Our Better Angels? Have humans turned over a new leaf? A Discussion with Steven Pinker
Matthew LaClair interviewed evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker on his most recent work which includes an examination of his claim that humans have become more altruistic and less violent over the last 50,000 years. Many contest this hypothesis — from social scientists to historians — and some have suggested that quite the opposite is the case.
We asked Dr. Pinker about his work in the hopes to better understand his argument and what is indeed the reality concerning human nature in this special LIVE program!
On two recent programs, ETFF co-host Arnell Dowret examined how we communicate with each other and what humanistic naturalism can offer by way of our better understanding each other in public discourse. Focusing on nebulous terms bandied about in popular American culture – by religionists and secularists alike – Arnell suggested we loose polarizing and pain-inducing terms like sin, shame, guilt, vice and bad and instead offer the more precise language of social science.Human beings behave according to both their biology and environment, and in our judgmental, often punitive, uber-competitive and commoditized society, we have developed a language – promoted by religionists and secularists alike – which has led to a culture of punishment and reward, praise and blame, guilt, shame, anger and fear.
Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, a religious humanist, would suggest these terms are part of a ‘violence-based communication.’ In response he founded The Center for Nonviolent Communication. Carrying on his work in the New York City area is Dr. Dian Killian, co-author of Connecting across Differences: A Guide to Compassionate, Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Dr. Killian was on ETFF to discuss her work for Brooklyn NVC. We offered several special gifts for those who become members or renew their membership that you are still able to obtain by clicking here or here!
As co-host Michael O’Neil likes to say, we put the human back in humanism as we investigate a way of thinking and communicating in both our personal relationships and in the political arena… Imagine all the People, Living Life in Peace…
Language usage in America over the last 40 years has polarized society – all or nothing, judgmental terms like good and evil, sinful and righteous, pride and guilt – while nuanced, knowledgeable and meaningful language has been vilified as “political correctness.” Can naturalists and humanists offer a unique perspective and be of any real value in the public square today? What sort of contribution can we make to public discourse which is consistent with humanist values and evidence based thinking?