Hall Center For The Humanities


Steven Pinker
Psychology, Harvard University; Author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate, a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction

"The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature"
Humanities Lecture Series

Thu., Oct. 28, 2004, 7:30pm
Location: Lied Center
The second lecture of the 2004-2005 Humanities Lecture Series will be presented by cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker. Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, will speak on ?The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature? October 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lied Center.

Taken from his prize-winning book of the same name, The Blank Slate addresses modern society?s unwillingness to see human behavior as nature rather than nurture. Pinker believes this unwillingness comes from a somewhat justified fear that innate patterns of thinking and feeling could be used to justify inequality, to subvert social change, to dissolve personal responsibility and to strip life of meaning and purpose. Through logic and calm rationality, Pinker tries to show that equality, progress, responsibility and purpose have nothing to fear from science.

The book version of The Blank Slate was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2003. It won the Eleanor Maccoby Book Award and the William James Book Prize the same year. Pinker holds a bachelor?s degree from McGill University and a doctorate from Harvard. He is the author of several other popular works, including Words and Rules: The Ingredients of the Language (1999) and How the Mind Works (1997). Words and Rules focused primarily on Pinker?s research on regular and irregular verbs and how those verbs can be used to explain how language works. How the Mind Works was an overview of the biological basis of mental functioning, from vision and reasoning to the emotions, humor and art.

Pinker is well known for combining humor with scholarship. In 2003, he joined more than 200 other scientists named Steve in a statement promoting evolution. The petition, which mocks petitions questioning the theory, was sponsored by the National Center for Science Education. As ?Steves? make up only about 1% of scientists, the petition demonstrated how many experts believe evolution to be a valid theory. The point of the petition, Pinker said, was to ?demonstrate how misleading it is to claim, on the basis of a handful of dissenters, that evolution is a theory in crisis.? Besides being a Steve in support of evolution, Pinker is also a member of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists and was one of the scientists whom Scientific American recommended making into an action figure in a January 2004 article.

Partial funding for the Humanities Lecture Series is provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities' 2000 Challenge Grant

Co-sponsored by KPR

This event is free and open to the public.

Thurs., Oct. 28, 2004
7:30 p.m.
Lied Center
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