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EPISODE # 219

In-Person Conversation (in Shermer’s Home) with Steven Pinker on Rationality: What it is, Why it Seems Scarce, Why it Matters

In this conversation with Steven Pinker on his new book Rationality, the Harvard psychologist and Michael Shermer discuss how today humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding — and also appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that developed vaccines for COVID-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing? Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply irrational — cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives, and set out the benchmarks for rationality itself. We actually think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we’ve discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others. These tools are not a standard part of our education — but they should be.

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JOIN DAVID EAGLEMAN LIVE ONLINE OCT. 27

Oregon State University invites you to participate in the upcoming Provost Lecture Series (FREE!)

Featuring David Eagleman, this free virtual event via Zoom will take place on Wednesday, October 27 2021 from 6 to 7:30pm (Pacific Time). Register for this free event.

DAVID EAGLEMAN is a neuroscientist at Stanford University and an internationally bestselling author. He is co-founder of two venture-backed companies, Neosensory and BrainCheck, and he also directs the Center for Science and Law, a national non-profit institute. He is best known for his work on sensory substitution, time perception, brain plasticity, neurolaw, and synesthesia.

He is the writer and presenter of the international PBS series, The Brain with David Eagleman, and the author of the companion book, The Brain: The Story of You. He is also the writer and presenter of The Creative Brain on Netflix.

Beyond his 120+ academic publications, he has published many popular books. His latest book Livewired tells the story of brain plasticity: how your forest of billions of neurons reconfigures every moment over your life. His bestselling book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, explores the neuroscience “under the hood” of the conscious mind: all the aspects of neural function to which we have no awareness or access.

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