Talk:Steven Pinker

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Regarding the GA nomination and concerns about sourcing.[edit]

@Chiswick Chap and Viriditas:

Thank you both for taking an interest in the GA nom; I should have expressed my gratitude and availed myself of your interest sooner, but my time, on-wiki and off, has been splintered two dozen different directions on any given day this last week. I hope you don't mind my trying to snag a little of your time, but as you both came to me with the same misgiving, I figured I'd get some further input from you on the matter. I have a couple of inquiries along the lines previously discussed on my talk page. First, is my assumption that the faults you both see in the sourcing of content are mostly tied to the "Research and theory" section correct? Most other sections seem to be adequately (if not exactly heavily) sourced utilizing a fairly high caliber of secondary source, at least to my eye. I know the subject of the article may or may not be one of previous exposure for either of you, but I'd still greatly appreciate your interpretation of their usage, for consistency with BLP if nothing else. The only source which stands out to my as particularly low-quality is the Harvard faculty page, and I'm inclined to give it a pass as it is used extremely narrowly to establish his occupation at the university.

Return focus to the most problematic "Research and theory" section, I'm curious as to how much, in the context of GA review especially, primary sourcing can be tolerated here. While I intend to augment this section a bit with new content that will be focused towards review and critique of his works (both as regards academic/peer-review research and his more broad-audience works), which I don't anticipate secondary sourcing being a problem for, many of the more direct claims currently made about his work in this section as it stands, while verifiable, may end up including references to his own research and books. Needless to say, given we are talking about cross-over between BLP and GA, everything needs to be airtight as concerns avoiding synthesis of any kind and I'll be sure that any primary sourcing involved is used only to support direct, unambiguous claims made within those sources, but even aside from that, I get the impression there's an upper limit to how much primary sourcing will be tolerated in this context, synthesis or no synthesis. I know we're always keen to avoid using static numbers outside context of content you can already look at, but you gentlemen (assuming gentlemen from your names, apologies if I'm mistaken in that) have a ballpark figure as to what you would view as excessive?

Even outside these questions, any advice you can give would be helpful. This is my first GA nomination, taken as I said, because I could find no other single, currently active editor who is most responsible for the page to suggest the move to; I would hate to have the effort fail because of some technicality I overlooked; I'm an experienced editor, with broad knowledge of most-all areas of process and policy, but GA nomination is one of the last roles I've yet to try on, so really, even comments that might seem obvious could be useful. :) Even if you don't have time to comment broadly on the inquiries above, stay tuned as I'm going to start adding content and sources by tonight or tomorrow, so even the occasional brief tweak/edit summary would be appreciated. Thanks much for bringing your concerns to me to begin with and I hope I am not presuming on you too much in this request. Snow talk 05:43, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

