Steven Pinker

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Steven Pinker, 2005
Tell me about
your mother

Icon psychology.svg
For our next session...
Popping into your mind

Steven Arthur Pinker (1954–), a Canadian linguist, psychologist, and notable atheist, has written both academic and popular books on his areas of special interest. In 2003 he became Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.[1] He has become known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and of the computational theory of mind.[2]

His book The Language Instinct (1994) popularized Noam Chomsky's theory that language is an innate faculty of mind, and to that he added that this faculty evolved by natural selection, improving human abilities to communicate.[note 1][note 2] The Blank Slate (2002) is a polemic against human exceptionalism, arguing against the "blank slate" hypothesis that the entire human personality is acquired through socialization and environmental conditioning, the "noble savage" belief that all human capacity for vice, violence, and crime is similarly learned from a morally corrupt environment, and that there is a "ghost in the machine", a mind or soul that is separate from the brain. The Better Angels Of Our Nature (2011) makes the case that violence has decreased as humans adopt more complex social organizations, improve communications, and build networks of trade, and that the perception that we live in an unusually violent time rather than a remarkably peaceful one exemplifies confirmation bias.

Pinker received the 2013 Richard Dawkins Award from the Atheist Alliance of America,Wikipedia with Dawkins calling him a "personal hero".[3]

In 2018, Pinker was described by Bari Weiss as an enhancement to the Intellectual Dark Web:

Go a click in one direction and the group is enhanced by intellectuals with tony affiliations like Steven Pinker at Harvard. But go a click in another and you’ll find alt-right figures like Stefan Molyneux and Milo Yiannopoulos and conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich (the #PizzaGate huckster) and Alex Jones (the Sandy Hook shooting denier).[4]

Political correctness gone mad[edit]

Pinker gave a short speech regarding political correctness, for the Koch-funded Unsafe Space Tour[5] and how making inconvenient or uncomfortable facts unsayable can lead some people to be a bit more vulnerable to the alt-right.[6] The alt-right seized on a short clip of him saying "the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right".

According to some, he got the condemnation of the left due to social media like Twitter being terrible for context. Progressive biologist P. Z. Myers did not agree with that assessment, and posted a condemnation of Pinker on his blog, entitled If you ever doubted that Steven Pinker’s sympathies lie with the alt-right.[7]

Jesse Singal defended Pinker in the New York Times.[8] Myers also responded to Singal.[9]

Pinker's book Enlightenment Now, where he claims the left has been captured by "identity politicians, political correctness police, and social justice warriors", was criticized for mischaracterizing left politics.[10]

Ironically, in Enlightenment Now, he claims that there has been a decline in racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes since 2004 (which he attempts to prove by looking at Google search statistics), and uses this as an example of the growing civilization, rationality, and greatness of modern society — despite the fact that he now seems to want to relax some social restrictions on what is unacceptable. This suggests that Pinker recognises these jokes are the same thing as inconvenient or uncomfortable facts. Jeremy Lent says, "Pinker seems to view all ethical development from prehistory to the present day as 'progress,' but any pressure to shift society further along its moral arc as anathema."[11]


Pinker has been called "The World's Most Annoying Man," by journalist and social activist Nathan J. Robinson.[10] Robinson's criticism is in part that Pinker is a Pollyanna who downplays problems like climate change, white supremacy, or unregulated capitalism, expecting that things will just sort themselves out. His status as a friend and associate of the rich and powerful, including frequently-expressed mutual admiration with Bill Gates, praise by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Clinton, and attendance at rich boys' summer camp Bohemian Grove have led to criticism that he is a stooge of the super-rich; Pankaj Mishra called him a member of the "intellectual service class" who provide intellectual justification and boosterism to the elite.[12] John GrayWikipedia[note 3] called Enlightenment Now "embarrassingly feeble … a parody of Enlightenment thinking at its crudest … a therapeutic manual for rattled rationalists".[13]

