Last Thoughts on Pinker

Topic: Leviathan
“Recent surveyts of soldiers in battle and of rioters in ethnic massacres find that they often kill with gusto, sometimes in a state they describe as ‘joy’ or ‘ecstacy.” (Pinker 322) Compare to Lovecraft:

Then, whispered Castro, those first men formed the cult around tall idols which the Great Ones shewed them; idols brought in dim eras from dark stars. That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return.


“it is extraordinarily dangerous to have enough missiles to destroy an enemy but not enough to destroy him after he has attacked those missiles.” (Pinker 324) (also enough for first-half, second-half forces? SysAdmin applications, too)
“Also necessary for genveance to work as a deterrent is that the willingness to pursue it be made public, because the whold point of deterrence is to give would-be attackers second thoughts beforehand.” (Pinker 326) (Dr. Stangelove, but no 5GW implications?)
“This mentality is foreign to those of us who can get Leviathan to show up by dialing 911, but that option is not always available.” (Pinker 326) (double meanings!)
“In the twentieth century, according to the political scientist R.J. Rummerl in Dead by Government, 170 million people were killed by their own governments.” (Pinker 332) (moral imperative for Leviathan)
“Worst of all, no one has yet figured out how to set up a worldwide democratic leviathan that would penalize the aggressive competition, defuse the Hobbesian traps, and eliminate the cultures of honor that hold between the most dangerous perpetrators of violence of all, nation-states.” (Pinker 332) (!!! PNM !!!! Leviathan as Global SysAdmin)

Topic: SysAdmin & Violence
“if people do not always calculate what is best for themselves, they might be better off with the taxes and regulations that classical economics find to perverse.” (Pinker 302) (stability operations as an evolutionary problematic environment?)
“Crime rates are much higher in regions with greater disparities of wealth (even after controlling for absolute levels of wealth), partly because chronic low statusleads men to become obsessed with rank and to kill one another over trivial insults.” (Pinker 304)
“Western societies have seen murder rates fall between tenfold and a hundredfold in the past millennium.” (Pinker 307)
“The sad fact is that despite the repeated assurances that ‘we know the conditions that breed vioence,’ we barely have a clue. Wild swings in crime rates — up in the 1960s and the late 1960s, down in the late 199s — continue to defy any simple explanation.” (Pinker 310) (except abortion, unless not — see also page 319 in text)
“People were more violent int he cutires before television and movies were invented… Violence computer games took off in the 1990s, a time when crime rates plummeted.” (Pinker 311) (also media category)
“the public theory [of violence] has little to recommend it.” (Pinker 312)
“History has shown that plenty of healthy, rational people can bring themselves to injure others and destroy property because, tragically, an individual’s itnerests sometimes are served by hurting others… Killing one’s adversary is the ultimate conflict resolution technique.” (Pinker 313)
“some individuals are constitutionally more prone to violence than others… men… young men… 7 percent of young men [who tend to be] impulsive, low in telligence, hyperactive, and attention-deficient. They aredescribed as having an ‘oppositional temperment’: they are vindictive, easily angered, resistant to control, deliberately annoying, and likely to blame everything on other people… These traits emerge in early childhood, persist through the lifespan, and are largely heritable.” (Pinker 315) (potential early detainees for SysAdmin? How to rapidly sort?)
“There is safety in numbers, so humans, bound by shared genes or recirpocal promises, form coalitions for protection.”(Pinker 322)
“Human sociality is the original ‘entangling alliance’ … the reason I discuss homocide and war in a single chapter [is that in] a species whose members form bonds of loyalty, the first cna easily turn into the second. (Pinker 323) (also anti-Durkheim)
“Cultures of honor spring up all over the world because they amplify universal human emotions like pride, anger, revenge, and the love of kith and kin, and because they appear at the time to be sensible responses to local conditions.” (Pinker 327)
“The jump in Americna urban crime rates between 1985 and 1993 can be tied in part to the appearance of crack cocaine and the underground economy it spawned…” conspicuous economic inequality is a good predictor of violence (Pinker 329) (so legalize drugs and tax consumption?)
“By [a governing body] inflicting penalties on aggressors… people can rest assured that someon eelse will impose disincentives on their enemies, making it unnecesary for them to maintain a belligerent stance to prove they are not punching bags… Adjudication by an armed authority appears to be the most effective general vioelcne-reduction technique ever invented.” (Pinker 330)
“at 8:00 am on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike… by the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been groken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order.” (Pinker 331) (compare to Katrina)
“we must also combat the racial inequities that leave too mayn African Americans exposed to criminals” (Pinker 331) (moral imperative for SysAdmin)
“According to [Girls Appear to be Closing Aggression Gap with Boys, girls] now committ murder at one-tenth the rate of boys.” (Pinker 339)
“Variation in the level of testosterone among different men, and in the same man in different seasons or at different times of day, correlates with libido, self-confidence, and the drive for dominance. Violent criminals have higher levels than nonviolent criminals; trial lawyers have higher levels than those who push paper.” (Pinker 348) (testosterone as marker for potential enemy warriors)
“Chemical castration can cut [rape] recidivism rates dramatically — in one study, from 46 to 3 percent.” (Pinker 371) (analog for anti-insurgency?)