Short and sweet, check out Wikipedia:Inline citation and see how you can apply it to the uncited paragraphs or sentences. In practice, the standard for inline citations is slightly higher for biographies of living people. It may be as simple as using citations that are already in the article and adding footnotes to the relevant areas. Viriditas (talk) 05:48, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Wow, that was faster than I could have possibly hoped. :) In the case of a number of such citations, the source may be an article or book already listed in his bibliography. I suppose the redundancy cannot be avoided, but it seems inelegant. I guess I may just have to try to rework some statements about his research and perspectives using sources which review his work. This would kill multiple birds with one stone in avoiding dependence on primary sourcing while bolstering the secondary sourcing, contextualization for his work, and the article's general consistency with WP:N. Ok, I think I'll proceed along those lines, thank you, Viriditas. Snow talk 06:00, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Redundant and inelegant. That's the Wikipedia we know and love! :) You seem to have a good grip on this place. In the past, I've proposed that we should have multiple layout/interfaces, for example, one for reading, and another for verifying citations. It would be very easy to do this by providing a reading mode button that would remove all references from the screen and allow the reader to immerse themselves in text only, in true old skool linear mode, without any hypertext or distractions. But, nobody listens to me. What's interesting, however, is that outside of Wikipedia, we are starting to see a return to this on the web. Unfortunately, many people are "offloading" information to the cloud, and forgoing the reading experience. This means you have people who simply browse for chunks of facts, rather than spending the time to see how these facts fit together. And that's why we need another interface, one that ties the topic together with other topics so that you can get a dynamic, interdisciplinary systemic view without...oh don't get me started. Viriditas (talk) 06:51, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Heh, Wikipedia system's theory; colour me intrigued. You'll have to explain your approach to me in detail some time, unless you already have it codified somewhere. Snow talk 08:58, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, the official Wiki way to cut down a tree with an axe is to hack it a lot at random angles - none of this making a neat < shaped notch and then slicing it down with one heroic blow like John Stewart Collis, oh no. If a citation applies 23 times, that's 23 inline refs to the same citation -- at least you don't have to repeat the whole thing, you can name it <ref name=hack>Hack, J. ''Tree-felling for total beginners''. Hacker and Choppit, Hicksville, 1901.</ref> and use it repeatedly <ref name=hack/> wherever another quick swipe is deemed necessary. Then when every part of the tree-stump is well riddled with cross-cutting cites, you're done. Chiswick Chap (talk) 07:10, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Ha, well, I'm well-enough familiar with that part of things, but I usually stay away from BLP's -- which makes my use of this one as a testing ground for GA perhaps less than ideal, but what I can say, I like the subject and I like the work that's been done on the article so far -- so I'm less used to the complication of a bibliography having cross-over with the refslist. In this case I am thankfully saved by the fact that we are talking about a well-known author whose works have received significant critical review and scholarly counter-argument; I can avoid citing his articles and books somewhat by citing instead what was said in response to them (simultaneously injecting his own stances within the context of those responses). It's an obvious strategy, in retrospect, now that I've hit on it, but I dare say it wouldn't work for many other intellectuals. Snow talk 08:58, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
It sounds very nice. For the subject's own views, his own works are reliable sources, so nothing further is needed (to prove Darwin said 'endless forms most beautiful', you needn't cite anybody else). A reception section is the usual thing for other people's opinions; an actual dialogue would be a treat. Chiswick Chap (talk) 09:02, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
True, and trust me, there will be plenty of primary sourcing for directly attributable positions, but I reckon it can't hurt to pepper in the secondaries liberally, if only for pro forma reasons regarding knee-jerk reactions of some editors to primary sourcing. As to dialogue, there are more than a handful of videos of debates and panels in which he has participated, but the thought of tracking down all the citation details for those is not a pleasant one... Snow talk 09:16, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
I have once or twice been faced with absurd concern about primary sources, and this is what I came up with - it did the trick. In other cases with a good number of secondary refs I just didn't worry about it, but I agree that BLP requires extra caution. Chiswick Chap (talk) 09:58, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Steven Pinker/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Maunus (talk · contribs) 13:51, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

I'll be reviewing this article over the next week.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 13:51, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

