Online reading group and book discussion forum
  HOME FORUMS BOOKS LINKS DONATE ADVERTISE CONTACT  
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Fri Sep 19, 2014 8:49 am




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 
Darwin of the Mind - JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH 
Author Message
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

BookTalk.org Owner
Diamond Contributor 3

Joined: May 2002
Posts: 13944
Location: Florida
Thanks: 1922
Thanked: 731 times in 581 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)
Highscores: 10

Post Darwin of the Mind - JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
May. 22, 2003
Darwin of the mind
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH


Quote:
Eminent psychologist Steven Pinkers has raised eyebrows - and some ire - with his claim that human intelligence evolves and is entirely mechanical.
How do you define a brilliant mind? It could be described as one that sifts through data and manages to use the facts in unconventional ways to create new connections, thoughts and concepts. By any measure, Prof. Steven Pinker's mind is brilliant; he is a unifier who ties a lot of big ideas together. Few of his colleagues would be surprised if a Nobel Prize is in his future.


This 49-year-old evolutionary psychologist in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - who will soon move to Harvard - has been called many things. He was described as "science's agent provocateur" by The Guardian, an "evolutionary pop star" by Time magazine, a wunderkind by The Washington Post and by The Times of London as a "world-class cognitive psychologist." In 1995, Newsweek put him on its list of One Hundred Americans for the Next Century. But the praise seems not to affect him, like water off a duck's back. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post earlier this week during his first visit to Israel in three decades, the illustrious scientist and thinker seems very modest indeed.


Since Pinker argues in many of his six major published works that the human mind - like the human body - has been designed by natural selection through the process of biological evolution, perhaps he can't really take much credit for his brilliant mind; maybe it's just his Jewish genes or its derivation is long before the first Jew appeared?


A striking looking man with grey-blue eyes and chin-length curly salt-and-pepper hair, he received his BA from McGill University in 1976 and his doctorate in psychology from Harvard in 1979. After serving on the faculties of Harvard and Stanford, he moved to MIT in the early 1980s, where he wrote his major and mostly bestselling books, including How the Mind Works , The Language Instinct and Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. He has been asked to edit the prestigious Best Science and Nature Writing 2004, and plans to complete a book on language and thought in 2006.


Two of Pinker's books were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize (the most recent, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, was near the top of the list for 2003), and he has received many honors. The latest, for which he came to an Israel that looks and feels very different from the one he last witnessed in pre-Yom Kippur War 1973, is an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University. He also came to attend the opening on the TAU campus of the Lieselotte Adler Lab for Research in Child Development, headed by Prof. Sidney Strauss, who took Pinker and his Singaporean-born wife Ilavenil on a tour of Jerusalem.


Pinker, a native of Montreal who grew up in a warm Jewish home, said he had wanted to see Israel more recently, but the last time his trip was cancelled due to the Gulf War at the end of 1990. Although some colleagues were surprised that he was coming now - seven Jerusalemites were murdered at the French Hill intersection a few hours before our interview - he was not deterred.


Having long studied the human mind, he still can't really explain in evolutionary terms how over 100 young Palestinians in the past 31 months have buckled explosives to their bodies and gone out to murder people they don't even know.


"They have an ideology and religious belief that they will be reincarnated and be rewarded for such a deed. As a result, you lose deterrent. There is no ordinary way to deter such horrible acts. They don't care if they lose their life," Pinker noted. "They believe the soul is separate from the body. In Judaism, the observant also believe in the soul being separate from the body, and in an afterlife, but not one that can be reached as a kamikaze by committing violence against another."