Topic: Timeline
“Paintings, jewelry, sculpture, and musical instruments go back at least 35,000 years in Europe.” (Pinker 404)
“The Australian aborigines have been painting on rocks for 50,000 years.” (Pinker 404)
“red ochre has been used as a body makeup for [more than 100,000 years].” (Pinker 404)

Topic: Human Exceptionalism
“a coalition of lower-ranking primates can depose a single alpha male.” (Pinker 298)

Topic: Academia
“Anyone familiar with academica knows that it breeds ideological cults that are prone to dogma and resistant to criticism.” (Pinker 341)
“While the total number of bachelor’s degrees rose by almost 40 percent between 1970 and 1994, the number of degrees in English declined by 40 percent… The economy is in better shape today than it was in periods in which the humanities were more popular…” (Pinker 401)

Topic: Evolution
“Natural selection can operate effectively with small reproductive advantages, as little as 1 percent.” (Pinker 368)

Topic: Cognition
“If a strategy of following accepted rules of rationality is sometiems self-defeating, this is not the end. We revise the rules to take account of this, so producing a higher-order rational strategy.” (Pinker 335) (shades of rule-set evolution and critical theory)
“young orphans and refugees often turn out relatively well if they had the comfort of other children, even if they had no paretns or other adults around them. (This does not mean that the children were happy….” (Pinker 392) (compare to AdolPsych prof‘s talk of ‘mindless behaviorism’)

Topic: Universal Man
“Though ethnic groups differ today in their average rates of violence, the differences do not call for a genetic explanation, because the rate for a group at one istorical period may be matched to that of any other group at another period.” (Pinker 315)

Topic: Sexes
“[Men and women's] average levels of general intelligence are the same [though] for many traits, the bull curve for males is flatter and wider than the curve for females. That is, there are proportionally more males at the extremes.” (Pinker 334)
“Women experience basic emotions more intensely, except perhaps anger… Men have a higher tolerance for pain and a greater willingness to risk life and limb for status, attention, and other dubious rewards.” (Pinker 345) (compare to West).
“diversity of DNA in the mitochondria of different people… is far greater than the diversity of the DNA in Y chromosomes… This suggests that for tens of millennia men had greater variation in their reproductive success than women.” (Pinker 347) (“Y-Chorosome Adam?”)
“Men have larger brains with more neurons (even correcting for body size), though women have a higher percentage of gray matter. (Since men and women are equally intelligent overall, the significant of these differences is unknown).” (Pinker 347)
“When women preparing for a sex-change operation are given androgens, they improve on tests of mental rotation and get worse on tests of verbal fluency… Women’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses vary with the phase of their menstral cycle.” (Pinker 348)
“On average, women are more interested in dealing with people and men with things… inequality of outcome cannot be used as a proof of inequality of opportunity unless the groups being compared are identical in all of their psychological traits, which is likely to be true only if we are blank slates… childless women between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-three earn 98 cents to men’s dollar” (Pinker 353,357)
“Men prefer to work for corporations, women for government agencies and nonprofit organizations.” (compare to Barnett’s gender-balanced SysAdmin).
“many more women than men say they majored in science, mathematics, or engineering under pressure from teachers or family members ratherthan to pursue their own aspirations — and that mayn eventually switched out for that reason.” (Pinker 359) (contrast with
WIEO)
“Countries with far more rigid gender roles than the United States, such as Japan, have far lower rates of rape, and within the United States the sexist 1950s were far safer for women than the more liberated 1970s and 1980s…. As women gain greater freedom of movement because they are independent of men, they will
more often find themselves in dangerous situations.” (Pinker 369)