  • First impressions: I think the research section is much too short, and omits major information and influences. For example Roger Brown is not even mentioned, Brown was his mentor in graduate school and while Kosslyn provided the impetus for Pinkers research on visualization, Brown provided the foundation for his approach to language. So more focus on his intellectual biography and influences. I also think that given that Pinker almost has two separate careers one as a researcher and one as a popularizer of science those two aspects should be explicitly treated. I also think his major books each of which has its own article deserves their own subsections where the articles about them are summarized - particularly How the Mind Works (here Fodors retort "The Mind doesnt work that way" cannot be omitted), Language Instinct and the Blank Slate have been so widely influential that they require more detailed treatment - probably also Words and Rules, Stuff of Thought and Better Angels. Each section ought to integrate the reviews and reception and critical arguments relating to it. That way you will also be able to get rid of the "criticism" section which currently conflates criticism against Pinker and criticism of his works. Looking forward to discussing how best to improve the article.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:09, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
  • I was wondering whether to review this, and can take a supporting role. Since a GA must cover the 'major aspects' of a subject, I'd concur that research and popular science deserve their sections, with the proviso that the article does not have to attempt to describe or evaluate all his research findings. A brief 'summary style' section on each book starting with a 'main' link also seems desirable, though again these sections are not obliged to be FA-ishly 'comprehensive'. My main concern is simply that being a BLP the reffing needs to be more complete, specially on disputed claims; I feel we should start from the feeling that the current article is quite close to being 'good', and limit ourselves to the GA criteria. Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:47, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Your participation would be entirely welcome. Comprehensiveness Broadness is a GA criterion, and in my view describing and evaluation his findings is necessary at the GA level, because they are what makes him a notable biographic subject. The FA criteria are of course more demanding than for a GA review, but this is the core of a biographical article. I am not nearly as worried about sourcing - Pinkers views and others claims about him are all easy to source, he is afterall one of the most mediatized American scientists of our age. Which disputed claims specifically are you thinking of?User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:02, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. No, comprehensiveness is NOT a GA criterion; glad I mentioned this now. "A featured article must be comprehensive; a good article must be broad. The "comprehensive" standard requires that no major fact or detail is omitted; the "broad" standard merely requires coverage of the main points." We should not go beyond this, however tempting it is to be more thorough or academic. I don't have major worries about specific disputed claims (else I'd have quick-failed the article) but we do need refs for each claim about his work, currently in the 'Research and theory' section; I agree these are readily sourceable. Chiswick Chap (talk) 16:10, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Are you are right, broadness not comprehensiveness. I did realize the criteria differed, just didnt remember the word for the lower level of comprehensiveness. Nonetheless " It covers the main aspects of the topic without going into unnecessary detail." The description and evaluation of his work is the main aspect of the topic in my view. I also disagree very much that we shouldn't try to go beyond this. The purpose of a review is to improve the article, not to aim for some random bar and then stop. For me the review process is about this - to collaboratively improve the article as much as possible and then when that process is over pass it as a GA if it meets the criteria. If the process gets us close to FA status then so much the better.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:16, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Oh good. I'm all for improving things as much as possible, and setting articles on their way with a structure which will bode well etc etc, but not to make demands beyond the criteria, which are far from random. Chiswick Chap (talk) 16:30, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
I am not the kind of reviewer who makes demands - I prefer adjusting expectations in a mutual and participative process with the nominator and other interested parties. I am on the other hand the kind of reviewer who meddles/participates in the editing process, adding content etc. - some editors like this and others don't. I hope we can find a balance.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:42, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Insofar as I'm concerned as the nominator, you should make (and I will be appreciative of) any edit you would feel inclined outside the GA process; that is to say, any edit you think benefits the article, be it new content, alteration of existing content or tweaks to the general structure and flow. Thank you for talking the review on in the first place, Maunus and I'm sorry I'm only just now expressing that; off-wiki life has thrown some rather serious and uncompromising circumstances at me in an unexpected fashion the last couple of days and I've only had time to sporadically check-in and post a couple of trivial edits (which I wasted in other discussions I was engaged in rather than here, where I should have been focusing my limited time). Nonetheless, I've been following the discussion, compiling some articles and sketching out how best to address the issues with the layout that have been broached above. As to some of those points:
  • I agree that treating the two major divisions of his career (academia/research vs. popularized works) independently is well advised. I'm a little less certain about the advisability of developing a section for each broad-audience book, owing to the cross-over between the three that arguably the most notable amongst them (How the Mind Works, The Language Instinct, and The Blank Slate) and the lack of major critical reaction to others; I'm wondering if it might not make more sense to have the section read in a rough chronological fashion, noting the details and reactions to the release of each, but also focusing on thematic elements between them. I hope I'm making sense there. In any event, that's something that can be decided one way or another as we proceed; certainly I'll retain the division as it has been implemented in the most recent version unless/until I've sandboxed something that I'm sure looks better.
