Steven Pinker Quotes

steven pinker quotes

There's a misconception that survival of the fittest means survival of the most aggressive. The adjective 'Darwinian' used to refer to ruthless competition; you used to read that in business journals. But that's not what Darwinian means to a biologist; it's whatever leads to reproductive success.

There is no society ever discovered in the remotest corner of the world that has not had something that we would consider the arts. Visual arts - decoration of surfaces and bodies - appears to be a human universal.

Morality is not just any old topic in psychology but close to our conception of the meaning of life. Moral goodness is what gives each of us the sense that we are worthy human beings.

Northeastern and most coastal states will vote for the candidate who is more closely aligned with international cooperation and engagement, secularism and science, gun control, individual freedom in culture and sexuality, and a greater role for the government in protecting the environment and ensuring economic equality.

The reason I'm not a neurobiologist but a cognitive psychologist is that I think looking at brain tissue is often the wrong level of analysis. You have to look at a higher level of organization.

Roads, better harnesses for horses, time-keeping devices, financial instruments like a currency that was recognized everywhere in the kingdom, enforceable contracts - all of this made commerce more appealing than plunder.

When time permits, I try to see interesting people in the cities I visit. In Seattle, I met Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, who is shy in personality but flamboyant in his philanthropy.

If you look in general at people who live in anarchy, they have quite high rates of death from either homicide or warfare or both. Anarchy is one of the main reasons for violence, and it may be the most important.

A hostility to modernity is shared by ideologies that have nothing else in common - a nostalgia for moral clarity, small-town intimacy, family values, primitive communism, ecological sustainability, communitarian solidarity, or harmonies with the rhythms of nature.

The strongest argument against totalitarianism may be a recognition of a universal human nature; that all humans have innate desires for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The doctrine of the blank slate... is a totalitarian's dream.

I have never been a fan of science fiction. For me, fiction has to explore the combinatorial possibilities of people interacting under the constraints imposed by our biology and history. When an author is free to suspend the constraints, it's tennis without a net.

The idea that children are passive repositories to be shaped by their parents has been massively overstated. A child's peer group is a far greater determinant of its development and achievements than parental aspiration.

People know there is a difference between what you do and what you accept. There is a difference between me knowing that people swear, me hearing people swear and me swearing, and everyone accepting that this is something you can do as much as you like.

When people talk, they lay lines on each other, do a lot of role playing, sidestep, shilly-shally and engage in all manner of vagueness and innuendo. We do this and expect others to do it, yet at the same time we profess to long for the plain truth, for people to say what they mean, simple as that. Such hypocrisy is a human universal.

Economic libertarians and Christian evangelicals, united by their common enemy, are strange bedfellows in today's Republican party, just as the two Georges - the archconservative Wallace and the uberliberal McGovern - found themselves in the same Democratic Party in 1972.

Parents provide their children with genes as well as an environment, so the fact that talkative parents have kids with good language skills could simply mean that and that the same genes that make parents talkative make children articulate.

There is a correlation between economic inequality and personal violence. The explanation for the correlation isn't completely clear; there are a number of possibilities.

Cognitive psychology has shown that the mind best understands facts when they are woven into a conceptual fabric, such as a narrative, mental map, or intuitive theory. Disconnected facts in the mind are like unlinked pages on the Web: They might as well not exist.

Language pedants hew to an oral tradition of shibboleths that have no basis in logic or style, that have been defied by great writers for centuries, and that have been disavowed by every thoughtful usage manual.

Astrology had an important role in the ancient world. You can't understand many things unless you know something about astrology - the plays of Shakespeare and so on.

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