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Morning fun: More science we don’t need

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Psychologist Steven Pinker’s 1994 book The Language Instinct discussed all aspects of language in a unified, Darwinian framework, and in his next book, How The Mind Works he did the same for the rest of the mind, explaining “what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and ponder the mysteries of life”.

So he doesn’t have a Nobel, why exactly?

Actually, having covered this beat for over a decade, I can answer this question: Because in the new world of science in decline, he doesn’t really need to have done anything like what is claimed, only to come up with the right verbiage, in front of a bunch of people who count.

In the conversation below, Pinker begins by stating his belief that “science can inform all aspects of life, particularly psychology, my own favorite science. Psychology looks in one direction to biology, to neuroscience, to genetics, to evolution. And it looks in another direction to the rest of intellectual and cultural life—because what are the arts but products of the human mind which resonate with our aesthetic and emotional faculties? What are social issues but ways in which humans try to coordinate their behavior and come to working arrangements that benefit everyone? There’s no aspect of life that cannot be illuminated by a better understanding of the mind from scientific psychology. And for me the most recent example is the process of writing itself.”…

The current pretense is that “science” can teach people to write better.

The literary scholars Mark Turner and Francis-Noël Thomas have identified the stance that our best essayists and writers implicitly adopt, and that is a combination of vision and conversation. When you write you should pretend that you, the writer, see something in the world that’s interesting, that you are directing the attention of your reader to that thing in the world, and that you are doing so by means of conversation.

Rubbish. As a writing teacher of some years of experience, I would say that we can’t “teach” people to be good writers, for the same reasons as we can’t “teach” good character. We can be guardian angels and discourage harmful habits, of course, but the actual sources of good writing are not illuminated by the sorts of fatuous claims made by Darwinians. You can’t write what you can’t live.

Anyway, Pinker’s name rang a bell, and guess what, a trip through the files showed he’s the “Scientism rules! guy.” Files, surprise us again.

Good writing comes from practice and from reading what other writers have published. If I wanted to read a book on becoming a writer, I'd pick up On Writing by Stephen King. I'm not a fan of his novels, but he is a great storyteller. Barb

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