He has been criticized by Jeremy Lent for his charts, arguing that he cherry picks time-frames and charts that will make everything look like things have always been improving while ignoring bad things.[11] Pinker has also been criticized for mischaracterizing history and spreading misinformation and perpetuating colonialist and Eurocentric narratives about progress and history.[14]

The historian of science Evelyn Fox Keller notes that Pinker conflates technical heritability (the contribution of genetic difference to trait difference within a specific environment) with the more colloquial meaning of 'heritability', which is that something is genetically determined.[15]:64 His confusion over the science may be one of the reasons he has found himself lumped with proponents of race science, such as Charles Murray.[16]

He has also been accused of racism for his comments on the Tuskegee syphilis experiment which he called, "a one-time failure to prevent harm to a few dozen people", suggesting that institutional medicine had never been racist apart from that one time.[12] The historical record tells a different and darker story of how "racist policy and practice have also been integral to the historical formation of the medical academy in the USA".[17]

Pinker has been criticised for his closeness to white supremacist eugenicist Steve Sailer. He was criticised for using data from Sailer's blog, and acknowledged and criticised Sailer's racism, claiming that while Sailer was racist, his data was not. But in addition he published an essay by Sailer in a 2004 book, and has a quote from Sailer praising his work on his website.[12]

Recurring themes[edit]

Both ways[edit]

Critics claim Pinker likes to have things "both ways" especially when it comes to evolutionary psychology:

  • Stephen Jay Gould: "Which claim does Pinker want to make: that pluralism reigns in evolutionary psychology (and I characterized the field unfairly), or that adaptationism reigns as a synonym for “evolutionary reasoning” (and my warnings are sterile)? He can’t have them both."[18]
  • Jesse Prinz: "In his earlier books, Pinker tries to have it both ways. "Words and Rules" also charts a middle ground, this time between patterns and precepts, and may prove equally controversial as a result. It won't explain why we fall in love, but it will explain why "fall" becomes "falled" in children's past tense. Perhaps this mundane mystery reveals as much about who we are."[19]
  • Kenan Malik: "The primatologist Frans de Waal suggests in his book The Ape and the Sushi Master that thinkers like Pinker "want to have it both ways: human behaviour is an evolutionary product except when it is hard to explain."[20]
  • Louis Menand: "Having it both ways is an irritating feature of "The Blank Slate." Pinker can write, in refutation of the scarecrow theory of violent behavior, "The sad fact is that despite the repeated assurances that 'we know the conditions that breed violence,' we barely have a clue," and then, a few pages later, "It is not surprising, then, that when African American teenagers are taken out of underclass neighborhoods they are no more violent or delinquent than white teenagers." Well, that should give us one clue. [21]
  • H. Allen Orr: "Too often, data are skimpy, alternative hypotheses are neglected, and the entire enterprise threatens to slip into undisciplined storytelling. (One of the worst examples comes from Pinker himself. His popular piece on two cases of middle-class neonaticide is a nearly data-free account that comes perilously close to parody.) Concerns about rigor are surely the leading worry about evolutionary psychology among working biologists. Ask a molecular geneticist who’s skeptical of Darwinian psychology to explain why. You won’t hear that the slate is blank; you’ll hear about “soft science.” In the end, evolutionary psychology wants to have it both ways. It longs after the prestige of hard science but hopes to be held to a lower standard of rigor than, say, molecular biology. The important distinction we’re left with is the weak vs. strong one that Pinker blurs. One can admit that the slate isn’t blank without buying Darwinian psychology."[22]
  • Richard McKay Rorty: "When it became empirical and experimental, (science) lost both its metaphysical pretensions and the ability to set new ends for human beings to strive for. It gained the ability to provide new means. Most scientists are content with this trade-off. But every so often a scientist like Pinker tries to have it both ways, and to suggest that science can provide empirical evidence to show that some ends are preferable to others."[23]
  • Jason Walsh: "So, Pinker seems to want to have it both ways, being particularist one minute and universal the next. As a result, his attempts to show that we live in the best times ever, he does so in quite unconvincing terms."[24]