Topic: Complex Adaptive Systems
“Some traditional institutions, like families and the rule of law, may be adapted to eternal features of human psychology. Others, such as primogeniture, were obviously adapted to the demands of a feudal system that required keeping the family lands intact, and became obsolete when the economic system changed in the wake of industrialization.” (Pinker 299) (rulesets)

Topic: Development
When identical twins who were seperated at birth are tested in adulthood, their political attitudes turn out to be similar. (Pinker 283)
“The most violent age is not at adolescense but toddlerhood.” (Pinker 316)
“studies have shown little or no consistent effect of sharing a placenta.” (Pinker 376)
“Whatever experiences siblins share by growing up in the same home makes little or no difference in the kind of people they turn out to be.” (Pinker 379) (“kind” may be a weasal word here, see also on 385, “children… tend to behave differently inside and outside the home”)
“As any parent of more than one child knows, children are not indistinguishable lumps of raw material waiting to be shaped… The parents of a docile child can get away with setting firm, but reasonable, limits; the parents of a hellion might find themselves at their wits end and either law down the law or give up.” (Pinker 384)
“The impotence of the shared environment says only that what parents do to all their children is powerless to shape them. But obviously parents don’t treat their children alike… if children do elicit systematic differences in parenting it would show up as an effect on their genes: it would go into the heritability term, not the unique-environment term.” (Pinker 387) (his reasoning here is slippery)
“Any difference in the parenting of firstborns and laterborns — novice or experienced parents, divided or undivded attention, pressure to carry on the family legacy or indulgent babying — seem to have little or no effect on personality outside the home.” (Pinker 390) (??? Teachers in my high school were adept at pointing out first-borns and only-children)
“whether adolescents smoke, get into scrapes with the law, or commit serious crimes depends far more on what their peers do than on what their parents do.” (Pinker 391) (meaningful difference? also, what about mentoring — peerage with parents?)

Topic: Language
“Children thrown together without a common language from the grownups will quickly invent one; that is how creole languages, and teh signed languages of the deaf, came into being.” (Pinker 391)

Topic: Left
“Evolutionary psychology, behavioral genetics, and some parts of cognitive neuroscience are widely seen as falling on the political right, which in a modern university is abotu the worst thing you can say about something.” (Pinker 284)
People who call themselves ‘calssical liberals’ are likely to be called ‘conservatives’ by adherents of the version of leftism known as political correctness. 287
“Earl Warren, the chief justice of the U.S. SUpreme Court from 1954 to 1969, was the protocypical judicial activist, who led the court to implement desegregation and expand the rights of the accused. He was known for interrupting lawyers in mid-argument by asking, ‘Is it right? Is it good?’” (Pinker 291)
“I think it is no coincidence that beliefs that were common among intellectuals inthe 1960s — that democracies are obsolete, revolution is desirable, the police and armed forces dispensable, and society designable from the top down — are now rarer. The TragicVision and the Utopian Vision inspired historical events whose interpretations aremuch clearer than they were just a few decades ago.” (Pinker 294)
“IQ testing was welcomed by the British left as the ultimate subverter of a caste society ruled by inbred upperclass twis.” (Pinker 301) (transience of political aesthetics)
“… a hereditarian left is aniche waiting to be filled.” (Pinker 302) (presentation of SysAdmin ideas across the spectrum?)
“After Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal office building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people, the journalist Alfie Kohn ridiculed Americans who ‘yammer about individual responsibility’ and attributed the bombing to American individualism” (Pinker 309)
“The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics testified before Congress that over 3,500 studies had investiged the connection [between media and violence] and only 18 failed to find one… In fact, only two hundred studies have looked for a connection… and more than half failed to find one.” (Pinker 311)
“In 1992 a Violence Initiative in the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration was canceled because of false accusations that the research aimed to sedate inner-city youth and to stigmatize them as genetically prone to violence.” (Pinker 314)
“School children are currenty fed the disinformation that Native Americans and other peoples in pre-state societies were inherently peaceable, leaving them uncomprehending, indeed contemtuous, of one of our species’ greatest inventions, democratic government and the rule of law.” (Pinker 332)
“Feminism is widely seen as being opposed to the sciences of human nature.” (Pinker 338)
“A regular feature of the lifestyle pages is the story about women who are made to feel ashamed about staying at home with their children.” (Pinker 359)
“The official theory of rape originated in an important 1975 book, Against Our Will, by the gender feminist Susan Brownmiller.” Pinker 361)
“Until recently jurors in rape cases were given a warning from the seventeenth-century jurist Lord Matthew Hale that they should evaluate a woman’s testimony with caution, because a rape charge is ‘easily made and difficult to defend against, even if the accused is innocent.” (Pinker 363)
“McElroy’s suspicions [of rape claims] by a survey of published ‘studies’ of rape that found fewer than one in ten tested hypotheses or used scientific methods.” (Pinker 364)
“Thomas Bouchard, who directed the first large-scale study of twins reared apart, is one of the pioneers of the study of the genetics of personality. Campus activists at the University of Minnesota distributed handouts calling him a racist and linking him to ‘German fascism,’ spray-painted slogans calling him a Nazi, and demanded that he be hired. The psychologist Barry Mehler accused him of ‘rehabilitatint’ the work of Josef Mengele…” (Pinker 378)
“Modernism certainly proceeded as if human nature had changed. All the tricks that artists used for millennia to please the human palate were cast aside. In painting, realistic depictiosn gave way to freakish distortions of shape and color… Postmodernism was even more aggresively relativistic… asserting that claims to truth and progress were tactics of political domination.” (Pinker 409-411) (Leftism as Anti-Beauty?)
“In the year 2000, the composer Stefania de Kenessey puckishly announaced a new ‘movement’ in the arts, Derriere Guard, which celebrates beauty, technique, and narrative… the director of the Whitney, the shrine of the dismembered-torso establsihment [called] the members of the movement ‘a bunch of crypto-Nazi conservative bullshitters.” (Pinker 417)