  • Before I even get to the popular works section, though, I want to augment the research section considerably. While I agree with the general approach of reflecting the dichotomy of his professional career, I don't want to let his own research to get overwhelmed by his popular works and in so-doing under-serve those who are more interested in those details (be they perhaps in the minority). In most regards, this could easily be the most time-consuming section to construct, owing to the fact that secondary sourcing in this area is going to be a little harder to find and properly contextualize (not exactly hard compared to many other researchers, but harder, relative to the popular books and their voluminous treatment), but as discussed previously, primary sourcing can be of help in plugging the holes here, so long as synthesis is avoided. Anyway, as it will involve a bit of attention to detail, it makes sense to get it out of the way first. I'm considering merging this section with any treatment of his professional/academic influences and collaborators and general criticism of his stances and research (though I don't think the last will be reflected in the title of said section) as I find these details too interconnected to cleanly tease apart. In this way the content currently in the criticism section can be split between the two professional sections.
  • As mentioned, the biography section is way out of whack. I think maybe here the ideal solution is to combine the "early life" elements with the "personal life" section and place them either as the very first or very last section (at present I am well divided on which would be the better, but hopefully that will become obvious as we proceed). The career section can then be combined with the research section to provide a rough chronology of hi professional life and major research milestones, with occasional reference to how his popular books integrate into this chain of events. This might actually end up suggesting a fully integrated professional section, despite the course of action we are committed to just now, but I'm not anticipating as much.
Anyway thanks again for taking on the review. I'm sorry that my personal life has stalled momentum a little, but I'm going to try to get things back on track as quickly as possible. Had I known what this week had in store for me, I'd surely have delayed the nomination, but the situation is what it is and I'll try my best to make all appropriate additions to meet within your timeframe of review over the next week. Snow talk 08:24, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
  • The biography section is weirdly structured, it is not in chronological order and it mixes in a lot of stuff like awards and recognitions before the reader knows about what he is being recognized for. I would encourage separating out awards and recognition to a section of its own, placed after the section on work. Then it will be easier to make the biography section chronological.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:50, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
I've moved the awards to a new section; the sequence is now not too bad. Chiswick Chap (talk) 06:54, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  • It seems to me that the paragraph on Pinkers review of Gladwell gives undue weight to a vey marginal aspect of his work and career - compared to the many other public debates he has participated in and which are mentioned much briefer and many not at all. There are two types of solution to this problem - I think adding more content on his participation in the public debate is the best choice.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 23:08, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Yes, it's WP:UNDUE. I've cut it down, moved other controv. paras into that section or to book sections, and added a bit on the gender & science para. There's certainly more that can be added on other debates.
Since nom has limited availability, and we're all hands-on rather than snipe-from-the-sidelines editors, I shall attempt to help fix issues in a spirit of WP:SOFIXIT; I don't think we'll get this article sorted otherwise. I may therefore respond by editing the article rather than here. ;-} Chiswick Chap (talk) 14:24, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
That is fine, I post here before making any edits to get input - I dont want to start doing something that the nominator or other editors involved are not in agreement with. In cases where there is agreement about how best to proceed I am likely to adopt the hands on approach.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:51, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
  • I had some problems with the biography section that I found to be poorly organized. I tried to start fixing that. I moved his public debate participation which arent really personal life and not really research to their own section. Here we should try to find out what is and isnt notable. I also removed the list of his favorite songs from BBC - I dont think they are likely to be notable. If he were a musician then perhaps. The research section still lacks fleshing out - specially his transition form his work on visual cognition to his work on language and the influence of Roger Brown. User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 17:50, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
Well, Brown is absent from the discussion in this case, but Pinker does address the circumstances of the transition that you mention from visual cognition to language during his graduate and post-doctoral work in some detail in this interview, starting at around 15:30. Snow talk 00:55, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