Critics have used the term "blithe" in reference to Pinker:

  • Andrew Fiala: "Indeed, Pinker claims that there is a correlation between Presidential IQ and deaths in war. According to Pinker, smarter presidents wage fewer wars and produce fewer wartime casualties. Such a blithe conclusion should be taken with a grain of salt, since it assumes that presidents wage war in a vacuum without the input of the military or the cooperation of foreign allies."[25]
  • Andrew Sprung: "Note that blithe parenthetical crediting of recent American and European use of force as instances of moral reasoning at its highest. Sometimes they are. I am not one to dispute that the western-developed values and practices of democracy, rule of law and human rights are the worst possible forms of social organization, except for all the alternatives. Yet there is something off-putting about Pinker's chauvinism."[26]
  • David A. Bell: "Pinker dismisses concerns about rising economic inequality with the blithe assertion that inequality matters less than actual levels of income and comfort."[27]
  • David Runciman: "What drives people mad about Pinker’s argument is his blithe assurance that liberalism is the default mode of modernity. He is so smug, so condescending, so sure he is on the right side of history." [28]
  • Tim O'Neill: "Technology and commerce will find solutions, so don't worry", is effectively Pinker's blithe assurance there. "[29]
  • David Herman: "He started writing polemical pieces on contemporary thinkers like Fukuyama, John Rawls and Steven Pinker. At a time when these American thinkers were flying high, Gray was a dissenting voice. He disagreed with the blithe optimism of Pinker and Fukuyama..." [30]

Things can only get better[edit]

The Better Angels of Our Nature

One of his most controversial claims, made in The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011) and Enlightenment Now (2018), is that we live in an age of unparalleled peace, and that violence is on a steady decline which will continue as humans become more civilized and peaceable. There is certainly some evidence to support this, such as the rise in life expectancy across the world over the past 200 years (though this is mostly attributable to modern medicine[31]), although even then it is unclear if Pinker correctly explains why this happened.[11]

When asked what he means by violence, he refuses to describe it exactly, saying:

How do you define “violence”? I don’t. I use the term in its standard sense, more or less the one you’d find in a dictionary (such as The American Heritage Dictionary Fifth Edition: "Behavior or treatment in which physical force is exerted for the purpose of causing damage or injury.") In particular, I focus on violence against sentient beings: homicide, assault, rape, robbery, and kidnapping, whether committed by individuals, groups, or institutions. Violence by institutions naturally includes war, genocide, corporal and capital punishment, and deliberate famines.[32]

He really loves making lists, with Four Better Angels cited as the parts of human nature that are forces for good: empathy, self-control, moral sense, and reason. He explains the change as due to 5 historical processes:[33]

  • The modern nation-state, which claims the monopoly on force and supersedes personal revenge
  • Commerce, creating increased dependency on others
  • Feminization, increased respect for women's rights
  • Cosmopolitanism, leading to increased understanding of others
  • Rationalism, increased belief in rational methods of problem-solving rather than violence as a tool

Some of these are mainstays of modern liberal thought, such as the idea that commerce promotes peace (similar to Thomas Friedman's Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention); the rise of rationalism is the mainstay of modern science and classical liberalism (although links between rationalism and a peaceful, happy society are contested[34]).

There are various issues with his central thesis that violence is decreasing (and that it will continue to do so). As mentioned, he isn't clear about what he means by violence, which seems to exclude various forms of coercion and destructive behavior. His views seem to reflect a particular historical and cultural perspective: violence depends very much on whether you're living in a middle-class suburb in a low-crime western democracy, or a Middle Eastern refugee camp. Germany has seen far fewer wars in the last 70 years than at any other time in its history, but the same may not be true of Yemen.