Topic: Right
“people are opposed to a blanket welfare state not out of greed but out of fairness. A welfare system that did not try to rewrite the public consciousness, and which distinguished between the deserving adn the undeserving poor, would, [Bowles and Gintis] argue, be perfectly consonant with human nature.” (Pinker 204)
“Masculine heroes in the mass media are highly moralistic: they fight bad guys.” (Pinker 311)

Topic: Society & Culture
In the socioloical tradition, a society is a cohesive organic entity and its individual citizens are mere parts [but in] the economic or social contract tradition, society is an arrangement negotiated by rational, self-interested individuals. 284-285
Durkehim and Parsons were in the sociological tradition, yet they were conservatives 286
“Chomsky insists [that 'if] man is an indefinitely malleable, completely plastic being, with no innnate structures of mind and no instrinsic needs of a cultural of social character, then he is a fit subject for the ‘shaping of behavior’ by the State authority, the corporate manager, th etechnocrat, or the central committee.’” (Pinker 300)
“Southerners do not approve of violence in the abstract, only of violence provoked by an insult or trespass. African American inner-city neighborhoods are among the more conspicuously violent environments in Western democracies, and they too have an entrenched culture of honor… Were it not for giveaways in their dialect… Anderson’s description fo the code wouldbe indistuinghable from accounts of the culture of honor among white Southerners.”(Pinker 328)
“Canada is a one-dimensional ribbon along the American border without remote frontiers and enclaves in which cultures of honor can fester.” (Pinker 333)
“Western societies are good at providing things that people want: clean water, effective medicine, varied and abundant food, rapid transportation and communication [as well as art].” (Pinker 409)
“Most of the world wants to join the bourgeoisie, and most artists are members in good standing who adopted a few bohemian affectations.” (Pinker 416)

Topic: Beauty
“Other technologies have contribued to a cosmopolitan view that makes it easy to imagine trading places with other people. These include literay, travel, a knowledge of history, and realistic art that helps people project themselves into the daily lives of people who in other times might have been their mortal enemies.” (Pinker 320)
“evolutionary psychology is documenting a web of motives other than grou-against-group dominance (such as love, sex, family and beauty) that entangle us in many conflicts and confluences with members of the same sex and of the opposite sex.” (Pinker 341)
“In the psat two decades, symphony orchestras, booksellers, libraries, and new independent films have all increased in number…” (Pinker 402)
“But in three circumscribed areas the arts really do have something to be depressed about. One is the traditions of elite art that descended from prestigious European genres… The second is the guild of critics and cultural gatekeepers, who have seen their influence dwindle… And the third, of course, is the groves of academe, where the foibles of the humanities departments have been fodder for satirical novels…” (Pinker 403)
“Vision researches such as David Marr, Roger Shephard, and V.S. Ramachandran have suggested that the pleasing visual motifs used in art and decoration exaggerate these patterns, which tell the brain that the visual system if cutnioning properly and analyzing the world accurately.” (Pinker 405) (recalls the Objective Room in That Hideous Strength)
“Horace’s definition of the purpose of literature: to instruct and to delight.” (Pinker 406) (properly the same thing?)
“Veblen wrote that the psychology of taste is driven by three ‘pecuniary canons’: conspicuous consumption, conspicuous leisure, and conspicuous waste.” (Pinker 406)
“Postmodernist films contain sly references to the filmmaking process or to earlier films. In all these forms, irony, self-referential illusions, and the pretense of not taking the work seriously are meant to draw attention to the representations themselves, which (according to the doctrine) we are ordinarily in danger of mistaking for reality.” (Pinker 411) compare to Lovecraft:

