Dr. Steven Pinker presents Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

The University of Lethbridge is pleased to welcome Dr. Steven Pinker to our campus on September 22, 2022, when he will deliver the Priestley Lecture on Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters.

Pinker is an experimental cognitive psychologist and a widely-read writer on language, mind, and human nature.  A native of Montreal, he earned his bachelor’s degree at McGill University, his PhD from Harvard in 1979, and currently teaches at Harvard University, where he is the Johnstone Professor of Psychology. 

Date: Thursday, September 22, 2022.   

Time: 7:00 pm 

Location: Science Commons building, Atrium

Free. Everyone welcome. Seating is limited.

Today, humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding—and at the same time appears to be losing its mind. Why do we find ourselves flooded with fake news, medical quackery, conspiracy theorizing, and “post-truth” rhetoric? It can’t be that humans are just an irrational species — cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives, and discovered the benchmarks for rationality itself. Instead, we think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning our best thinkers have discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others. Also, the rational pursuit of self-interest, sectarian solidarity, and uplifting mythology by individuals can add up to crippling irrationality in a society. Collective rationality depends on norms that are designed to promote objectivity and truth. Rationality matters. It leads to better choices in our lives and in the public sphere, and is the ultimate driver of social justice and moral progress.

Steven Pinker Bio

Steven Pinker is an experimental cognitive psychologist and a popular writer on language, mind, and human nature. A native of Montreal, he earned his bachelor’s degree at McGill University in 1976, his PhD from Harvard in 1979, and taught at Harvard, Stanford, and MIT before returning to Harvard in 2003. Pinker’s research on vision, language, and social relations has won prizes from the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science. He has also received eight honorary doctorates, several teaching awards at MIT and Harvard, and numerous prizes for his books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and The Sense of Style. He is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and often writes for The New York Times, Time, and other publications. He has been named Humanist of the Year, Foreign Policy’s “100 Global Thinkers,” and Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”

Prof. Pinker is currently doing research on a diverse array of topics in psychology, including the role of common knowledge (where two or more people know that the others know what they know) in language and other social phenomena; historical and recent trends in violence and their explanation; the psycho-linguistics of good writing; the nature of the critical period for acquiring language; the neurobiology and genetics of language; and the nature of regular and irregular phenomena in grammar.

Research Interests: Language; communication and common knowledge; history and psychology of violence.

From https://psychology.fas.harvard.edu/people/steven-pinker

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