A number of specific criticisms have been raised:

  • Is war really declining? Pinker has shown a graph that seems to demonstrate a decline in the number of wars in the past 70 years. However Nassim Nicholas Taleb attacked this suggestion, claiming that major wars are rarer in history, maybe every 100 years, and therefore we simply do not have enough data: Pinker is basing his optimism on a statistical blip.[35]
  • Questionable historical sources, which make it hard to assess how violent the distant past was. Spencer McDaniel questioned his knowledge of the ancient and medieval world, with historians still debating how violent hunter-gatherer societies were. McDaniel particularly criticised "Pinker’s extensive and largely uncritical reliance on a small number of unreliable sources and works of outright fiction" as historical sources;[14] Homer's Iliad is probably not an accurate manual on Greek culture or warfare.[36]
  • Lack of concern about impending eco-catastrophe: Pinker dismisses worries that increasing global warming will result in more death and conflict, suggesting that we'll all be fine thanks to technology.[11] Violence against the environment (e.g., global deforestation and overfishing, the ongoing anthropogenic extinction level event) does not meet his definition of violence.
  • Obvious violence replaced by more subtle forms of coercion. Pinker notes that improvements have been made in civil rights in the US over the past 200 years, noting a decline in racist violence through the 20th century and beyond. However this ignores other continuing forms of repression such as the prison industrial complex.[11]
  • Who is responsible? He seems to believe that the cause of this improvement in peace and civility is down to centrist capitalist influences from sensible liberals and center-right leaders, not left-wing radicals, despite the fact that many figures such as Thomas Paine or the Suffragettes were treated with less than respect by the moderates of their era, even if they didn't die violently.[11] John Gray has noted that Pinker ignores all the bad things about capitalism and associated ideas such as social Darwinism, and seeks to blame every bad thing in history on anti-Enlightenment and "irrationalist" thinking.[13]
  • Innate human qualities. One of the central themes of Pinker's thought across linguistics, sociology, and history is his belief in a common, innate, immutable human nature, that includes his "four better angels" (empathy, self-control, moral sense, and reason). However, while there is evidence that some moral sense is innate, there is also a evidence that there are limits to innate morality (with other instincts such as tribalism also innate), and moral sense at minimum requires development rather than blossoming without nurture.[37][38]
  • What is the end-point of Pinker's rationalism? Is it necessarily human-rights-based democracy, with all its flaws and conflicts, or some kind of 'rationalist' dictatorship like that of China?[13]
  • Pinker seems to take capitalism for granted, without analyzing or acknowledging the oppressive structures that enable capital in the first place, including neocolonial influences in the global south that no matter how much "progress" is made will continue to ensure an unequal relationship between colonizing powers in the global north and their colonial clientele in the global south. Pinker may be right about "commerce" encouraging dependency however, as neocolonialism has more or less made the global south reliant on the global north.[39][40] A good example of this is clothing, in Africa clothing donations from the global north have pretty much destroyed any chance of a native African textile industry from growing and prospering. Why set up a textile business when the market is being constantly inundated with free clothing?[41] Another example would be how the Global North exploits the fisheries of the Global South, often illegally. This deprives the fishermen of the Global South of their livelihoods and contributes to the migrant crisis.[42]

Association with Epstein[edit]

Epstein, Krauss and Pinker
See the main article on this topic: Jeffrey Epstein

Pinker has been criticized for his association with recently infamous pimper of children and sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, accepting transportation to TED Talks on Epstein's plane and appearing in a photograph with Epstein and Lawrence Krauss.[43][44] When Epstein was indicted for sex crimes in 2006, Pinker testified as a linguist for the defense. Pinker was asked by his friend Alan Dershowitz to opine "on the precise meaning of a federal law about using the internet to entice minors into prostitution or other illegal sex acts."[45][46]

In August 2020, Pinker's Twitter account subsequently began blocking other accounts referencing Pinker's relationship with Epstein.[47][48] At first it was thought that he was using automated scripts, but in an email response to Vice Motherboard, he stated that a colleague had notified him of his feed as being

… infested with trolls and bots posting with [Pinker] and Jeffrey Epstein, though I had no connections with him other than third parties who had invited us to some of the same events.

