Steven Pinker Summary

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Name: Ishan Bajoria,
Date: 8th September, 2010


Pinker opens with a list of propositional questions well chosen to delineate some, but not all. They were just examples of many scholarly questions that have elicited intemperate, emotional, moralistic or illiberal responses. They may sound reasonable enough upon first pass, but is such a restriction really justified?  The problem with omitting "harmful technologies" or "evil ideologies" from the mix becomes clear when you consider that many of the questions reserved for rational contemplation. The effect of parents on their children is a reference to Judith Rich Harris and her book, the question about rape is in reference to Thorn hill and Palmer's A Natural History of Rape. Based on those immediate few that I recognized, I'm guessing he has a specific instance in mind for each question where the mere fact of asking it was considered beyond the pale. I find what Pinker describes is very important and thought-provoking. He challenges us to think, not about anything, but about our own thoughts and beliefs. A lot of issues that Pinker addresses as examples in his articles are even more provoking because they have been correlated with Nazism or other extreme ideologies. Of course Pinker does not say he supports any of those ideas. He simply expresses them as ideas that tick people off. Hence, Most of us live with the same concept of morals and truths about the world for our whole lives and many people change values until their become adults, but after that, very few express radical changes in opinions, a phenomenon that has led to what we call "the generation gap"
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