I should add that, in general, I've not really seen that much in interviews, print or video, where he talks all that much about Brown, at least that I'm recalling right now. Don't get me wrong, the influence is observable in Pinker's early published work (as I was just saying to Chiswick on his talk page, Pinker's first solo-author paper Formal Models of Language Learning, which Pinker has a number of times referenced and as noteworthy moment in his academic development, has a number of citations and references to Brown and obviously the very premise shows some connection), but as to a sourceable description of that relationship coming from Pinker, I'm drawing a blank, though I'll keep looking. Our article on Brown himself, contains a ref (Kagan, J 1999. Roger William Brown. Biographical Memoirs, Volume 77. Washington, DC: The National Academy Press), which purports to support the claim that Brown's work was a major inspiration for The Language Instinct, but I've never read it (the ref) and cannot confirm. If you guys are happy to take it on faith that the contributor who added it to that article got it right, it's good enough for me. There is also this very glowing reference, from the very first page of the preface to the recent anthology of Pinker's formal academic papers Language, Cognition, and Human Nature:
"One of my graduate advisers, Roger Brown, the founder of the field of language acquisition, was a gifted stylist and as a student I savored his prose and poured over his penciled marginalia on my own papers. Though I can crank out turgid mush with the best of them, Roger's example inspired me to strive in my own academic prose for clarity, forcefulness and the occasional touch of flair."
Clearly he sees Brown's influence as more than trivial but that particular quote doesn't establish much as regards how he influenced Pinker's areas of interest, just his style as a writer. It would suffice to say at least though "One of Pinker's graduate advisers was noted psychologist Roger Brown, whom Pinker regards as the founder of the academic field of language acquisition." I'll keep looking for something more substantial in case these two sources can't suffice between them. But for whatever reason, he just doesn't seem to reference Brown as much as other figures he worked with in his early academic career, such as Kosslyn. There are a number of other figures he cites as influences in the above interview (and others I have access to), which could be used to flesh out that section though. Snow talk 01:57, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
Pinker also wrote a very long obituary for Brown that also describes their relation a little bit. I will see if I have some way of accessing the Kagan reference. I do find it quite significant that he regards Brown one of his advisers as the founder of language acquisition studies (Im not sure that view is universally shared) and that he fairly quickly gave up visual imagination to work in the field of language acquisition, which then became the field in which he established his name as a researcher. Also his entire theory of language and meaning -including his aversion to the notion of relativism of thought and language - is based on Brown.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:50, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
In his obituary of Brown, Pinker said Brown's book Words and Things influenced The Language Instinct. I've cited this, and added Pinker's own list of influential figures from the start of LI, in which Brown appears. He praises Brown quite a bit in the obituary; it might be helpful to quote something from it, perhaps, but at least we now have some connection between the men. Chiswick Chap (talk) 19:31, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
Well, is it based on Brown, though? It seems to me that the entire trajectory of his career, emerging views and academic influences (in terms of both concepts and researchers) put him in necessary opposition to relativism. I mean, don't get me wrong, if we turn up a quote from Pinker saying this was the influence of Brown in particular, I won't be astonished, but it's definitely the claim from amongst those we've discussed in this area that most demands a solid source to defend against the notion of OR. Also it's worth noting that in the above interview Pinker cites the general response to his initial forays into language as a big motivator -- academics were more excited and responsive to his work in that field and that exchange fueled his own interest (or so he seems to say). In any event, he never gave up visual phenomena entirely: by the point of How the Mind Works even, it was still an area of active interest and speculation for him, though, as you say, it was probably his work on language that paved the way for his becoming a household name. But the two are a part of a larger complex that typified his work at the time; the notion of a mental phenomena as discrete and empirical. That's also something he touches upon, however briefly, in that interview (and another, longer one I watched just this last week) -- the rejection of strict behaviouralism. I'm wary of going into too much detail on all of these nuanced distinctions though, and running afoul of WP:SYNTH and WP:SUMMARYSTYLE in the process. Snow talk 20:58, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
I agree we dont need to state that the book was based on Browns view of meaning, unless there is a source that explicitly claims that. We should be wary of clashing with WP:SYNTH. I think the recent changes have been great improvements. I am not at all weary of giving too much detail on his work -we are a far cry from "too much" at this point imo - I think this is what should be the bulk of the article - descriptions and evaluations of his work. I think what we should aim for is that a reader after having read the article understands and has an broad overview of Pinker's work, his general views and scientific stances and his importance. I think that more of the same kind of expansions as carried out yesterday, giving deeper descriptions of his main works, would bring us closer to this goal.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 21:23, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
Oh yes, I agree, no doubt -- and unlike many intellectuals, we have all of the sources we'll need in that regard. I'm just thinking there's cause to be cautious about what we include -- he's such a prodigious public speaker, there are many concepts and schools of thought in the cognitive sciences (and associated philosophy), which he may have commented on in a singular context that we should be careful not to avoid here, lest they be ascribed undue weight by the reader as a major component of his work and views. Likewise, I'm concerned, especially for those of us who have followed his work for a long while, that we might find it too easy to synthesize, from those mountains of material, trans-disciplinary currents in his thinking which he has himself not spoken to. Snow talk 19:57, 19 May 2014 (UTC)