The colleague then, according to Pinker,

… offered to monitor my feed and implemented some simple text searches on Tweetdeck to flag those accounts, which that colleague then manually blocked. The colleague doesn’t block anyone for criticizing or disagreeing with something I’ve written.

Colin McGinn[edit]

He defended philosopher Colin McGinnWikipedia after McGinn was accused of sexual harassment by a student. After McGinn resigned his tenured position and set up a consultancy firm on "business ethics", Pinker signed on as an adviser to the firm, saying McGinn had already been punished too severely and defending his involvement, "It was basically a favour to him, a gesture of friendship with no consequences."[12][49]


Although Pinker has said "racism is not just wrong but stupid,"[50] for many years now he has been defending, praising and promoting advocates of hereditarianism such as Linda Gottfredson,[51] Emily Willoughby,[52] and Razib Khan[53] and even outright racists such as Steve Sailer[54] and Richard Hanania.[55]

Pinker has published in hereditarian Quillette,[56][57] calling it "a gust of fresh air".[58]

Pinker has attended four conferences of the International Society for Intelligence Research.[59][60][61][62]

The Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence[edit]

Pinker has promoted the Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence[63] hypothesis.[64][65] In 2018 he admitted is was "still unproven",[66] but has claimed it was "thorough and well argued"[67] and in a speech he gave entitled "Jews, Genes and Intelligence" Pinker reveals his confidence in the hypothesis, in Gregory Cochran as an authority, in the claim that race is biological, and that any disagreement with hereditarianism is the result of pure emotion and in defiance of reality:

...I asked Cochran about what the predictions are with regard to the Sephardim, and he said that it probably a similar story would apply, although not as cleanly, not with as much strength. And of course this has implications for the status of civil harmony in Israel, for example. And of course, once you open the door to any group differences being examined in terms of their possible genetic causes, you get to far more politically fraught issues, such as the source of the difference in IQ scores between African American and European American populations. And so, not surprisingly, there have also been some denunciations of the CHH study. It has been called "bad science as having no positive impact. And I called the study bullshit if I didn't feel its idea were so insulting" All of them you can find in the New York Magazine article. I think this is part of a larger repugnance among intellectuals to any genetic explanation of anything. I've written a book on on this topic, The Blank Slate, The Modern Denial of Human Nature, how the idea that any aspect of human talent or temperament has any biological basis has often been seen as politically and morally and emotionally incendiary in most of the 20th century. And in the book I tried to analyze how one can sensitively deal with discoveries of the biological basis of human personality and intelligence, including possible discoveries about the genetics of group differences. I think it's safe to say that the current approach, at least the approach in recent decades, was to deny the existence of intelligence, I mentioned The Mismeasure of Man as the foremost example; to deny the existence of genetically distinct human groups. There is a widespread myth that there is no such thing as race whatsoever, that there are, that it's purely a social construction and to call the people who don't do this Nazis. But on the other hand, there is a quotation, I don't know who's responsible for it. Reality is what refuses to go away when I stop believing in it. That in a way, it doesn't matter whether what our emotional reaction is to various findings...[68]

The science behind the hypothesis has been criticized by anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson[69] and geneticist Adam Rutherford.