Pinker attended Hebrew school and Sunday school in Montreal, and even taught at a school in a synagogue, but doesn't remember more than a few words of Hebrew. Nevertheless, he found Hebrew to be a source of inspiration for his scientific studies of language, the use of regular and irregular verbs, and the rules of grammar. Working with Prof. Joseph Shimron of the University of Haifa's School of Education and Israeli-born Iris Berent of the psychology department of Florida Atlantic University, he wrote an 80-page article on "Default Nominal Inflection in Hebrew: Evidence for Mental Variables." In his "inflectional morphology" research on regular (such as walk-walked) and irregular verbs (come-came) to understand language in general, he states that irregular verbs are idiosyncratic and have to be memorized because they are not decided by rules. Regular verbs, he says, can be freely generated even by children, and new words can be created by following these rules, such as "faxed," "spammed" or "googled."
He has examined the ability to derive the regular "walked" from "walk" or the irregular "mice" from "mouse" as a case study of the interaction between memory and rule-processing in language. A key idea, he said, is that "regular forms like 'walked' may be generated by a mental rule, whereas irregular forms like 'mice' must be retrieved from memory. In the past the lab has studied how the system works computationally, how it is learned, how it varies across languages, how it is used in language production and comprehension, and how it is represented in the brain."
He is currently comparing identical and non-identical twins' use of incorrect irregular verbs and corresponding nouns to see whether there is a genetic influence.


His paper on Hebrew shows that Israelis use the regular masculine inflection automatically as a default despite the overlaps in the distribution of regular and (the few) irregular Hebrew masculine nouns. He and his colleague proved that "regular inflection is productively applied to novel nouns regardless of their similarity to existing regular nouns. In contrast, the inflection of irregular-sounding nouns is strongly sensitive to their similarity to stored irregular tokens... Hebrew speakers assign the default regular inflection to borrowings and names that are identical to existing irregular nouns. The convergence of the circumstances triggering default inflection in [Semitic] Hebrew and [Indo-European] German and English suggests that the capacity for default inflection may be general."
Got that straight now?


Although this psycholinguistic subject is certainly esoteric and elusive to the layman, others investigated by Pinker have raised blood pressures around the world. His notions about the biological basis of human nature, while highly praised by many, have aroused much opposition and even savage attacks by both the Left and the Right. Extreme left-wingers have claimed that evolutionary psychology is baseless speculation, while right-wing writers in the US and Europe claim Pinker wants to undermine the religious basis of morality, and oppose his support for evolution.
"Some of the issues I explore are concerns of the Left, which sees evolutionary and genetic approaches to the mind as reactionary. Others annoy the Right, which thinks that a materialist view of the mind that incorporates computation, neuroscience, evolution, and genetics undermines the basis of morality and leaves us with only a dangerous amoralism," Pinker said in a previous interview.


He has his own arguments with the man whom he calls the world's "most famous and active linguistic scientist," his MIT colleague Prof. Noam Chomsky. It was the very left-wing Chomsky - a Jew who is highly critical of Israel - who gave MIT such an illustrious reputation in linguistics.
"He is 74 and very active. He says language is an innate human ability. If so, where does it come from? I say it comes from evolutionary biology, while Chomsky says it's more complicated than Darwin. Chomsky proposed that there's a universal grammar in the world's 6,000 languages. And he is a socialist anarchist, so he thinks man is by nature good and that people can naturally live in harmony and don't need police forces to keep them under control. I am neither a socialist nor an anarchist. I am more pessimistic," Pinker declared.


Pinker, who confides that he preferred Al Gore to George Bush in the US presidential elections, calls himself a "classical liberal, which many today would call a conservative. I am pro-science, pro-reason, moderate in politics." After 21 years at MIT, "the world's best place for linguistics," Pinker said he decided to make the move "a few subway stations away" to Harvard. He was motivated to switch because his interests have ballooned beyond pure linguistics, and Harvard offers a wider range of subjects, he said.


A growing number of experts around the world are beginning to agree with Pinker that "neuroscience is showing that all aspects of mental life - every emotion, every thought pattern, every memory - can be tied to the physiological activity or structure of the brain. Cognitive science has shown that feats that were formerly thought to be doable by mental stuff alone can be duplicated by machines, that motives and goals can be understood in terms of feedback and cybernetic mechanisms, and that thinking can be understood as a kind of computation. Not computation the way your IBM PC does computation, but computation nonetheless, a kind of fuzzy analog to parallel computation.


