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Old 11th March 2022, 01:16 PM   #1
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Where's Old Pinky These Days?

Steven Pinker?? Hello??

Odd.

He seems to have gone a bit quiet.

There he was only a few years back explaining how the world was so much better than it had ever been.

I really want to talk to that guy.
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Old 11th March 2022, 02:29 PM   #2
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His Twitter feed is still active:

https://twitter.com/sapinker?ref_src...Ctwgr%5Eauthor
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Old 11th March 2022, 07:13 PM   #3
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Yes, Covid and this Ukraine thing make it difficult to be an optimist.

A couple of people I've talked to about this say they don't watch the news. I don't know how they do that.
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Old 12th March 2022, 02:16 AM   #4
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Has a series on the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0011lt1
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Old 12th March 2022, 02:20 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Orphia Nay View Post
Yes, Covid and this Ukraine thing make it difficult to be an optimist.
And while they're the two dominating, there are other little matters like the atrocities Putin's Wagner puppets are causing in CAR. We already had the highest number of refugees in history before a shot was fired in Ukraine.

There's also very little discussion about the knock-on effect of Ukraine, outside of the irrelevancy of petrol costs.

The massive increase in commodity prices will kill millions.

Originally Posted by Orphia Nay View Post
A couple of people I've talked to about this say they don't watch the news. I don't know how they do that.
I haven't watched TV news for at least ten years. They're the worst of the lot. At least with digital news you can skim past the baloney. TV news is always so out of date by the time it airs that it's pointless anyway.
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Old 12th March 2022, 02:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Stylesjl View Post
His Twitter feed is still active:

https://twitter.com/sapinker?ref_src...Ctwgr%5Eauthor
I see he has an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe "Is this the end of the Long Peace?"

Paywalled for me, so if anyone wants to post the salient points, go for it.

I don't think Betteridge's law will apply.
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Old 12th March 2022, 04:15 AM   #7
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Pinker was not making predictions that the world will inexorably get better and better, only pointing out that things have got better.

Similarly, while Covid caused massive health and economic problems, he pointed to mRNA vaccines being rolled out within a year as a palpable sign of human progress.

He has only just released a book called Rationality, so it is not as if he has been "silent".

Sure, maybe he should do a book tour, but as you might know there are issues with doing that.
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Old 12th March 2022, 04:17 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
I see he has an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe "Is this the end of the Long Peace?"

Paywalled for me, so if anyone wants to post the salient points, go for it.

I don't think Betteridge's law will apply.
Try this link.
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Old 12th March 2022, 09:44 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Pinker was not making predictions that the world will inexorably get better and better, only pointing out that things have got better.
It was always baloney. He calls it a long peace on the back of nonsense like this:

Quote:
...the invasion has been the only interstate war in Europe in more than three-quarters of a century (other than the brief Soviet incursion into Hungary in 1956)
He never heard of Bosnia?

And it looks almost racist to me to base your thinking on Europe. Completely ignoring two of the largest genocides in history in Rwanda and Biafra to make your point is perverse.

Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Similarly, while Covid caused massive health and economic problems, he pointed to mRNA vaccines being rolled out within a year as a palpable sign of human progress.
I don't count covid as part of the issue.

Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Thanks for that!
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Old 12th March 2022, 12:09 PM   #10
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I’ve read a couple of books of Pinker’s because I’m multilingual and interested in aspects of language acquisition and mastery. For all that he’s billed as a top academic in the field of psycholinguistics, for me there’s very little in his work to suggest that he’s had any great understanding of the realities of multilingualism and how that impacts the development of the young.
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Old 12th March 2022, 02:40 PM   #11
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Quite funny how linguistics became the preserve of global sociology. Noam Chomsky crapped in his boots a bit too.
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Old 12th March 2022, 05:37 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
It was always baloney. He calls it a long peace on the back of nonsense like this:

He never heard of Bosnia?
Three points:
a) It is not only Pinker calling the time period "Long Peace". It appears to be called that by various experts in international relations. Link
b) Bosnia was not an inter-state war, but part of the Yugoslavian civil war.
c) The Long Peace is based on data ("Overall, the number of international wars decreased from a rate of six per year in the 1950s to one per year in the 2000s, and the number of fatalities decreased from 240 reported deaths per million to less than 10 reported deaths per million").

Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
And it looks almost racist to me to base your thinking on Europe. Completely ignoring two of the largest genocides in history in Rwanda and Biafra to make your point is perverse.
"Almost racist"? Is that when you want to accuse someone of something heinous but want some wiggle room if you get called on it? "I never said he was racist, I just said it looks almost racist to me..."

Again, it comes down to what the data says. Just pointing at particular horrors is bad methodology.

Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Thanks for that!
You're welcome.
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Old 12th March 2022, 06:00 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by malbui View Post
I’ve read a couple of books of Pinker’s because I’m multilingual and interested in aspects of language acquisition and mastery. For all that he’s billed as a top academic in the field of psycholinguistics, for me there’s very little in his work to suggest that he’s had any great understanding of the realities of multilingualism and how that impacts the development of the young.
I think some of his early books on child language acquisition were fairly well-regarded, but his "language instinct" book was basically an attempt to make Chomskyan linguistics explicable to a wider audience. It seems that a lot of people approaching linguistics for the first time enjoyed the book, but Chomskyan linguistics seems to have been dying the death of a thousand cuts since...maybe the early eighties?

One of the main problems seems to be that no one can even agree on what Chomskyan linguistics is because even when his supporters write books promoting it, and making accessible to others, the flaws become immediately apparent to linguistics, and Chomsky deals with it by saying his supporters didn't understand his theory. For example, when looking for evidence of universal grammar, some of his supporters have argued that there are universals in language, which makes sense. I think certain books like this are supposed to be Chomskyan as far as the author understood Chomsky.

However, more recently other linguists now argue that such "language universals" are a myth.

Besides, no one seems to know what the Language Acquisition Device is, or if the so-called Poverty of the Stimulus argument makes sense.

Even when Pinker first wrote his book, there was a really good review of it that essentially shredded Chomskyan linguistics (in my opinion), and that I don't think Pinker has really answered properly.
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Old 12th March 2022, 06:58 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
b) Bosnia was not an inter-state war, but part of the Yugoslavian civil war.
Same thing. They split into the different countries after it, so a silly distinction.

Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
"Almost racist"?.
I don't know enough about Pinky to say. It might be plain ignorance.
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Old 12th March 2022, 08:21 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Same thing. They split into the different countries after it, so a silly distinction.
Blatantly not the same thing because established nations are part of organizations that can mediate disputes over things like borders, etc...

Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
I don't know enough about Pinky to say. It might be plain ignorance.
What is ignorance? If you don't know what his arguments are, or what the evidence he bases his claims on is, then it is you being ignorant!

It's really bizarre to critique a person's work as being ignorant while also admitting to be ignorant of their work.
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Old 12th March 2022, 09:11 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Blatantly not the same thing because established nations are part of organizations that can mediate disputes over things like borders, etc...
Oh yeah!

Like Russia/Ukraine, Saudi/Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria...

Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
What is ignorance?
Ignorance of his views on race, if he has any.

I can't recall him ever saying anything untoward, but it's suspicious that African genocides and conflicts are ignored.
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Old 12th March 2022, 09:23 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Oh yeah!

Like Russia/Ukraine, Saudi/Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria...
Do you even bother to read anything you are critiquing? Or does that get in the way of your strident opinion?


Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Ignorance of his views on race, if he has any.

I can't recall him ever saying anything untoward, but it's suspicious that African genocides and conflicts are ignored.
It would be suspicious, except they aren't ignored.

Just did a quick Google:

Quote:
By any standard, the world is nowhere near as genocidal as it was during its peak in the 1940s, when Nazi, Soviet, and Japanese mass murders, together with the targeting of civilians by all sides in World War II, resulted in a civilian death rate in the vicinity of 350 per 100,000 per year. Stalin and Mao kept the global rate between 75 and 150 through the early 1960s, and it has been falling ever since, though punctuated by spikes of dying in Biafra (1966–1970, 200,000 deaths), Sudan (1983–2002, 1 million), Afghanistan (1978–2002, 1 million), Indonesia (1965–1966, 500,000), Angola (1975–2002, 1 million), Rwanda (1994, 500,000), and Bosnia (1992–1995, 200,000). (All of these estimates are from the Center for Systemic Peace.) These numbers must be kept in mind when we read of the current horrors in Iraq (2003–2014, 150,000 deaths) and Syria (2011–2014, 150,000) and interpret them as signs of a dark new era. Nor, tragically, are the beheadings and crucifixions of the Islamic State historically unusual. Many postwar genocides were accompanied by splurges of ghastly torture and mutilation. The main difference is that they were not broadcasted on social media.

The trend lines for genocide and other civilian killings, fortunately, point sharply downward. After a steady rise during the Cold War until 1992, the proportion of states perpetrating or enabling mass killings of civilians has plummeted, though with a small recent bounce we will examine shortly.
Link
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Old 12th March 2022, 10:13 PM   #18
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Now in that article, Pinker and his co-author do mention Ukraine and we could argue that they were incorrect here:

Quote:
Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s reabsorption of Crimea into Russia, and his thinly disguised support for Ukrainian secessionist movements, are deeply troubling developments, not just because the resulting fighting has claimed more than 4,000 lives, but also because they challenge the grandfathering of national borders and the near-taboo on conquest that have helped keep the peace since 1945.

Yet comparisons to the world of a century ago—when romantic militarism was widespread, international institutions virtually nonexistent, and leaders naive about the costs of escalating great-power war—are almost certainly overdrawn. So far Russia has sent “little green men” rather than tank divisions across the border, and even the most hawkish of American hawks has not proposed pushing it back with military force. Meanwhile Putin’s adventurism has been hugely costly for Russia. The tough EU sanctions, along with plunging oil prices, will push Russia into a recession in 2015. The ruble is plummeting in value, food prices have risen sharply, and Russian banks are finding it increasingly difficult to borrow foreign capital. All this suggests that the tensions in Ukraine are far more likely to end in an uneasy stalemate like those in Georgia and Moldova, which have endured the loss of pro-Russian breakaway statelets, than a repeat of World War I.
I think we can say he got it wrong, back in 2014, although we still do not have a World War, so let's hope he is right about it.

That said, I suppose this dismissive statement that Pinker made in February of this year, looks laughably bad now, when people were warning about the build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine's border and he blurted:

Quote:
Scaremongering bollocks. Someone should find out how many oil futures Biden is sitting on.

Putin is no more starting a war in Ukraine than I am.
Oh, wait...no, that was you!
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Old 12th March 2022, 10:51 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Oh, wait...no, that was you!
Yes, and I admitted I was completely wrong.

Which is also irrelevant to the thread, but if scoring a point on something I already conceded is that important, go for it.
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Old 12th March 2022, 11:10 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Pinky
By any standard, the world is nowhere near as genocidal as it was during its peak in the 1940s, when Nazi, Soviet, and Japanese mass murders, together with the targeting of civilians by all sides in World War II, resulted in a civilian death rate in the vicinity of 350 per 100,000 per year. Stalin and Mao kept the global rate between 75 and 150 through the early 1960s, and it has been falling ever since, though punctuated by spikes of dying in Biafra (1966–1970, 200,000 deaths),...
Excellent example - cherry-picked data to support his claim.

He clearly counts those starved by Mao, yet ignores a couple of million in Biafra, directly caused by the war.

Then we can go on:

Sudan (1983–2002, 1 million), short by 50%.

Afghanistan (1978–2002, 1 million), pretty close

Indonesia (1965–1966, 500,000), takes the lowest estimate, which is 500k - 2M


Angola (1975–2002, 1 million), correct

Rwanda (1994, 500,000), yet again goes on the lowest estimate.

and Bosnia (1992–1995, 200,000). That's three out of seven.

(All of these estimates are from the Center for Systemic Peace.) These numbers must be kept in mind when we read of the current horrors in Iraq (2003–2014, 150,000 deaths) Wow, people still believe it was that low?

Syria (2011–2014, 150,000) laughably low

A reasonable person wouldn't use the low estimate in every case.

He did so in nine out of nine conflicts and was highly likely to be wrong in six of them.

It's easy to make a false case when you use dishonest evidence. Isn't that exactly what we're seeing everywhere right now? I find it just a little ironic that you normally argue against people using flawed evidence, but I guess it depends on which way you're biased towards the person stating it.
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Old 12th March 2022, 11:33 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Excellent example - cherry-picked data to support his claim.
No, it is in response to your claim:

Quote:
it's suspicious that African genocides and conflicts are ignored.
But he is not ignoring them.

You also say:

Quote:
And it looks almost racist to me to base your thinking on Europe.
But then you are upset that he inflates the figures who died under Mao.

Could you state clearly what your argument is?

To do this, I would like you to explain what you think Pinker's argument is and why you think he is wrong. Otherwise you just keep presenting a moving target, and it is tiresome having to correct you all the time, only for you to say you are talking about something different. If it is something nebulously metaphysical like speculating how rancid his soul is, it is not worth discussing.
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Old 13th March 2022, 01:36 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
But then you are upset that he inflates the figures who died under Mao.
I said no such thing.

Check it out, this is what I actually typed:

He clearly counts those starved by Mao...

I'll just leave it there - I see no point in continuing a discussion with someone who's blatantly making things up and attributing them to me.

Thanks for your input.
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Old 13th March 2022, 03:12 AM   #23
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Can recommend his recent BBC series - does what it says on the tin.
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Old 18th November 2022, 03:39 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
There he was only a few years back explaining how the world was so much better than it had ever been.
Yes, not only he but tons of experts in economy, health, living standards and quality thereof. In fact, he's arguing on behalf of the data as a general trend over the past five centuries.
They are not predictive of the future like so, rather just an *actual* recognition of that the data says, something that both uber right-wing and nutty left-fringe appear oddly inoculated against.

I guess this is why they concocted the oxymoronic term of "radical centrist".

Quote:
Rwanda (1994, 500,000), yet again goes on the lowest estimate.
No, he uses the most agreed-upon estimate. As your own link says: "the most widely accepted scholarly estimates are around 500,000 to 662,000 Tutsi deaths"

If you add a million here or there, as horrible as might sound it... makes next to no difference statistically and he demonstrates the proportional variance, percentages *and* numerical values six ways from sunday in not just one but *TWO* of his books (I've not read Rationality yes).

For somewhat related responsa by Pinker on these notes, here's a few:
https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2019/...mRKtLU1i21AGcQ
https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2019/...-steve-pinker/
https://quillette.com/2019/01/14/enl...ne-year-later/
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