There's no evidence that Pinker has ever acknowledged scientific objections, and when Bret Stephens used the "still unproven" speculation about Ashkenazi Intelligence in 2020, Pinker as well as Jonathan Haidt, Pamela Paresky and Nadine Strossen screamed "Orwellian" censorship.[70]

Steve Sailer[edit]

Pinker's connection to Sailer is of special interest. Pinker gave an interview to Sailer in 2002[71] and in 2004, Pinker included an article by Sailer, "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum", in "The Best American Science and Nature Writing".[72] In the article, Sailer contended that Iraqis were too inbred to achieve democracy. In his introduction to the book, Pinker wrote:

Many misconceptions about behavior are harmless, but in these dangerous times some could lead to catastrophe. Steve Sailer's "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" correctly predicts that it would be unwise to try to graft a political system onto a society without understanding how the psychology of kinship and ethnic identification plays out in the local environment.[73]

In an exchange of letters, Malcolm Gladwell pointed out that Pinker had used Sailer for data. Sailer, Gladwell noted, " perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people."[74] and said:

It is always a pleasure to be reviewed by someone as accomplished as Steven Pinker, even if — in his comments on “What the Dog Saw” (Nov. 15) — he is unhappy with my spelling (rightly!) and with the fact that I have not joined him on the lonely ice floe of I.Q. fundamentalism.

In his response, Pinker displayed his hereditarian sympathies by citing the Linda Gottfredson-initiated defense of The Bell Curve:

What Malcolm Gladwell calls a “lonely ice floe” is what psychologists call “the mainstream.” In a 1997 editorial in the journal Intelligence, 52 signatories wrote, “I.Q. is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes.” Similar conclusions were affirmed in a unanimous blue-ribbon report by the American Psychological Association, and in recent studies (some focusing on outliers) by Dean Simonton, David Lubinski and others.

But Mainstream Science on Intelligence has issues, per Southern Poverty Law Center:

From the publication of her letter in 1994 through the present day, Gottfredson has used the fact that it was signed by so many of her friends and colleagues as a defense of the idea that her beliefs represented, as the title of the letter suggested, a mainstream consensus. That claim is, of course, far from accurate. One hundred and thirty-one scientists were sent copies of the statement and asked to append their signatures. Of those, 31 ignored the letter, and another 48 responded with a refusal to sign. Donald T. Campbell, a prominent psychologist and philosopher who was part of the latter group, has said that of the 52 scientists who did agree to sign Gottfredson’s statement, only 10 were actual experts in the field of intelligence measurement. Not only were the majority of the 52 signatories not experts in IQ measurement, but some had no relevant qualifications at all. Garret Hardin, for example, was an ecologist and anti-immigration activist, while Vincent Sarich was an anthropologist who gained notoriety for making racist and homophobic claims in his undergraduate courses (he later admitted to The New York Times that these assertions were not based on established scientific facts). [75]

Sailer has testified to his influence over Pinker.[76][77]

Pinker's changing views[edit]

Sailer has testified to Pinker's movement from evolutionary psychology to race-oriented sociobiology. In 2002 Sailer wrote:

Reading The Blank Slate is particularly enjoyable to me because Pinker and I are so much on the same wavelength. We even have similar expansive concepts of evidence, relying not just on refereed journals but also on Tom Wolfe, Dave Barry, and the great Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.

Further, Pinker is an enthusiastic subscriber to my iSteve mailing list. And arguments that I've made over the years pop up throughout The Blank Slate.

For example, according to Pinker, his section on IQ on pp. 149-150 embellishes upon various of my articles. My VDARE series on how to help the left half of the bell curve was apparently a particularly fruitful source. Here's an excerpt from The Blank Slate with links to my supporting articles:

“I find it truly surreal to read academics denying the existence of intelligence. Academics are obsessed with intelligence. They discuss it endlessly in considering student admissions, in hiring faculty and staff, and especially in their gossip about one another. Nor can citizens or policymakers ignore the concept, regardless of their politics. People who say that IQ is meaningless will quickly invoke it when the discussion turns to executing a murderer with an IQ of 64, removing lead paint that lowers a child's IQ by five points, or the Presidential qualifications of George W. Bush.”

Several readers have complained that while The Blank Slate is excellent on sex and individual differences, it wimps out on racial differences. My response: "Thank God." Pinker is not only a major scientist, while I'm merely a journalist, but he's also much more articulate. If he had written a book about race, there would be nothing for me to say.

Further, it's important to realize how far Pinker has come over the years. He started out completely under the spell of Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, the founders of evolutionary psychology, which has succeeded on politically-correct campuses by stripping from Edward O. Wilson's discipline of sociobiology its emphasis on explaining human differences.[78]

Note: Sailer is not mentioned by name in The Blank Slate.

In the comments section of Crooked Timber in 2009, Sailer wrote:

You all want to fight 1990s intellectual battles. Pinker, however, has long been moving away from 1992-style “era of evolutionary adaptation” evolutionary psychology toward Gregory Cochran-style “continuing evolution.”[79]

Sailer took explicit credit for Pinker's changing views in 2002 on his Unz Review blog, writing: "...the evolutionary psychology party line, handed down by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, which Steven Pinker enthusiastically summed up as "differences between individuals are so boring!" (I’ve since managed to persuade Steve that differences between individuals are a tiny bit interesting.)"[80]

David Lubinski acknowledges Pinker's changing views when he interviewed Pinker for the "ISIR Distinguished Contributor Interview" at the 2017 conference of the International Society for Intelligence Research:

...How did someone with your background, someone who at one point in his career and I'm not putting him on the spot because Steven said this publicly, said early on, he found individual differences "uninteresting" how did someone at that stage of development become so interested in human psychological diversity that you developed expertise in individual differences and wrote a book like "Blank Slate"[81]


Steven Pinker The Better Angels of our Nature

Here are some of his books.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jeremy Lent (2017). The Patterning Instinct. Prometheus.  ISBN 9781633882935
  • Vyvyan Evans (2014). The Language Myth: Why Language Is Not an Instinct. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Michael Tomasello (1995). Language is Not an Instinct, review of The Language Instinct in Cognitive Development 10, pages 131-156. Elsevier. 

External links[edit]


  1. For an opposite view, see Evans' book.
  2. A short critique of The Language Instinct appears in Tomasello.
  3. Not that John Gray.


  1. Curriculum Vitae: Steven Pinker Steven Pinker (archived from July 15, 2017).
  2. See the Wikipedia article on Computational theory of mind.
  3. Atheist Alliance of America 2013 National Convention: Steven Pinker (September 04, 2013 03:51AM GMT) Richard Dawkins.
  5. How US billionaires are fuelling the hard-right cause in Britain George Monibot (December 7, 2018) The Guardian
  6. Political Correctness is Redpilling America (Jan 2, 2018) YouTube.
  7. If you ever doubted that Steven Pinker’s sympathies lie with the alt-right P. Z. Myers (January 9, 2018) Pharyngula
  8. Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A. by Jesse Singal (Jan 11, 2018) The New York Times.
  9. Steven Pinker and the New York Times are making us dumber P. Z. Myers (January 12, 2018) Pharyngula
  10. 10.0 10.1 The World's Most Annoying Man by Nathan J. Robinson (May 29, 2019) Current Affairs
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 "Steven Pinker’s Ideas About Progress Are Fatally Flawed. These Eight Graphs Show Why." by Jeremy Lent (May 17, 2018) Patterns of Meaning.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Pinker’s progress: the celebrity scientist at the centre of the culture wars by Alex Bladsel (September 28, 2021) The Guardian.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Unenlightened thinking: Steven Pinker’s embarrassing new book is a feeble sermon for rattled liberals, John Gray, New Statesman, Feb 22, 2018
  14. 14.0 14.1 Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature” Debunked by Spencer McDaniel (July 24, 2020) Tales of Time Forgotten.
  15. The Mirage of a Space Between Nature and Nurture by Evelyn Fox Keller (2010) Duke University Press. ISBN 082239281X.
  16. The unwelcome revival of ‘race science’ by Gavin Evans (Mar 2, 2018) The Guardian.
  17. Reckoning with histories of medical racism and violence in the USA by Ayah Nuriddin, Graham Mooney, Alexandre I R White (October 03, 2020) The Lancet 396(10256):949-951. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32032-8
  18. [Evolutionary Psychology: An Exchange] Stephen Jay Gould (October 9, 1997) New York Review of Books
  20. Human conditions Kenan Malik (October 19, 2002) Prospect
  21. What Comes Naturally Louis Menand (November 17, 2002) The New Yorker
  22. Darwinian Storytelling H. Allen Orr - review of The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker (February 27, 2003) New York Review of Books
  23. Philosophy-envy Richard McKay Rorty (Fall 2004) Daedalus
  24. There’s more to progress than biology Jason Walsh (January 27, 2012) Spiked
  25. Democracy, education diminish our cruelty Andrew Fiala (January 28, 2012) Andrew Fiala blog
  26. Love vs. reason, or Martin Luther King vs. Steven Pinker Andrew Sprung (January 20, 2014) XPostFactoid
  27. The PowerPoint Philosophe David A. Bell (April 2, 2018) The Nation
  28. Fatalism, Freedom, and the Fight for America’s Future David Runciman (March 16, 2018) Boston Review
  29. Tim O'Neill's Reviews > The Darker Angels of Our Nature: Refuting the Pinker Theory of History & Violence Tim O'Neill (August 11, 2022) Good Reads
  30. Prophet of the end of liberalism David Herman (April17, 2023) The Critic
  31. See the Wikipedia article on Longevity.
  32. Frequently Asked Questions about The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker,
  33. See the Wikipedia article on The Better Angels of Our Nature.
  34. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments by Max Horkheimer & Theodor W. Adorno (1947/2002) Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804736324.
  35. This fascinating academic debate has huge implications for the future of world peace by Zack Beauchamp (May 21, 2015, 12:20pm EDT) Vox.
  36. See the Wikipedia article on Historicity of the Homeric epics.
  37. Is Humanity's "Moral Sense" Inherited or Nurtured? by Darcia F. Narvaez (January 22, 2017) Psychology Today
  38. As Babies, We Knew Morality by Emily Esfahani Smith (Nov 18 2013, 11:00 AM ET) The Atlantic.
  39. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on neocolonialism
  40. An explanation of dependency theory
  41. Smilak NR, Putnam RF. A Critique of Colonialism and Modern Aid in Africa: What Would Skinner Say? Behav. Soc. Iss. 2022;31(1):252–71. doi: 10.1007/s42822-022-00093-3. Epub 2022 May 4. PMCID: PMC9067341. [1]
  43. Pinker, Epstein, Soldier, Spy by Colleen Flaherty (July 17, 2019) Inside Higher Ed.
  44. Lawrence Krauss, Steven Pinker and Jeffrey Epstein have an odd relationship that provides insight into the relationship between the institutions of science, the movement of capital, the profit motive and science funding. Long thread incoming. by Nathan Oseroff-Spicer (07:56 - 10. Apr. 2019) Twitter (archived from July 9, 2019).
  45. Jeffrey Epstein's First Criminal Case Was Helped By A Famous Harvard Language Expert by Peter Aldhous (July 12, 2019, at 7:41 p.m. ET) Buzzfeed News.
  46. How a Famous Harvard Professor Became a Target Over His Tweets: The outcry over free speech and race takes aim at Steven Pinker, the best-selling author and well-known scholar. by Michael Powell (July 15, 2020) The New York Times.
  47. Harvard’s Steven Pinker is apparently blocking people who mention his connection to Epstein by Eilish O'Sullivan (August 27, 2020) Daily Dot.
  48. Free Speech Crusader Steven Pinker Blocking Anyone Mentioning His Epstein Ties by Edward Ongweso Jr (August 28, 2020, 11:24am) Vice.
  49. A Star Philosopher Falls, and a Debate Over Sexism Is Set Off by Jennifer Schuessler (August 2, 2013) New York Times.
  74. "
  80. the Human Biodiversity Reading Club: I Thought I... Steve Sailer (April 1, 2002) iSteve - Unz Review