of a train, killing five??

gff, Sunday, 13 January 2008 19:41 (eleven years ago) link

What I am saying is that it is not science but sleight-of-hand to deliberately confuse rhetorical constructs with reality and to move between the two as if they were essentially interchangeable.

If the last line of the Julie and Mark story were "But, of course you understand, Julie and Mark are not real people and do not exist anywhere but inside this story, so in a very true sense they are merely stick figures or puppets we have manipulated in front of you", and only then did the experimenters ask if it was morally wrong for these stick figures to have imaginary sex, I expect that the results of the experiment would have been quite different. the test subjects would have responded, more or less, "Who cares? Not me."

Aimless, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:16 (eleven years ago) link

That story is hardly steamy at all, and therefore a realllll disappointment.

Abbott, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:19 (eleven years ago) link

Some of the many big, stupid things wrong with this:

(a) The decision that it's wrong isn't based on "an unconscious emotion," it's based on categorical thinking -- the kind that says incest is bad, or murder is bad. Just because you've gone through and inserted caveats to dispel the usual objections doesn't mean it's interesting or important that people stick to the category.

(b) There's an important caveat missing, which is the one where people just kinda don't believe the story: part of the categorical thinking is a social thing, built on long experience, where people simply don't believe that a normal, healthy brother and sister would want to have sex. That's what makes it a "nonsensical" question.

(c) All the caveats are trying to cover the morality of the act in terms of its effects on other people. But kinda per (b), I'd guess that many people would respond based more on a kind of moral control of the people involved -- the notion that something is wrong and unhealthy about the siblings themselves, no matter how they may feel about it. Which isn't always an inappropriate mode of moral thinking, and gets pretty tricky in certain spots.

nabisco, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:25 (eleven years ago) link

Now, if the point of the experiment were to measure the different reactions of subjects to 30 slightly different variations of the same story, in order to measure the effects of each of the different rhetorical constructions upon an identical theme, then at least it would have been measuring the correct thing and supporting defensible conclusions.

Aimless, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:28 (eleven years ago) link

xpost - In fact, it specifically asks "was it O.K. for them to make love," which leaves that door wide open. And if you're thinking of them as anything but hypothetical, there is zero reason to take at face value the notion that their subjective experience ("makes them feel closer to each other") is not delusional, misguided, neurotic, temporary, or whatever.

I like that they did it in France, though.

nabisco, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:30 (eleven years ago) link

John Ford's "Tis Pity She's A Whore" to thread.

Drew Daniel, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:31 (eleven years ago) link

What is wrong with incest then?

Mister Craig, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:44 (eleven years ago) link

"They keep the night as a special secret, which makes them feel closer to each other."

http://www.neonbridge.com/Articles/2000-2002/Jan2001/images/carpenters.jpg

gershy, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:47 (eleven years ago) link

That's the thing, the people who are saying 'it's just... wrong, somehow' are right. It is 'just wrong'. The wrongness may be solely a contingent wrongness, not inherent to the act but based on those tricky details of social influence, issues of control and assumptions of mental stability, but that's the way the (actual, rather than possible) world is. Just because most people don't get down to the nitty-gritty philosophy speak doesn't mean that their information on morality is flawed.

emil.y, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:55 (eleven years ago) link

(If it doesn't come across, I don't think there is anything wrong with incest - but Pinker misses the caveat of 'Mark and Julie also live in a completely different world to the that we live in right now, where nobody has ever disparaged the idea of incest, and certainly won't continue to do so')

emil.y, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:57 (eleven years ago) link

What’s wrong with you people? His argument is very simple:

BLVR: So your conclusion is that while we might think that Reason or reasons are playing a big causal role in how we arrive at moral judgments, it’s actually our intuitions—fueled by our emotions—that are doing most of the work. You say in your paper that reason is the press secretary of the emotions, the ex post facto spin doctor.

JH: Yes, that’s right.

I.e. people feeling morally ambivalent about something without being able to rationalize it shocker.

Jeb, Sunday, 13 January 2008 20:58 (eleven years ago) link

People are arguing that a study conducted with a rather stupid thought experiment might not be the best way of testing this theory. I think he's on the right track, and the example isn't the worst one to give, but there are still many many flaws in it.

emil.y, Sunday, 13 January 2008 21:08 (eleven years ago) link

People feel morally ambivalent because the history of incest is tied up in abuse or subjugation of women (see also: polygamy in western culture).