GA review[edit]

Here is my evaluation of the article's current state.

  1. Well-written:
    1. the prose is clear and concise, it respects copyright laws, and the spelling and grammar are correct;
    2. it complies with the manual of style guidelines for lead sections, layout, words to watch, fiction, and list incorporation.
I think the Lead need to be expanded to accurately reflect the changes to content.
Extended Lead to cover language acquisition and Better Angels. Chiswick Chap (talk) 09:01, 30 May 2014 (UTC)
  1. Verifiable with no original research:
    1. it contains a list of all references (sources of information), presented in accordance with the layout style guideline;
    2. it provides in-line citations from reliable sources for direct quotations, statistics, published opinion, counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, and contentious material relating to living persons—science-based articles should follow the scientific citation guidelines;
    3. it contains no original research.
  2. Broad in its coverage:
    1. it addresses the main aspects of the topic;
I think the section on "the language instinct and related books" could do a better job of summarizing the arguments in the books.
It's not easy as Pinker covers many hundreds of pages with diverse and intricate arguments... have added Igor Aleksander's cogent thoughts. Have reworked (and attributed) summary from The Language Instinct.
The section on "words and rules" is also extremely short.
Merged it into the section on language books; its argument is discussed at length in the Research and theory section.
The section on Better Angels, could do a better job of summarizing the critiques of the book instead of picking to include two random critiques of the many published ones.
I hear this and sympathize, but one is quickly picked up for WP:OR if one induces rules from a set of examples (I suppose on the grounds that however many examples are given to demonstrate the rule, counter-examples might be found).
I think there are enough different commentary positive and negative, in the main article on the book that it can be summarized without becoming OR.
Ok, added brief summaries positive and negative, with lists of refs.
I also think the nature of his participation in public debate could be better described. It would require some sources that characterize his intellectual stances but that should be possible to find.
Added commentary on Pinker by Ed West.
I also think that each of the sections could be rewritten to have a higher degree of internal cohesion. Some of them stand as series of short unrelated statements. This last idea may be beyond the scope of a GA review which doesnt require good writing.
Yes, you may be right there (all 3 comments); have reorganized for coherence and added new material.
Busy today, will look at this on Sunday/Monday. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:43, 30 May 2014 (UTC)
Very good additions, reading it I stumbled on the paragraph about "the language instinct", which starts by stating that the book has been criticized by Geoffrey Sampson in the book "the language instinct debate", but then goes on to describe other commentary. Perhaps given that Sampsons book seems to be about Pinker's book and its reception this would be a good one to look at a little more, and perhaps at least summarize the arguments by Sampson and others as they appear in it.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 12:40, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
Have described Sampson further. Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:35, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
    1. it stays focused on the topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style).
  1. Neutral: it represents viewpoints fairly and without bias, giving due weight to each.
  2. Stable: it does not change significantly from day to day because of an ongoing edit war or content dispute.
  3. Illustrated, if possible, by images:
    1. images are tagged with their copyright status, and valid fair use rationales are provided for non-free content; and
    2. images are relevant to the topic, and have suitable captions.
I think two of the recently inserted images are not very relevant and that the caption of the second WW2 image is not suitable because it approaches editorializing by implicitly contradicting Pinkers argument. I think an image like this one which Pinker uses in the book would be better. I think the beaver is also to tangentially related to be included.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:38, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
Both topics are discussed explicitly by Pinker in the book, the one as a reference for behavioural 'instinct', the other as a possible (and major) counter-argument which he deals with. However I have removed the images and inserted the Hausbuch one. Chiswick Chap (talk) 09:43, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
Maybe a photo of Chomsky would be more relevant in the section about language books.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 12:40, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
  • I apologize for being slow in responding to the recent improvements, I am traveling with intermittent internet access and lots of work this week. I will get back to the review in detail over the next week. I am sure that you will be able to continue to improve the article along the lines I've suggested meanwhile.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:35, 5 June 2014 (UTC)
Thanks; I think the article is pretty much up to speed now. Chiswick Chap (talk) 09:43, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
I agree it looks really good.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 12:40, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
Have made the changes requested. Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:35, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Considering the serious improvement over the course of this review I am now happy to promote the article to GA. The following comments I leave for the purpose of further improvements towards FA, which is still at some ditance. The Publiv debate section should be more cohesive and include more of Pinkers most significant pubic arguments such as his argument with Leon Wieseltier about the relation between science and humanities research, and his participation in debates regarding evolutionary psychology and adaptationism. The article also still needs editing for cohesion within sections and improvements of prose. For FA it would be necessary for the editors to actually the read books that summarize or contest Pinker's arguments, and describe Pinker's role in the debates regarding language innateness. The research section should also take into account his many published articles, especially the ones that are most widely cited. Nevertheless, I congratulate the editors with the article. Thanks for waiting so long.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:38, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
Thank you very much for the careful review and the suggestions for further work. Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:46, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

