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Steve Pinker

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The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature At this website Steven Pinker has uploaded a PDF, Response to the Book Review Symposium: Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature. You can find what he’s responding to in a journal with the title Sociology, which should update your probabilities if you are of a certain orientation. The response is basically “positivism porn,” so you won’t read it to be wowed by novel insights. Rather, it’s a nice “pwn” you can consume for the vicarious joy. And, on a purely sociological level it does illustrate the chasm between what passes for scholarship in some fields with the sort of endeavor that someone like Pinker is attempting.

It highlights the fact that we’re seeing an “epistemic closure” problem on some of the intellectual cultural Left. That is, if you don’t engage with a specific set of thinkers and accept particular priors, you aren’t really worth taking seriously. Of course the inverse is true for someone like me. You’re going to lose me at “critical race theory.” I just happen to think that my views match more closely the shape of reality, and it just so happens that our civilization is necessarily built upon the assumptions of a naive positivism which has great instrumental utility.

Yet I have to admit that I suspect many of our enemies in the “Post Modern” camp probably don’t deeply believe in their own presuppositions. It’s more a signalling game which yields personal gains and public acclaim. Genuine solipsism is a dead end, and subjectivism is almost always used selectively to skewer positions and views one holds in contempt, rather than eating away at one’s own dearly held beliefs. This is, by the way, in contrast to the long term arc of science, which has tended to often eviscerate the propositions which practitioners of science hold to be true and beautiful.

• Category: History, Science • Tags: Steve Pinker 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"