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Steve Pinker – actually – thinks that most people believe evolutionary psychology but don’t see it as a force for good

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And the New York Times science writer offers no curiosity.

In “Human Nature’s Pathologist” (New York Times, November 28, 2011), Carl Zimmer lavishes praise on Steven P:inker and evolutionary psychology: Dr. Pinker set out to synthesize all these patterns and find an explanation for them. And in the process, he wanted to rebut stereotypes of evolutionary psychology.

“There’s a common criticism of evolutionary psychology that it’s fatalistic and it dooms us to eternal strife,” he said. “Why even try to work toward peace if we’re just bloody killer apes and violence is in our genes?”

Nonsense. The common stereotype of evolutionary psychology is that it promotes rubbish like the Big Bazooms theory of human evolution or the “apes throwing poop” theory of human cognitive development. And guess what, it does. And many similar claims.

All of which are about as well sourced as Steven Pinker’s claim that the world is becoming a less violent place – even some of the usual sycophants have had a hard time with that one, in the wake of the twentieth century. But Carl Zimmer doesn’t bat an eye.

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I get the distinct impression that you haven't actually read Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" despite the frequent exhortations on this blog not to review a book you haven't read. Have you? If not, I'll tell you what. Christmas is coming. I will buy you a copy of the book, either hard back or e-reader format, as a gift if you promise to read it. I guarantee you that you will find it informative and good reading. And you'll also find that Pinker is talking about a reduction in violence that started thousands of years ago and which continues to this day. The Twentieth Century is only a tiny portion of the book. (And the second half of the Twentieth Century was the most peaceful period in human history.) Just email me an address (P.O. Box is fine) or e-reader instructions. The blog has my email address. dmullenix
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