Steven Pinker Quotes

Steven Pinker Quotes

A...reason we are so-so scientists is that our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.

Plato said that we are trapped inside a cave and know the world only through the shadows it casts on the wall. The skull is our cave, and mental representations are the shadows.

We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one.

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]

the mind is a neural computer

It Begins with skepticism. The history of human folly, and our own susceptibility to illusions and fallacies, tell us that men and women are fallible.

The doctrine of a soul that outlives the body is anything but righteous, because it necessarily devalues the lives we live on this earth.

Computation has finally demystified mentalistic terms. Beliefs are inscriptions in memory, desires are goal inscriptions, thinking is computation, perceptions are inscriptions triggered by sensors, trying is executing operations triggered by a goal.

The foundation of individual rights is the assumption that people have wants and needs and are authorities on what those wants and needs are. If people's stated desires were just some kind of erasable inscription or reprogrammable brainwashing, any atrocity could be justified.

Institutionalized torture in Christendom was not just an unthinking habit; it had a moral rationale. If you really believe that failing to accept Jesus as one's savior is a ticket to fiery damnation, then torturing a person until he acknowledges this truth is doing him the biggest favor of his life: better a few hours now than an eternity later.

Sex and excretion are reminders that anyone's claim to round-the-clock dignity is tenuous. The so-called rational animal has a desperate drive to pair up and moan and writhe.

As technology accumulates and people in more parts of the planet become interdependent, the hatred between them tends to decrease, for the simple reason that you can't kill someone and trade with him too.

The supposedly immaterial soul, we now know, can be bisected with a knife, altered by chemicals, started or stopped by electricity, and extinguished by a sharp blow or by insufficient oxygen.

Behavioral science is not for sissies.

Equality is not the empirical claim that all groups of humans are interchangeable; it is the moral principle that individuals should not be judged or constrained by the average properties of their group.

The mind is not designed to grasp the laws of probability, even though the laws rule the universe.

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