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Aiken Lecture Series

Hosted by the University of Vermont College of Arts and Sciences

Keynote address by Steven Pinker: War and Peace – A History of Violence

Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm

UVM Ira Allen Chapel

Parking available in the Gutterson Garage after 3:30pm

The speaker:

StevenPinkerKnown for his verve, his wit, and his profound ideas-many of them explained by referencing pop culture-Steven Pinker helps non-specialists understanding the science behind human thought and action. One of the world’s leading cognitive scientists, Pinker translates his groundbreaking research into articles (he’s written for The New York Times and Nature) and books that are accessible to the general reader. His books include The Better Angels of Our Nature, which garnered a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year award, The Blank Slate and How The Mind Works, both bestsellers, and both finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. His acclaimed “language” series includes The Language Instinct, Words and Rules, and The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

A native of Montreal, Pinker is Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard and has also taught at Stanford and at MIT. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has won a number of teaching prizes, and was named among Newsweek’s “100 Americans for the Next Century.” His research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has received numerous awards, including the Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences.

The topic:

Faced with the ceaseless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, one could easily think we live in the most violent age ever seen. Yet as New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows in this startling and engaging new talk, just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, pogroms, gruesome punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows audiences how all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned. How has this happened?

This groundbreaking talk continues Pinker’s exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly nonviolent world. The key, he explains, is to understand our intrinsic motives-the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away-and how changing circumstances have allowed our better angels to prevail. Exploding fatalist myths about humankind’s inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious and provocative talk is sure to be hotly debated, and will challenge and change the way we think about our society.

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