Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Adam Gopnik and Steven Pinker Debate Darwin

Cool conversation, although these guys have more in common than they have in differences. It would be cool to see someone like Huston Smith or Roger Walsh or Allan Combs have a conversation with either of these guys, although I find Pinker more entertaining, even when I disagree with him (which is often).

Adam Gopnik, author of Angels & Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life and Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate and many other works, discuss a fundamental question: How far can Darwin take us as a guide to why we are the way we are?

Both outspoken appreciators of Darwin, Adam Gopnik and Steven Pinker will compare their visions -- perhaps complementary, perhaps contrasting -- of what Darwin's legacy is on the two hundredth anniversary of his birth.


Adam Gopnik has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1986. His work for that publication has earned him both the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting as well as three National Magazine Awards for Essay and Criticism. In 1995, The New Yorker dispatched Gopnik to Paris to write the Paris Journals, in which he described daily life in that city, drawing revelations from everyday observations.

A beloved collection of essays called Paris to the Moon grew from his time there, recounting his family's life in the City of Light. With help from his young son Luke, Gopnik wrote the children's novel The King in the Window, a magical adventure of a young American boy living in Paris.

In his essay collections and New Yorker pieces, Gopnik's topics are imaginative and wide-ranging, from the state of New York department stores ("like luxury lines becalmed in a lagoon") to science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick ("the doomed genius who supplies a style of horrors and frissons") to busyness ("our art form, our civic ritual").

His most recent book, Through the Children's Gate, chronicles his family's relocation to New York. Gopnik also wrote and presented the BBC's "Lighting Up New York," a cultural journey through the recent history of New York.

Steven Pinker is a prominent Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist and popular science writer known for his wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.

Pinker is also a Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. Among his many books are How the Mind Works, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, and The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, Revised and Updated.

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