Derby went through Miskatonic University in Arkahm since his parents would not let him board away from them. He entered at sixteen and completed his course in three years, majoring in English and French literature and receiving high marks in everything but mathematics and the sciences. He mingled very little with the other students, though looking enviously at the “daring” or “Bohemian” set – whose superficially “smart” language and meaningless ironic pose he aped, and whose dubious conduct he wished he dared adopt.

“The problem for artists is not that popular culture is so bad but that it is so good… In his 1913 book <Art, the critic Clive Bell… argued that beauty had no place in good art because it was rooted in crass experiences… Thirty-five years later, the abstract painter Barnett Newmann approvingly declared that the impulse of modern art was
the desire to destroy beauty’” (Pinker 413)
“The plain fact is that there are no obvious moral consequences to how people entertain themselves in their leasure time.” (Pinker 415) (compare to this phrase)

Topic: Sexual Selection
“Artistic virtuosity, he notes, is unevenly distributed, neurally demanding, hard to fake, and widely prized. Artists, in other words, are sexy.” (Pinker 407)

Topic: Old Ideas
“It is no coincidence that the major thereticians of the social contract, such as Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, were also major armchair psychologists. As Madison wrote, ‘What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on huma nature’?” (Pinker 296) compare to:

“Taking those survey results as evidence of a universal human nature involves inferring psychological universals from cultural universals, which is a fallacy…” (Buller 459)

“the popular belief that [the Founders] got the idea of democracy from the Iroquois Federation is just 1960s granola.” (Pinker 296)
“Carol Gilligan has become a gender-feminist icon because of her claim that men and women guide their moral reasoning by different principles… but it is not true.” (Pinker 342) (My Scope & Methods professor was particularly critical of Gilligan)
“Margaret Mead, the icon of twentieth-century egalitarianism, told her daughter that she credted her own intellectual talent to her genes.” (Pinker 422)

Topic: Definitions
“In the Tragic Vision [or Constrained Vision], humans are inherently limited in knowledge, wisdom, and virtue, and all social arrangements must acknowledge those limits… stresses fiduciary duties, even when the person executing them cannot see their immediate value… distrust knowledge stated in explicitly articulated and verbally justified propositions” (Pinker 287, 291.292)
“In the Utopian Vision [or Unconstrained Vision], psychological limitations are artifacts that come from our social arrangements, and we should not allow them to restrict our gaze from what is possible in a better world [requiring] action sheld to a higher ethical standard.” (Pinker 287,291)
lex talonis, the law of retaliation, familiar frm the biblical injunction ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’” (Pinker 324)
Equality Feminism opposes sex discrimination and other forms of unfairness to women.” (Pinker 341)
Gender feminism holds that women continue to be enslaved by a perverse system of male dominance, the gender system, in which ‘bi-sexual infants are transformed into male or female genderpersonalities, the one destined to command, the other to obey.” (Pinker 341)
trait … a stable property of a person that can be measured by standardized psychological tests.” (Pinker 373) (considering domain-specific learning and actions, what is meant by ‘stable’???)
Heritability is the proportion of variance in a trait that correlates with genetic differences.” (Pinker 374)
OCEAN… openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion-introversion, antagonism, agreeableness, and neuroticism [and are] the five major ways in which personality can vary.” (Pinker 375)
behavioral genetic methods address variation within the group of people being examined, not between groups of people.” (Pinker 377) compare to earlier

“Modern biology tells us that the forces that make people alike are not the same as the forces that make people different. (Indeed, they tend to be studied by different scientists: the similarities by evolutionary psychologists, the differences by behavioral geneticists.” (Pinker 142)

biophilia [was defined by E.O. Wilson as the] enjoyment of the forms of living things.” (Pinker 405)
modernism… glorification of pure form and its disdain for easy beauty and bourgeois pleasure.” (Pinker 410)