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Steven Pinker

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Pinker is the MIT cognitive scientist who has written the popular science bestsellers The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works. In the latter book, much of the final chapter, The Meaning of Life, explores the origin of religious belief (as an empirical problem for evolutionary psychology). The possibility that God actually exists is dismissed in a short paragraph (p. 560):

"The problem with the religious solution [for mysteries such as consciousness and moral judgments] was stated by Mencken when he wrote, 'Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.' For anyone with a persistent intellectual curiosity, religious explanations are not worth knowing because they pile equally baffling enigmas on top of the original ones. What gave God a mind, free will, knowledge, certainty about right and wrong? How does he infuse them into a universe that seems to run just fine according to physical laws? How does he get ghostly souls to interact with hard matter? And most perplexing of all, if the world unfolds according to a wise and merciful plan, why does it contain so much suffering? As the Yiddish expression says, If God lived on earth, people would break his window."


In a October 15, 2007 article in Salon [1], Pinker was asked whether he was an atheist and replied yes.


In a September 02, 2003 chat transcript (for booktalk.org) [2] Pinker is asked about the 'Brights' phenomenon and his alleged 'deism':

PARTICIPANT: Are you aware and in support of the recent move to use the word "Bright" to describe freethinkers, or people who subscribe to a naturalistic worldview?

PINKER: [...] Regarding "Brights" -- I think it is wonderful. A euphemism, yes, and one that will never catch on as "gay" did (I suspect), but the fact that it has been consciously been proposed (partly tongue-in-cheek) as a euphemism will call attention to the phenomenon that "atheist" has a negative connotation among many. And of course the connection with intelligence is a sly way of saying that it tends to be educated people who decide to be atheists.

[and later]

PARTICIPANT: [...] someone has your picture on a "Deist" web site with your endorsement of that movement. Is it true? Are you Deist or Atheist?

PINKER: I vaguely remember saying something encouraging to someone who called himself a deist -- the referent of "deism" (i.e., something that isn't "theism") that it would be hard to object to explicitly. But I certainly don't believe there is some mysterious godlike presence everywhere, if that is what "deism" is taken to be.


From an October 30, 2002 interview with Steve Sailer for UPI[3]:

Q: You are an atheist, although less strident about it than your fellow evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins. Do you ever worry that by pitting Darwin vs. God, mano a mano, evolutionists are encouraging Creationism, since an awful lot of Americans would pick God if forced to choose?

A: My criticism of religion in "The Blank Slate" was defensive, meant to counter the argument that morality can only come from a belief in a soul that accepts God's purpose and is rewarded or punished in an afterlife. I think the evidence suggests that this doctrine is false both logically and factually. I don't make a point of criticizing religion in general. Some hard-headed biologists and evolutionary theorists believe that an abstract conception of a divine power is consistent with conventional Darwinism.


An even more direct reference to Pinker's atheism, from an 11/6/99 Guardian interview [4]: "I never outgrew my conversion to atheism at 13, but at various times was a serious cultural Jew."