Thomas Sowell influence?[edit]

This seems suspect. No source is cited. the C-SPAN source does not mention Sowell. (talk) 06:39, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

  • Pinker frequently has good things to say about Sowell's book A Conflict of Visions. Here's an article where he calls it "wonderful". He also uses the book in college courses he teaches. —Torchiest talkedits 10:40, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

Pinker's views as pro-race and pro-HBD?[edit]

There are many examples of Pinker saying that the denial ofmtue existence of racial groups in scientifically untenable, like here for example. This deserves a mention in the article somewhere.Wajajad (talk) 21:44, 25 October 2014 (UTC)

pro-race? He concludes that there are races and are genetic influences on intelligence. There is no indication that he favors that result, it is just his assessment of the current state of the literature. Given the exist of race there may be medical benefits to studying it until we get to a full fledged personalized medicine. He is intellectually fearless, favoring open inquiry Ideas are connected to other ideas, often in unanticipated ways, and restrictions on content could cripple freedom of inquiry and distort the intellectual landscape. but he also cautions In contrast, the power to uncover genetic and evolutionary roots of group differences in psychological traits is both more likely to materialize and more incendiary in its consequences. And it is a prospect that we are, intellectually and emotionally, very poorly equipped to confront. It is hard to tell he was pro anything in the article other than open inquiry, and he was cautious even about that.Poodleboy (talk) 07:04, 18 July 2016 (UTC)

Defensible conclusions?[edit]

Under the heading "Research and theory" the article states:

In his interview on the Point of Inquiry podcast in 2007, he provides the following examples of defensible conclusions of what science says human nature is:

  • "Individuals differ in personality and intelligence." Even in a perfect economic system, not everyone will have the same amount of wealth.

What the article calls a "defensible conclusion" is what others call a Formal Fallacy.

It is not a valid argument. The conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Mr. Pinker may claim his conclusions are defensible but the article should not imply an invalid argument is valid. (talk) 17:19, 20 March 2015 (UTC)

The aaatheistic conundrum[edit]



a- +‎ aatheist

aaatheist (plural aaatheists)
A person who does not believe in the existence of aatheists.

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Citation clog[edit]

Is the mass of citations in the Better Angels of our Nature section really necessary? I know it covers the broad scope of the criticisms, but it makes it impossible to know which sources correspond to which critique. Andrew Z. Colvin • Talk 03:31, 22 March 2018 (UTC)

Intellectual Dark Web[edit]

You are invited to participate in this AfD discussion about whether to delete Intellectual Dark Web. (I am not watching this page, so please ping me if you want my attention.) --Dr. Fleischman (talk) 22:10, 21 May 2018 (UTC)


This article doesn't mention Pinker's comments about the alt-right this past year, nor does it mention his promotion of the careers of 'race science' advocates like Steve Sailer. It looks like a Pinker fan has been bowdlerizing this article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2604:2000:C5E0:BD00:5468:3A4C:16F7:8B88 (talk) 02:57, 16 October 2018 (UTC)

Well, I have no idea what comments he may or may not have made. Do you have sources for this? NinjaRobotPirate (talk) 02:04, 17 October 2018 (UTC)
His comments on the alt-right were misrepresented, and you can search for sources on this. (never saw this site before, [1]Doug Weller talk 11:41, 17 October 2018 (UTC)
Oh, right, that. I remember now. Yeah, that was essentially Pinker getting trolled. NinjaRobotPirate (talk) 17:29, 17 October 2018 (UTC)

Unverified claims - calling attention reverted[edit]

Pinker is obviously a formidable intellectual. But that doesn't give him a free ride.