So when you suddenly present the act in this other-reality scenario where relationships don't have a power component and everyone's walking away without damage - sure, people are going to be stumped about their response.

But it's not a meaningful result, because the question completely ignores the context of why humans decided incest is RONG.

milo z, Sunday, 13 January 2008 21:18 (eleven years ago) link

I.e. people feeling morally ambivalent about something without being able to rationalize it shocker.

Umm Jeb, see what I was saying above about how it's a giant leap to call this some kind of intuitive/emotional response, rather than a kind of categorical reasoning.

nabisco, Sunday, 13 January 2008 21:24 (eleven years ago) link

three months pass...

he is terrible

latebloomer, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:07 (eleven years ago) link

I'm reading "How The Mind Works" at the moment, on the recommendation of a friend. I like a lot of his ideas: how he defines intelligence, why people believe in god, how humans assess risks...

I think is the first book purely about psychology I've ever read, is it a good place to start, or am I barking up the wrong tree?

Bodrick III, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:15 (eleven years ago) link

he is terrible

-- latebloomer, Tuesday, 29 April 2008

OK, why?

Bodrick III, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:15 (eleven years ago) link

I like him well enough

Shakey Mo Collier, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:20 (eleven years ago) link

I don't really have anything to compare him to. Maybe I should have started with some sort of general primer on psychology first, but this seems like an accessible enough read.

Bodrick III, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:31 (eleven years ago) link

Celebrity scientists are mostly horrible. Maybe we need to have an S/D thread for them

Catsupppppppppppppp dude 茄蕃, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:37 (eleven years ago) link

But wasn't "How The Mind Works" the book that made him a celebrity in the first place? It's better if some chump like me has a basic grasp of these ideas than none at all.

Bodrick III, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:44 (eleven years ago) link

classic for making a case against sapir-whorf

moonship journey to baja, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:44 (eleven years ago) link

one of many, i should note

moonship journey to baja, Monday, 28 April 2008 23:46 (eleven years ago) link

The original story is not only implausible and nonsensical, as many have pointed out, but the very telling of the story contradicts the premise that no one knows about it and it therefore cannot offend the community. Am I supposed to pretend I didn't hear the story and then pass a moral judgment on it?

Hurting 2, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 01:25 (eleven years ago) link

But wasn't "How The Mind Works" the book that made him a celebrity in the first place?

Nope, it was the very worthwhile "The Language Instinct."

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 29 April 2008 04:30 (eleven years ago) link

Celebrity scientists are mostly horrible.

^

also evolutionary psychology in general=dud

latebloomer, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 05:02 (eleven years ago) link

i really shouldn't have said "terrible", though. more like...irritating, for several reasons that have little to do with science or psycology or whatever.

latebloomer, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 05:22 (eleven years ago) link

But wasn't "How The Mind Works" the book that made him a celebrity in the first place? It's better if some chump like me has a basic grasp of these ideas than none at all.

-- Bodrick III, Monday, April 28, 2008 4:44 PM (5 hours ago) Bookmark Link

the problem is when chumps treat pinker's "basic ideas" as though they were widely-accepted and agreed-upon, which to the best of my knowledge they arent

max, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 05:28 (eleven years ago) link

yeah pinker and chomsky both are two guys that had decent enough ideas but instead of treating them like levi-strauss people treat them like darwin which is fucking braindead and pathetic

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 05:54 (eleven years ago) link

#1 problem with cognitive scientists is that they fuck up observation with hypothesis and vice versa at least half the time. cart before horse (but oh wait semantic determinism do u see) shut the fuck up

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 05:56 (eleven years ago) link

whoa I kinda went luriqua there (is shaniqua there? hell no)

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 06:00 (eleven years ago) link

#1 problem with cognitive scientists is that they are a bunch of losers

max, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 06:00 (eleven years ago) link

aren't you all up into some post structuralist semiology shit though? pot kettle black on black crime

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 06:54 (eleven years ago) link

nah dude my new thing is gardening

max, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 06:55 (eleven years ago) link

also english lit chicks are seventeen times hotter than cog sci chicks, ipso facto ergo sum

max, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 06:56 (eleven years ago) link

