"Not since Saturday Night Live’s Emily Litella thundered against conserving natural racehorses and protecting endangered feces has a polemicist been so incensed by her own misunderstandings." - Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker responds to Joan Acocella's New Yorker piece, The English Wars [more inside]
The Better Angels of our Nature is a new book from Steven Pinker. While much is made of the violence of the 20th century, how does it stack up historically? According to Pinker, among others, actually the days we live in are a lot less violent than those in the past. [more inside]
"You want how to make a million in the studio business? Start with two million." Abbey Road is safe, but with Olympic, Townhouse, The Hit Factory and Eden all overtaken in recent years by the developments in digital recording, what's to be done with all that history?"A museum? A doctor's surgery? A Wedding venue? Flats? Or chop them into little pieces and sell them to your fans? (video in Spanish, scroll down for English text)
The Royal Society has a great video that animates one of Steven Pinker’s lectures on ‘Language as a Window into Human Nature’. View the full lecture at the RSA. (via Mindhacks)
Behind the growing Steven Pinker vs. Malcolm Gladwell feud (Pinker criticizes Gladwell, Gladwell snarkily replies) is a debate over the value of IQ, specifically, and intelligence, broadly, in success. Recent research has generally shown little link between intelligence and success within fields, and that there are multiple kinds of intelligences that drive achievement. On the other hand, scholars of psychometrics claim the opposite, showing that IQ at an early age can predict achievement, and no amount of study will help. Maybe everyone is right, with enough caveats.
Volunteers from the general public working together with researchers to advance personal genomics. 10 volunteers, among them noted author and cognitive psychologist Stephen Pinker, have open sourced (so to speak) their genetic information. [more inside]
Why We Curse. An article by Steven Pinker, exploring the roots of modern "dirty words" and the psychohistory of how and why we use the expletives we use. [more inside]
In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, "[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized." Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world. This change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most underappreciated trend in the human saga: Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth. [pdf] via NPR
George Lakoff responds to Steven Pinker’s review of Whose Freedom?. Highlights include charges of deception and incompetence on both sides.
Forbes special report on communication. A truckload of excellent articles and interview excerpts! Noam Chomsky on the spontaneous invention of language. Carl Zimmer on talking chimps. Jane Goodall on why words hurt. Arthur C. Clarke on the planetary conversation. Kurt Vonnegut on telling a story. Desmond Morris on symbolic gestures. Sid Meier on communicating with video games. David Copperfield on keeping secrets. Stan Lee on the superpower of comics. Steven Pinker on why we have language. Walter Cronkite on the language of news. Daniel Libeskind on the language of design. And much more!
The psychology of taboo. Commenting on the Harvard hullabaloo that took place a few weeks ago, linguist/cognitive scientist Steven Pinker offers his opinion, using ideas he previously presented in The Blank Slate (via AL Daily)