I was struck by some unverified, anecdotal claims.

"His seventh book, The Sense of Style (2014), is intended as a general style guide" The idea of "intended" might pass muster in a student's essay, but it is questionable here. Is the book successful in achieving that 'intent'? Who wrote the book? Did they also write the Wikipedia entry? The idea of authorial intent has been the subject of literary and philosophical debate for many years.

Another example:

"Pinker has been named as one of the world's most influential intellectuals by various magazines." There are many types of magazines. Was Hello! magazine one of them? Teen Beat? Foreign Affairs? Time Magazine? The idea that 'various' magazines have celebrated Pinker's intellect is great, but it is important to frame this statement and demonstrate that the 'magazines' are qualified.

There are other examples in the article of statements and claims that miss the mark, but that is all I have time for now. Jbrockettm (talk) 22:48, 5 November 2018 (UTC)

Request to change Steven Pinker's Photo on Wikipedia[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

On behalf of Steven Pinker, I have 3 requested changes, 1. Change picture from current photo to 102111_Pinker_344.jpg 2. Change photo title to "Steven Pinker by Rose Lincoln/Harvard University" 3. Change photo caption to "This photograph is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license by Harvard University."

Steven Pinker has disclosed to me that he would like his Wikipedia picture changed. I attempted to make this edit earlier this year on Steven's behalf, but it looks like the change was reversed.

Because this request was sent to me through email, I do not have a URL to post supporting the requested changes. However, I am happy to send a transcript of the email to a private party or engage in other forms of necessary verification. Aufstrich (talk) 23:26, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

How do we know he has requested this? And if he has, then he has a WP:COI. Also, we don't normally show attribution for photos in captions, unless the photographer is notable. Sorry. In any case, you should upload the image first either here or at Commons and provide a link to it, so we can see what it's like. Martinevans123 (talk) 23:50, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

Reply 14-NOV-2018[edit]

Emojione1 2705.svg  Edit request implemented    Spintendo  00:47, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

I didn't realise this image had been already uploaded by the requester and previously used. I also didn't realise that the subject of an article could just email in his requests for edits. Maybe Mr Pinker would like to email you directly next time and cut out the middle men! Martinevans123 (talk) 08:44, 15 November 2018 (UTC)
Thanks so much for your help here! I apologize for any violations of WP conduct that I unintentionally engaged in. Please do let me know if there is another person or account that Steven Pinker can email directly for future requests as I would be happy to be cut out of the equation in the future. Aufstrich (talk) 13:57, 15 November 2018 (UTC)
The OTRS email address is the only route to use for authenticating submitted material from a BLP article's subject. @Martinevans123: submitted documents like the image in question may be submitted that way — but as OTRS editors typically do not add material to articles themselves, the request to add the image should still be made here on the talk page.[a]  Spintendo  15:50, 16 November 2018 (UTC)
Oh, I see, you received a parallel request via OTRS. Fine. But thanks for not adding the license details to the caption. I think the OP's request might have been clearer with an actual link to the file. Martinevans123 (talk) 15:54, 16 November 2018 (UTC)


  1. ^ OTRS editors have been known to make requests on behalf of COI editors who have sent in submissions, but those requests too, are almost always made on the article's talk page using the {{request edit}} template.


Yes the lead is way too long. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:04, 13 March 2019 (UTC)

Conflict with Phil Torres[edit]

Why, exactly was my contribution on the Torres-Pinker conflict removed Martinevans123 ? Nancymc (talk) 23:55, 9 November 2019 (UTC)

As per my edit summary, the reasons (that I could see) were WP:WEIGHT and WP:RECENTISM. Thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 23:59, 9 November 2019 (UTC)

I'm going to add a section on the infamous alt-right comments controversy - I can't believe it isn't here already, it was a big big deal. Are you planning to take that down too? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Nancymc (talkcontribs) 00:02, 10 November 2019 (UTC)