Steven Pinker – Immune to Reason

Easy to see Pinker is full of shit once again.

  1. People need to work (duh) even if he doesn’t.
  2. The idea of an afterlife IMPROVES behavior – both in theory (fear of judgment of the creator) and in practice (Atheists are the biggest mass murderers in history).
  3. A life whose value is greater than a dog for reasons of marginal utility is not one that is valued. If you are an object, value of human life is a non-sequitur.

First reply:

Because they deserve it.

What does it mean to make life safer, longer and happier to an atheist like Pinker? Avoiding your children and then hopping on antidepressants in middle age to achieve chemical “happiness” and “safety”?

Unrelated, but potent, showing pinker is naive as hell, even in the realms of “data.” He’s a great representative of the unconstrained vision, which really means he’s immune to wisdom as well as reason.


  1. David

    And yey pseudo intellectuals fawn all over him and pump his books to the bestseller list. I’m often bemused by his thought ejections but I never take him for an authority of anything


  2. I’ve read a number of Taleb’s books and I rarely disagree with him. But I really don’t like his style of calling people with names and trying to, in all manner of ways, verbally denigrate them – it feels so unnecessary.

    You can look at it from many different angles:
    1. Is it a useful tactic to achieve support from the crowd? Perhaps in America, it is a useful tactic (don’t know – never been) but I think that getting more and more polarized and grouped into camps that don’t have a conversation but just spout slurs to one another is – how to put this… not ideal. I am personally sorry for the fact that so rarely get to have a
    2. Is it ethical? Well, at least it is not a way to follow the Christ who told us to treat others like we would like to be treated and to love our enemies. So I think it is generally a wrong thing to do.
    3. Is it a good rhetorical device in an ideological disagreement? Perhaps… Sometimes you want to provoke others to spark up some conversation. People also have become pretty fragile about these things, hearing differing viewpoints and getting challenged, and that is not such a good thing. But mostly I think that insulting and mocking don’t really effectively further the conversation and don’t make one’s arguments any more convincing. Taleb may think his tweets are genius (I somehow suspect that Taleb thinks that everything he has thought and said is genius) but adding some insults there to spice things up might not help Pinker to see the same truths as he does (that Taleb knows all the right answers from the only correct way of learning new languages and walking around (yes, really, it has to be done slowly – that is important and you probably ought to be insulted if you disagree) to religion and philosophy and is obligated to insult everyone who does not think the same way because “they deserve it” – okay, now I might be a little unfair to Taleb, but this is somewhat what he often sounds like)

    So no. I don’t really respect the strategy.

    But I liked your fairy tale of a farmer and a dragon. It was great.
    What book I should buy from you?

    • Thanks for commenting
      The point of polemics is not to convince the other person, it’s to influence the third parties. In fact, that’s the point of debate as well. You are generally not going to convince the party you are arguing with of anything. You challenge the opposition for the onlookers; you challenge the heretic so others don’t fall into heresy.
      Given that Pinker is initiating an attack, it’s totally reasonable to respond in kind, even to a greater (and more effective) degree. So no, I don’t follow the idea that you should be civil, especially when your opposition is not civil. The general tactic of the left is to attack, then play the victim if anyone responds in kind. Reject that kind of nonsense.
      Remember that loving your enemies can be harsh love. Pinker is in danger of eternal hellfire – telling him so is an act of love, not hate.

      If you want to meet Garamesh again, you should read Water of Awakening.

  3. Of course, I want to meet Garamesh. Garamesh was great. That book it is then.

    But perhaps you are right about the role of polemics (if this is a better word for mocking and insults) but this only moves the relevant question further to: “Are polemics an effective way of convincing the bystanders?”

    Now – perhaps it is effective. To those onlookers who already think the same way it may at least be emotionally rewarding to hear how their ideological enemies are getting “roasted”. They also reward the roaster with praise for his courage and wisdom which may lead orator to the conclusion: “yes, this ‘polemics’ is definitely a great way to argue my case”. But is it as good a way to convince those onlookers who are not yet made up their minds? Is it at all convincing to those onlookers who are sympathetic to the other side that is getting roasted? I somehow doubt that. It is, after all, quite possible to argue a case effectively without being an ass at the same time (I think Sowell is pretty much a master at this and he changed my mind on many different things when I still was more left-leaning person. I think Taleb (with his truly elegant way to, for example, question his enemies’ masculinity (not any 8-year old would be capable of this)) would not have been able to convince me to truly change my mind – about anything, really).

    Perhaps the effectiveness of polemics as a strategy also depends on the crowd that is listening to debate? In some circles throwing punchy insults may per se raise your credibility (especially if those insults rhyme and there’s some hip-hop music in the background). In some other company (with victorian gentlemen armed with teacups and handkerchiefs) the same tactic may lead to the widespread conclusion that you are a bore and not really worth listening to. In any case, I find it hard to believe that leaving civility behind would not make meaningful dialog harder with the opposite side. And I really care about the meaningful dialog, I feel there’s too little of it nowadays.

    But better shut up now – before I write any longer essay. It, after all, is possible that you are still reading this.

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