Although Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker enjoyed teaching his students about the interesting puzzles that cause humans to behave irrationally, he realized that as interesting as those puzzles were, they did not explain some of the deeper and more destructive tendencies at work today. “Why do people believe that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a pizzeria or that jet contrails are mind-altering drugs dispersed by a secret government program?” How is it possible, he asks, that a species could develop a Covid 19 vaccine in less than a year while at the same time producing so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theories? “We face deadly threats to our health, our democracy, and the livability of our planet … yet among our most fierce problems today is convincing people to accept the solutions when we do find them.”
On September 28th, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Pinker will join the Network for Responsible Public Policy (NFRPP) to discuss his latest book “Rationality: What it is, Why it seems scarce, Why it matters.” His book and presentation contain his unique blend of scientific rigor, thoughtful analysis, and humor (including an excellent sample of Jewish humor) to explain why humans behave the way they do and what we can do to enable ourselves to make better choices, both as individuals and as a society. The book, recently issued in paperback, is available from Amazon, other booksellers, or a local bookstore or library near you. Please consider reading Pinker’s book. You will be able to discuss your questions with him at the Zoom event. This is a rare opportunity to engage Steven Pinker himself.
Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. He grew up in Montreal and earned his BA from McGill and his PhD from Harvard. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has also taught at Stanford and MIT. He has won numerous prizes for his research, his teaching, and his books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Sense of Style, and Enlightenment Now. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Humanist of the Year, a recipient of nine honorary doctorates, and one of Foreign Policy’s “World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” He was Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and writes frequently for the New York Times, the Guardian, and other publications. His twelfth book, published in 2021, is called Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters.