Steven Pinker

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in Montreal, Canada
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Noam Chomsky, Peter Singer, George Miller, Roger Brown, Herbert Simon, Thomas Sowell, ...more

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April 2016


Steven Arthur Pinker is a prominent Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author of popular science. Pinker is known for his wide-ranging explorations of human nature and its relevance to language, history, morality, politics, and everyday life. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of numerous books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, The Stuff of Thought, The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Sense of Style, and most recently, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

He was born in Canada and graduated from Montreal's Dawson College in 1973. He received a bachelor's degree
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•Michel, J.-B., Shen, Y. K., Aiden, A. P., Veres, A., Gray, M. K., The_Google_Books

•Michel, J.-B., Shen, Y. K., Aiden, A. P., Veres, A., Gray, M. K., The_Google_Books_Team, Pickett, J. P., Hoiberg, D., Clancy, D. ,Norvig, P., Orwant, J., Pinker, S.,  Nowak, M., & Lieberman-Aiden, E.  (2011). Quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books.  , 331, 176-182. Science




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Published on January 14, 2011 08:47
Average rating: 4.04 · 129,154 ratings · 9,647 reviews · 43 distinct worksSimilar authors
The Blank Slate: The Modern...

4.08 avg rating — 19,600 ratings — published 2002 — 54 editions
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How the Mind Works

3.98 avg rating — 17,468 ratings — published 1997 — 55 editions
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The Language Instinct: How ...

4.04 avg rating — 16,784 ratings — published 1994 — 51 editions
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The Better Angels of Our Na...

4.18 avg rating — 20,400 ratings — published 2010 — 62 editions
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Enlightenment Now: The Case...

4.23 avg rating — 13,700 ratings — published 2018 — 48 editions
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The Stuff of Thought: Langu...

3.91 avg rating — 9,288 ratings — published 2007 — 37 editions
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The Sense of Style: The Thi...

4.06 avg rating — 5,877 ratings — published 2014 — 25 editions
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Words and Rules: The Ingred...

3.91 avg rating — 1,610 ratings — published 1999 — 17 editions
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Do Humankind’s Best Days Li...

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3.41 avg rating — 666 ratings — published 2016 — 9 editions
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The Best American Science a...

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3.90 avg rating — 222 ratings — published 2004 — 3 editions
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More books by Steven Pinker…
(3 books)
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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 6 ratings

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Steven’s Recent Updates

“It's natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth. Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity's highest callings.

[Can You Believe in God and Evolution? Time Magazine, August 7, 2005]”
Steven Pinker

“Challenge a person's beliefs, and you challenge his dignity, standing, and power. And when those beliefs are based on nothing but faith, they are chronically fragile. No one gets upset about the belief that rocks fall down as opposed to up, because all sane people can see it with their own eyes. Not so for the belief that babies are born with original sin or that God exists in three persons or that Ali is the second-most divinely inspired man after Muhammad. When people organize their lives around these beliefs, and then learn of other people who seem to be doing just fine without them--or worse, who credibly rebut them--they are in danger of looking like fools. Since one cannot defend a belief based on faith by persuading skeptics it is true, the faithful are apt to react to unbelief with rage, and may try to eliminate that affront to everything that makes their lives meaningful.”
Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

“Just as blueprints don't necessarily specify blue buildings, selfish genes don't necessarily specify selfish organisms. As we shall see, sometimes the most selfish thing a gene can do is build a selfless brain. Genes are a play within a play, not the interior monologue of the players.”
Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works

Polls

What books should we read for our Books of the Month?

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government's new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a powerful message about how the written word affects people--a story of hope and heartbreak, raw courage and strength splintered with poverty and oppression, and one woman's chances beyond the darkly hollows. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Pack horse Librarians in literary novels — a story of fierce strength and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.
 
  14 votes, 25.9%

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?

Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin's engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).
 
  10 votes, 18.5%

The Plantagenet Prelude (Plantagenet Saga, #1) by Jean Plaidy
The Plantagenet Prelude by Jean Plaidy
When William X dies, the duchy of Aquitaine is left to his fifteen year-old daughter, Eleanor. But such a position for an unmarried woman puts the whole kingdom at risk. So on his deathbed William made a will that would ensure his daughter's protection: he promised her hand in marriage to the future King of France.

Eleanor grows into a romantic and beautiful queen, but she has inherited the will of a king, determined to rule Aquitaine using her husband's power as King of France. Her resolve knows no limit and, in the years to follow, she is to become one of history's most scandalous queens.
 
  6 votes, 11.1%

One Thousand White Women The Journals of May Dodd (One Thousand White Women, #1) by Jim Fergus
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.
 
  6 votes, 11.1%

Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati
Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati
Obstetrician Dr Sophie Savard returns home to the achingly familiar rhythms of Manhattan in the early spring of 1884 to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. With the help of Dr Anna Savard, her dearest friend, cousin, and fellow physician, she plans to continue her work aiding the disadvantaged women society would rather forget.

As Sophie sets out to construct a new life for herself, Anna's husband, Detective Sergeant Jack Mezzanotte calls on them both to consult on two new cases: the wife of a prominent banker has disappeared into thin air, and the corpse of a young woman is found with baffling wounds that suggest a killer is on the loose.

In New York it seems that the advancement of women has brought out the worst in some men. And soon Sophie and Anna are drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse . . .

From the international bestselling author of The Gilded Hour comes Sara Donati's enthralling epic about two trailblazing female doctors in nineteenth-century New York.
 
  6 votes, 11.1%

King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild
King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild
In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold's Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo--too long forgotten--onto the conscience of the West
 
  6 votes, 11.1%

Take Your Life Back How to Stop Letting the Past and Other People Control You by Stephen Arterburn
Take Your Life Back: How to Stop Letting the Past and Other People Control You by Stephen Arterburn
"I want to have better relationships . . . but is it all on me to fix things?"
"This person's approval means everything to me. It's like it controls me."
"Why can't I get free from this cycle?"

If you find yourself having these feelings, it's time to take your life back. Through personal examples, clinical insights, and spiritual truth, Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop will show you how to
overcome the habits and history that are keeping you down--and take new, positive steps toward change;
heal from the hurts, setbacks, and broken relationships that affect you every day;
develop better boundaries with others in your life;
stop overreacting and start responding appropriately to any situation or circumstance;
break the cycle of behavior that harms you and your relationships;
find the freedom you have longed for.
Your past and current circumstances don't have to define you, and they don't have to determine the direction of your life. Take Your Life Back is the key to moving from reactive attitudes and behaviors to healthy, God-honoring responses that will help you live the life you were meant to live.
 
  3 votes, 5.6%

Enlightenment Now The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature–tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking–which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.
 
  3 votes, 5.6%

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