Steven Pinker Quotations

-Art works because it appeals to certain faculties of the mind. Music depends on details of the auditory system, painting and sculpture on the visual system. Poetry and literature depend on language.

-As many political writers have pointed out, commitment to political equality is not an empirical claim that people are clones.

-But a conception of human nature, and its connections to other fields such as politics and the arts, have been there from time immemorial.

-But in most cases even the possibility that the correlations reflect shared genes is taboo.

-But the newest research is showing that many properties of the brain are genetically organized, and don’t depend on information coming in from the senses.

-By exploring the political and moral colorings of discoveries about what makes us tick, we can have a more honest science and a less fearful intellectual milieu.

-Evolutionary psychology is one of four sciences that are bringing human nature back into the picture.

-Evolutionary psychology is taking that mindset and applying it to more emotionally charged aspects of behavior, such as sexuality, violence, beauty, and family feelings.

-I don’t consider myself to be that radical a thinker.

-I think this confusion leads intellectuals and artists themselves to believe that the elite arts and humanities are a kind of higher, exalted form of human endeavor.

-It’s also a recognition that however much people might vary, they have certain things in common by virtue of their common human nature.

-Many artists and scholars have pointed out that ultimately art depends on human nature.

-Most intellectuals today have a phobia of any explanation of the mind that invokes genetics.

-My opinions about human nature are shared by many psychologists, linguists, and biologists, not to mention philosophers and scholars going back centuries.

-One of them is a simple logical point that no matter how important learning and culture and socialization are, they don’t happen by magic.

-Parents provide their children with genes as well as an environment, so the fact that talkative parents have kids with good language skills could simply mean that and that the same genes that make parents talkative make children articulate.

-People today sometimes get uncomfortable with empirical claims that seem to clash with their political assumptions, often because they haven’t given much thought to the connections.

-Personality and socialization aren’t the same thing.

-Political equality consists of recognizing, as the Constitution says, that people have certain inalienable rights, namely life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Recognizing those rights is not the same thing as believing that people are indistinguishable in every respect.

-So no, it’s not all in the genes, but what isn’t in the genes isn’t in the family environment either. It can’t be explained in terms of the overall personalities or the child-rearing practices of parents.

-The connections I draw between human nature and political systems in my new book, for example, were prefigured in the debates during the Enlightenment and during the framing of the American Constitution.

-The great appeal of the doctrine that the mind is a blank slate is the simple mathematical fact that zero equals zero.

-There has to be innate circuitry that does the learning, that creates the culture, that acquires the culture, and that responds to socialization.

-Why are empirical questions about how the mind works so weighted down with political and moral and emotional baggage?

-Why do people believe that there are dangerous implications of the idea that the mind is a product of the brain, that the brain is organized in part by the genome, and that the genome was shaped by natural selection?
Steven Pinker