Re the quote: yes exactly, picks up same dichotomy

anatol_merklich, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:30 (eleven years ago) link

well ... a physical scientist wouldn't see any difference between those two things!

i can predict the future: if i drop this egg, it will fall.
i can explain the present: i dropped the egg, it fell

i cannot predict the future: no idea when this sand piling up in the bottom of the hourglass will shift
i cannot *explain* the present: not really sure "why" the sand collapsed when it did ... "because it reached an unstable configuration" <-- ho ho whiff of tautology

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:33 (eleven years ago) link

er, "it will fall, and hit the ground in exactly (square root of (2/9.8 * height in meters) seconds ..."

and i could explain yesterday's egg drop results in exactly the same way

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:34 (eleven years ago) link

Aren't you just saying science is better at modeling simplified ideal scenarios than inherently complex ones?

Kerm, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:40 (eleven years ago) link

re hourglass:

Hmm what I don't quite accept there is that because I cannot explain why the sand collapsed when it did, I should be resigned to never understanding the mechanics of sand collapse!

Or is the point that the observable states preceding *that particular* sand collapse are lost forever and that particular present cannot be explained?

anatol_merklich, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:42 (eleven years ago) link

ie I can't wait for the next evolution of man (or given other organism), I've only got this data point?

anatol_merklich, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:44 (eleven years ago) link

yeah exactly ... especially since evolutionary psychology is very concerned about deducing organizing principles from a very, very, very particular present (whereas the broader field of evolutionary biology is working with, you know, the whole fossil record)

here's another gould classic (From wikipedia, sorry, i'm damn lazy)

In both the giant panda[1] and the red panda[2], the radial sesamoid has evolved to be larger than the same bone in counterparts such as bears. It is primarily a bony support for the pad above it, allowing the panda's other digits to grasp bamboo while eating it. The panda's thumb is often cited as a classical example of exaptation, where a trait evolved for one purpose is commandeered for another[3].

a very common critique of evolutionary psychology is that given how tenuous the link is between human culture and human brain (we use only what, 5% of the damn thing?!? most days my brain works about as well as a panda thumb ...) it's not impossible that all culture is just an exaptation

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:45 (eleven years ago) link

evolution of man

lol sorry abt 19th century species terminology there

anatol_merklich, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:45 (eleven years ago) link

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/purity.png

Basically saying you can explain all human behavior scientifically is making the claims that:

1. chance is not a significant factor
2. choice and conscious action have physical sources that are ultimately traceable AND, once traced, as predictable as sand falling in an hourglass
3. societies do not develop enough complexity to require explanations on their own terms, they are always reducible

Maria, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:48 (eleven years ago) link

You can't explain why turbulence in air spiraled the way it did as the egg as the egg passed through it, either. You can't explain the particular splatter pattern of the egg once it hits the ground, if it indeed breaks.

You "know" how long the egg will take to hit the ground from a particular start, and you "know" how long the sand will take to drain to the bottom of the hourglass.

Orbits aren't *really* conical, but nearly so.

On and on...

Kerm, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:49 (eleven years ago) link

i'm not really sure what you're getting at, dr ian malcolm

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:51 (eleven years ago) link

Gimmi your hand Ellie Sattler.

Mordy, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:52 (eleven years ago) link

CONDORS!

Kerm, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:57 (eleven years ago) link

Maria: Agreed that 1-3 would be necessary conditions (and obv far far far from sufficient ones).

But conceding that you can't explain all human behaviour scientifically doesn't mean having to concede that area X of human behaviour is unexplainable. And since we can't decide in advance which areas are and which aren't, I'd be reluctant to declare something a priori out of bounds.

anatol_merklich, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:03 (eleven years ago) link

(btw do you have a ref on the 5% thing, moonship?)

anatol_merklich, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:04 (eleven years ago) link

I'm not conceding that it's unexplainable, I'm just saying maybe science isn't the right tool! Maybe in some areas, a sociological approach is just better.

Maria, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:04 (eleven years ago) link

(i mean, i disagree that sociology is just applied psychology, and i think sometimes sociology is more useful.)

Maria, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:04 (eleven years ago) link

no, that's just a joke

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:06 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah, that's surely the wrongest link up there. ;)

I'm not conceding that it's unexplainable,

Sorry I was unclear, I meant if one (well, I) were to concede that it is unexplainable "scientifically".

I'm just saying maybe science isn't the right tool! Maybe in some areas, a sociological approach is just better.

