Truth in the BalanceRead the Full Interview: Here
An Interview with Psychologist Steven Pinker
By Jeremy Adam Smith
Americans' trust in the media, their government, and each other has declined over the past four decades. And yet, according to many national surveys, trust in science and scientists remains high. In a 2006 Harris poll, for example, 77 percent of respondents said they trust scientists to tell the truth–roughly 60 percent more than the number who trusted the president.
In recent years, however, several areas of scientific research—from global warming to stem cell research to evolution—have become highly politicized, in ways that threaten the credibility of prominent scientists and their findings.
Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker is no stranger to these debates. In a recent essay for The New Republic, for example, Pinker argues that the work of the President's Council on Bioethics "springs from a movement to impose a radical political agenda, fed by fervent religious impulses, onto American biomedicine."
Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in Harvard University's psychology department. He is famed for his research on language acquisition, and has published extensively on the idea that both language and moral intuitions are biological adaptations that arose from a process of natural selection.
In addition to being a working scientist, Pinker is a leading public intellectual, consistently offering an informed perspective on scientific debates. As one of America's most popular science writers, Pinker was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and one of Foreign Policy's 100 top public intellectuals in 2005. His recent book The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, is a New York Times bestseller.
While on a 10-city tour to support the paperback release of The Stuff of Thought, Pinker talked with Greater Good about science, politics, and trust.
March 18, 2009
An Interview with Steven Pinker
From Greater Good Magazine: