Dr. Steven Pinker, World-renowned Scholar and Public Intellectual, Delivered Bold Message to Students

By Simran Fernandes ('19, RBS/HC)
Dr. Steven Pinker during his talk to Rutgers University–New Brunswick students, faculty, and staff. Photo Credit: Andrew Daddio
Dr. Steven Pinker talking with students. Photo Credit: Andrew Daddio
Dr. Steven Pinker signing his book. Photo Credit: Andrew Daddio

Renowned scholar and public intellectual Dr. Steven Pinker recently delivered a bold and positive message to Rutgers University–New Brunswick students, faculty, and staff. In his talk, he surveyed progress through time and across many data points—from the increase in people with access to education to more people living in democracies, and from the decline in wars to the growth in numbers of people living above the poverty line. Through a thoughtful and exhaustive overview of the current state of the modern world, Dr. Pinker made the "case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress." In sharing the path of progress, he discussed the role of the media and ultimately showed through deep research and reason that "life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide."

In partnership with The Center for Cognitive Science, the Honors College hosted Dr. Pinker following the Honors College First-Year Summer Reading Program for which students read from his newest book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. After his lecture, Dr. Pinker visited the Honors College to talk with students of the Honors College and The Center for Cognitive Science of the School of Arts and Sciences.

"With all of the social, medical, and technological change occurring within our generation, I believe quite optimistically that we will do our part to progress. Sure, statistics and the news media might try to convince us otherwise, but it's up to each one of us to try to make the world a better place, no matter how small and how subjective that might be,"

commented Ryan Wu ('22, SAS/HC), a first-year Honors College student after reading Dr. Pinker's writing.

Currently a Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, Dr. Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. He is one of Foreign Policy’s “World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”

Honors College Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Sunita Kramer chose Enlightenment Now for this year's First-Year Summer Reading Program based on the optimism of his message. "I think Dr. Pinker’s message (that now is the best time to be alive) is one that I really wanted to connect with our incoming first year students," Dr. Kramer said. "Here at the Honors College, we intentionally prepare our students to engage with some of the major issues the world is facing and start to come up with ideas to address these issues."

Karthik Paka ('19, SAS/HC), a senior at the Honors College, said,

"Watching Steven Pinker's presentation gave me confidence that, despite all the news reports telling us how messed up the world is, we really are making tremendous progress as people. I also felt hopeful for the future after seeing that there are influential people like Pinker who devote their time to promoting humanism, reason, science, and other enlightenment ideals."

The Honors College and The Center for Cognitive Science are committed to fostering excellence in education by providing students with enriched interdisciplinary experiences. Through learning more about research and innovation at the intersection of the arts and sciences, students can begin to apply their knowledge to have real impact on the world.

Honors College senior Sarah Ahmed ('19, SAS/HC) commented,

"[Dr. Pinker's lecture] taught me so much about the progress of humankind and gave me a new perspective on today's world versus any other time in history: we really do live in the best of times..."

SOURCE: Photos taken by Andrew Daddio

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