"So intelligence, which formerly seemed miraculous - something that mere matter could not possibly accomplish or explain - can now be understood as a kind of computation process."

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."



Mon Jul 07, 2003 8:46 am
Profile Email YIM WWW
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Intelligent

Bronze Contributor 2

Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 554
Location: Saint Louis
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 0 time in 0 post
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: Darwin of the Mind - JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Quote:
He (Chomsky) says language is an innate human ability. If so, where does it come from? I say it comes from evolutionary biology, while Chomsky says it's more complicated than Darwin.
This barely makes sense. Where else COULD it come from? Luck?


Science is neither a philosophy nor a belief system. It is a combination of mental operations that has become increasingly the habit of educated peoples, a culture of illuminations hit upon by a fortunate turn of history that yielded the most effective way of learning about the real world ever conceived. E.O.Wilson




Mon Jul 07, 2003 12:18 pm
Profile Email
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:


BookTalk.org Links 
Forum Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Info for Authors & Publishers
Featured Book Suggestions
Author Interview Transcripts
Be a Book Discussion Leader!
    

Love to talk about books but don't have time for our book discussion forums? For casual book talk join us on Facebook.

Featured Books

Books by New Authors



Booktalk.org on Facebook 



BookTalk.org is a free book discussion group or online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a group. We host live author chats where booktalk members can interact with and interview authors. We give away free books to our members in book giveaway contests. Our booktalks are open to everybody who enjoys talking about books. Our book forums include book reviews, author interviews and book resources for readers and book lovers. Discussing books is our passion. We're a literature forum, or reading forum. Register a free book club account today! Suggest nonfiction and fiction books. Authors and publishers are welcome to advertise their books or ask for an author chat or author interview.


Navigation 
MAIN NAVIGATION

HOMEFORUMSBOOKSTRANSCRIPTSOLD FORUMSADVERTISELINKSFAQDONATETERMS OF USEPRIVACY POLICY

BOOK FORUMS FOR ALL BOOKS WE HAVE DISCUSSED
Oliver Twist - by Charles DickensSense and Goodness Without God - by Richard CarrierFrankenstein - by Mary ShelleyThe Big Questions - by Simon BlackburnScience Was Born of Christianity - by Stacy TrasancosThe Happiness Hypothesis - by Jonathan HaidtA Game of Thrones - by George R. R. MartinTempesta's Dream - by Vincent LoCocoWhy Nations Fail - by Daron Acemoglu and James RobinsonThe Drowning Girl - Caitlin R. KiernanThe Consolations of the Forest - by Sylvain TessonThe Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion: The Mormons - by David FitzgeraldA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - by James JoyceThe Divine Comedy - by Dante AlighieriThe Magic of Reality - by Richard DawkinsDubliners - by James JoyceMy Name Is Red - by Orhan PamukThe World Until Yesterday - by Jared DiamondThe Man Who Was Thursday - by by G. K. ChestertonThe Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven PinkerLord Jim by Joseph ConradThe Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandThinking, Fast and Slow - by Daniel KahnemanThe Righteous Mind - by Jonathan HaidtWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksMoby Dick: or, the Whale by Herman MelvilleA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganLost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell BanksThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. KuhnHobbes: Leviathan by Thomas HobbesThe House of the Spirits - by Isabel AllendeArguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensThe Falls: A Novel (P.S.) by Joyce Carol OatesChrist in Egypt by D.M. MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

OTHER PAGES WORTH EXPLORING
Banned Book ListOur Amazon.com SalesMassimo Pigliucci Rationally SpeakingOnline Reading GroupTop 10 Atheism BooksFACTS Book Selections

cron
Copyright © BookTalk.org 2002-2014. All rights reserved.
Website developed by MidnightCoder.ca
Display Pagerank