03.14.05 NOTES: Distinction@Case: Steven Pinker on Nature and Nurture

Submitted by peter holmes on Sun, 03/20/2005 - 14:34.

Steven Pinker's tour de force challenged listeners'
cognitive capacities while providing powerful affirmation of the work
being done to transform NEO's civic and business culture.

His hour-long Severance Hall lecture Monday afternoon was the first
in a series of lectures by global thinkers sponsored by Case Western
Reserve University.

Pinker presented an interpretation of the
balance between nature and nurture in the creation of unique
individuals. From the perspective of the "blank slate," as the tableau
on which people's experiences are integrated by the brain, Pinker
demonstrated that genetics play a central role in this process.

He challenged the sell-out audience to be optimists, in adopting
behavoir that affirms that environmental influences are at once
all-important in determining what individuals' capacities are for
intellectual endeavor, all the while acknowledging that genetics play a
differentiating role in individuals' brain's ability to organize,
conceptualize and perform a variety of executive functions.

Pinker is a professor of linguistics at Harvard University and is recognized as a global contributor to the cognitive sciences, a field that blends concepts from a range of traditional areas of concentration -- information technology, neurology, English, psychology, sociology, and so forth. The cognitive sciences role in creating new academic disciplines is acknowledged by the creation of a new Department of Cognitive Sciences at the School of Arts and Sciences, at Case.

Professor Mark Turner, the Dean of Arts & Sciences introduced Steven Pinker to a enthusiastic audience, that was challenged by the breadth of his erudition and the manner that he conveyed complex philosophical propositions. It was extrermely stimulating presentation, one that will undoubtedly give rise to a healthy and thought provoking discussion in REALNEO.

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