Yup, got it. But I think we may be talking about different sets of questions here -- to simplify, questions about how A causes/correlates with B in societies, vs questions about how this whole mechanism came to be.

anatol_merklich, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:18 (eleven years ago) link

Just on Stephen Jay Gould, I gather his stuff on contingency is heavily contested, not least by the Burgess Shale analysts he writes about in Wonderful Life.

WL is still a great book, if you like reading about crazy animals.

The Real Dirty Vicar, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:26 (eleven years ago) link

we use only what, 5% of the damn thing

where does this widely repeated idea come from? I am not entirely convinced by it.

The Real Dirty Vicar, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:27 (eleven years ago) link

that's true DV but i think there's more heat than light in those arguments. for example the the exchange between simon conway morris' and SJG is usually cited (probably because off all the burgess shale group he did the biggest about-face on the issue?) but i think if you read the exchange the controversy comes off sort of flimsy.

sorry to everyone, i'm an unreconstructed SJG fan

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 15:24 (eleven years ago) link

by "unscientific" y'all just mean not hard science, right? I would hope that even sociology subscribes to certain scientific methodologies.

Literary theorist calls for more scientific methodology in literary theory

ledge, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 15:29 (eleven years ago) link

Oh yeah. That's definitely the way to fix literary theory. Make it more interesting with logarithms.

Mordy, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 15:57 (eleven years ago) link

t/s: logarithms vs. logorrhea

Hurting 2, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 15:58 (eleven years ago) link

"we use only what, 5% of the damn thing

where does this widely repeated idea come from? I am not entirely convinced by it."

it's a myth

bidfurd, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 16:14 (eleven years ago) link

...apparently originating from one of those Self Help Guru authors of the 70s

bidfurd, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 16:19 (eleven years ago) link

lol @ making literary theory more scientific

max, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 17:06 (eleven years ago) link

Ledge, yeah, sociology and anthropology do use some scientific methodologies. But they also use non-scientific methods and analysis, so they're not "sciences" as such. It varies by subject, of course; archaeology is a lot more like science, postmodern cultural anthropology a lot less.

Maria, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 17:13 (eleven years ago) link

been thinking about this all morning, starting to think maybe here's what it boils down (apologies for restating other people's ideas, obnoxious habit, but i think maybe these words need to be part of this conversation, so i'll try to do it quick)

now tom used this word but i think he used it in a different sense (or i don't fully get the argument behind the sense in which he used it): determinism

the question boils down to: how much can science explain without falling into determinism? as we attribute more explaining power, are we always creeping toward determinism?

i think there's a tradeoff at work. conway morris and gang are willing to do it because they're still in the field, and it benefits them to push for capital-s science.

stephen jay gould (and pinker and chomsky and dennett and others too) have sort of pushed their way out of their field and into mainstream thinking and mainstream social concern. and so gould as a strong humanist is always going to be turning away from determinism (and that's my bias preference also) ... and pinker and dennett are going to push back on that (and not because i think they're anti-humanist but maybe because doing so lends more wholeness to their own particular research interest)

now i am in a field (education) where "the mismeasure of man" ideas (iq tests, bell curves, and all that) still loom very big (and engaged in daily active struggle against) and so i tilt towards the anti-determinist end

is this a useful distinction, at this point?

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 19:35 (eleven years ago) link

It's one I was actually trying to avoid upthread (because it is a bias, and gets metaphysical in a way i don't think i can argue very well), but yeah, that's important.

Maria, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 19:38 (eleven years ago) link

and kerm's line of argument invoking irreducible complexity to get us out of the determinism (sorry to clown upthread) isn't *that* comforting to me mainly because it seems sorta tautological

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 19:38 (eleven years ago) link

more gould gems: its only bias if it leads you to evaluate data non-objectively. a scientist is perfectly within his rights to state his preference!

moonship journey to baja, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 19:39 (eleven years ago) link

The only Pinker I've read is The Blank Slate, which I think suffered a bit from overreach and too many strawman arguments (a point that Louis Menand makes in his mostly skeptical New Yorker review). Perhaps his earlier books that stuck more closely to his area of expertise might be better.

o. nate, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 20:10 (eleven years ago) link

that review sums up everything i find irritating about pinker's outlook.

