New Steven Pinker interview

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Check out this new interview with Steven Pinker. It ostensibly focuses on his new book, The Stuff of Thought, though it covers a lot of ground. My own feeling is that the interviewer should have let the focus be more on Pinker than his own pet theories, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there.



  1. Pinker was, as always, interesting, though I have always had some reservations about some of his stuff. The interviewer, on the other hand, was irritatingly pretentious. Never use half a dozen words when one can stuff in a couple of dozen!

  2. ;-)

  3. I agree with RBH about the self-important interviewer. Any single one of Pinker’s ideas were worth exploring for the entire interview, but the interviewer kept jumping to evidence of his own brilliance. I stopped reading when he sacrificed the plumber. 
    I’d have liked to find out where this weenie would have drawn the line between lives more and less important than the Shakespeare material. It seems obvious he himself would qualify as a keeper, but I suspect lots of non-humans would also rank well above the plumber.

  4. dennet agrees – its amazing that the interviewer choose to publish it, the q/a text ratio is just absurd

  5. the dennet interview was hilarious! (well, i didn’t read it, but yeah, lots fewer nuggets of data than the pinker interview)

  6. How does an interviewer like that land such great interviewees?

  7. Wow, no way I’m wading through all that. It’s as long as the book. Plus Pinker usually writes lots of popular newspaper articles when his books come out. 
    Someone should make those interviews into books on tape, and hire Harry Shearer to do his self-absorbed DJ / fast-talking reporter voice from The Simpsons.  
    “Hello folks, this is KBBL, I’m Dan Schneider and I’ll be interviewing Dan Dennett for the next in my personal line of interviews from my collection that I’ve entitled — Dan Schneider Presents: Dan Schneider Interviews the subject of a Dan Schneider interview…”

  8. ha, scoll right to the end. interview entropy at work, all tends toward disintegration! 
    Answers to five godzilla questions 
    -I have nothing to say about this. 
    - I have no idea 
    - I don?t find such typologies persuasive. 
    - I guess I just don?t know enough about Genghis Khan to judge 
    - What you say is music to my ears.  

  9. Schneider himself seems to be somewhat self-deceptive on writing. Here he is on style ( a statement in a meandering “question” that lasts, as usual, a paragraph. ) 
    “… nor do I focus solely on the ideas. If the actual craft of wordplay is bad, who cares if the idea is good? … “ 
    I agreed and ended reading the interview right there. i am sure the questions were “good” though the style appalling, but I couldn’t really tell, what with my eyes watering.  
    I may gain the confidence someday to go back and read the answers, guessing the questions as I go. Or not.

  10. If I may, the amount of talmudic scholarship in my genes, and thus the neuroprocessing ability to deal with this level of vocal fractalization just isn’t there. My pattern recognition cuts in to tell me that after peeling all the layers out, there may be very little to naught left at its core. 
    If I may (as well), this makes some of Razib’s more linguistically dense posts appear positively sparse in comparison.  

  11. I may gain the confidence someday to go back and read the answers, guessing the questions as I go. 
    After reading parts of two ‘questions,’ that worked for me.

  12. I’m with neandertal. (We may in fact even be close enough to share the same socks…) 
    Somewhere around the beginning of April, I propose that GNXP challenge Mr. Schneider to the infamous, often challenged, yet widely read, and occasionally villified — although admittedly not by people who exibit the rationality lauded on this site (and who, in fact, on occasion, often arrive with an agenda wrapped in the very language that would appear, prima facie, to place equal value on rigidly upholding accepted (academically) scientific methodology in their statements while at their core (if, indeed, one can actually identify a so-called “core,” as such, being quite the opposite) — to a series of ten questions
    (Sincere? Intelligent? Perhaps not…)

  13. I have just the interviewer: Brian Lamb. Smart, concise, pointed.

  14. I thought he’s younger.

  15. Seriously, how does Pinker have time to answer all these idiotic questions? He must be way busier than I am, but I can’t get through half of this. If somebody wants to strip out just Pinker’s answers I’d read those though).

  16. I agree – fatuous and prolix interviewer. I gave up reading after he blathered on about how awful The Bell Curve was (“a racial screed”; racial = its about race; screed = “you can’t write a book about that – it’s not allowed”). Pinker ignored the remark.

  17. What are people complaining about? Just read SP’s answers and ignore the questions–only takes 20 minutes. Pinker is always interesting. You can easily extrapolate any questions that may have occurred in the interviewer’s part of the dialog. I did go back and check some of the questions and I did bond with DS over his grief for his dead cat, though I’m still wondering how that came up in this context. 
    Otherwise, for somebody who talked so much about thinking and analyzing, DS’s opinions about Some Very Important works, were very generic pc screed.

  18. oh–and by the way, the plumber would rank above DS in my little black book.

  19. For some reason it is claiming I am duplicating a post that doesn’t appear. This is a test.

  20. I was in a discussion with a somewhat similar person who went off the rails on the Bell Curve when I hadn’t even mentioned it, but only the discussion between Murray and Flynn at AEI. His view of mainstream science today is that it lionizes Gould and considers E. O. Wilson’s sociobiology to be rubbish. It was kind of an odd experience to attempt a rational discussion there and not wave any red flags in his vicinity.

  21. But on the plus side, he did provide the opportunity for you to make some really good posts that enable me to fill in some of the yawning gaps in my education. Thanks for the link. 
    I’m still laughing about how Pinker took the piss out of that guy.