Adam Gopnik, author of Angels & Ages, A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life and Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate and many other works, discuss a fundamental question: How far can Darwin take us as a guide to why we are the way we are?
Both outspoken appreciators of Darwin, Adam Gopnik and Steven Pinker will compare their visions -- perhaps complementary, perhaps contrasting -- of what Darwin's legacy is on the two hundredth anniversary of his birth.
Adam Gopnik has been writing for The New Yorker since 1986. His most recent book is "The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food."
Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist and one of the world's foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature. Currently Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, Pinker has also taught at Stanford and MIT. His research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has won prizes from the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, and the American Psychological Association. He has also received seven honorary doctorates, several teaching awards at MIT and Harvard, and numerous prizes for his books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Blank Slate. He is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and often writes for The New York Times, Time, and The New Republic. He has been named Humanist of the Year, Prospect magazine's "The World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals," Foreign Policy's "100 Global Thinkers," and Time magazine's "The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today." His most recent book is The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. (photo credit: Max Gerber)
Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker relays his favorite bit of "Darwiniana": Darwin's principle of antithesis.
Darwin proposed that both animals and humans alike employ a certain set of biological signals to convey one emotion (like aggression), while using the exact opposite signals to convey the exact opposite emotion (like passivity).
The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik examines Charles Darwin's contentious exploration of race.
Gopnik argues that while Darwin may have been a "civilizationist," he was not inherently racist. The father of evolution believed the key difference among humans was not genetic, but rather based on access to education and cultural acquisitions.