Pinker, Epstein, Soldier, Spy

Pinker, Epstein, Soldier, Spy

That convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had help in avoiding federal or state prison is unsurprising: money and power often buy what they shouldn’t. But the recent revelation that Epstein found aid from star psychologist Steven Pinker in the form of a 2007 legal document surprised both Pinker’s fans and critics.

At least at first. Then came the analysis: to supporters of Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, his ties to Epstein are an aberration in an otherwise commendable life as a public intellectual — one based on reason and truth, even when that’s unpopular. Increasingly, Pinker’s work centers on the notion that life is good — better than it’s ever been — and that we don’t appreciate it enough.

As Pinker wrote in 2018’s Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress, “People seem to bitch, moan, whine, carp and kvetch as much as ever,” despite reams of data on how humans’ quality of life continues to improve.

Pinker’s detractors, meanwhile, take the revelation that he knew Epstein and contributed to his legal defense as proof that the professor is a fraud, has lost his way, or both. Just as critics have accused Pinker of glossing over inequality and the continued suffering of individuals in praising progress, they’ve asked how he could have patinated a predator’s defense.

“At a certain point, if you’re playing Dr. Pangloss to people who administer a monstrous social order, then at some point you’re going to rub shoulders with and do favors for actual monsters,” said Patrick Blanchfield, a scholar of politics and violence and an affiliate faculty member at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research.

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/07/17/steven-pinkers-aid-jeffrey-epsteins-legal-defense-renews-criticism-increasingly

 

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