latebloomer, Thursday, 12 June 2008 00:34 (eleven years ago) link

more gould gems: its only bias if it leads you to evaluate data non-objectively. a scientist is perfectly within his rights to state his preference!

yeah exactly; the problem is when these guys jump out into full-fledged speculation in areas where science as we know it today is incapable of performing any experiments to falsify their wacky ideas, then bias becomes the whole story and, well, mismeasure-of-man shit and bad public policy decisions wind up following just the same. but I think that's a story for another time and I really don't need to be getting into this thread

(and yes of course physicists are always delving into stuff that can't currently be falsified, Einstein did it a LOT, but they have the sense (generally) to put THEORETICAL in front of their title when they do)

El Tomboto, Thursday, 12 June 2008 00:58 (eleven years ago) link

once at my school i saw a lecture given by the chair of the psych department where she argued that the fact that bonobo groups, which are led by female bonobos, are far more peaceful than chimpanzee groups gave us insight into why so many peace organizations are run by or founded by women

max, Thursday, 12 June 2008 01:08 (eleven years ago) link

did you thump your chest and hurl vegetation until she presented her rump?

moonship journey to baja, Thursday, 12 June 2008 02:13 (eleven years ago) link

hurlin' vegetation baybehh

El Tomboto, Thursday, 12 June 2008 02:14 (eleven years ago) link

thanks for the new yorker article. i watched the "gender" debate between pinker and elizabeth spelke for a class a few months ago (http://edge.org/3rd_culture/debate05/debate05_index.html). spelke kind of pwned pinker imo.

strgn, Thursday, 12 June 2008 02:28 (eleven years ago) link

as an only child, i don't really have any problem with julie and mark's forbidden lust

mookieproof, Thursday, 12 June 2008 02:31 (eleven years ago) link

plus his hair:

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/2005/0805/images/pinker1.jpg

strgn, Thursday, 12 June 2008 02:37 (eleven years ago) link

Short postscript to moonship & Maria's posts yesterday: yeah I was on/off whether to bring up determinism too -- I'm pretty much pro, but (similar to what Maria said) then I'm then veering into metaphysics and I can't argue it well.

anatol_merklich, Thursday, 12 June 2008 10:49 (eleven years ago) link

in my mind, 'mismeasure-of-man' (not 'determinism') is the key word moonship brings up in relation to evolutionary bio and everything mentioned in this thread so far that i can make heads or tails of. and not just 'mismeasure,' but the practices of science, beyond 'mis'.. i'm just diving into sts at this point (bruno latour etc), but it's helping me dig on the idea of the practice of science in sociological (where it all begins amirite) systems. (disclaimer: liberal arts major speaking).

strgn, Thursday, 12 June 2008 11:32 (eleven years ago) link

full disclosure of bias: i majored in anthropology & sociology, and am applying to grad schools in archaeology. so i'm not an expert but i am opinionated! (and irritated by the "it's either science or bullshit" point of view.)

that's kind of amazing hair, by the way. i would probably want to believe someone who looked like that if i saw him talk. i've only read the blank slate, thought it was interesting. (my father actually found it comforting. he said it meant his parenting could only screw us up so far, and he was glad to be not totally responsible for how we turned out. thanks, dad!)

Maria, Thursday, 12 June 2008 11:46 (eleven years ago) link

three months pass...

Haha, reading The Stuff of Thoughts yesterday, I saw something that made me wonder if he's an ilxor lurker: talking about datives etc, he used the example sentence (something like)

Norm was given the pashmina

-- which struck me as an unlikely name/object combination to occur in two places independently... :)

anatol_merklich, Friday, 19 September 2008 11:05 (ten years ago) link

ten years pass...

peven stinker

mark s, Saturday, 9 February 2019 16:15 (five months ago) link

Me (dumb guy): They wrote "exposes Pecker." Heh, heh.
You (smart guy): Thanks to my graduate degree in psycholoinguistics and studies with Noam Chomsky, I notice they wrote "exposes Pecker." Heh, heh. https://t.co/e5yE5ovYVG

— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) February 10, 2019

j., Sunday, 10 February 2019 15:26 (five months ago) link

I thought this book review did a good job of summarizing his strengths and weaknesses as a writer (see the second half):

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/02/07/pinker-rosling-progress-accentuate-positive/

o. nate, Monday, 11 February 2019 21:28 (five months ago) link


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