Professor Steven Pinker on FIRE, Censorship, and the 'Psychology of Taboo'
September 30, 2010
Earlier this year, Boston's historic Ford Hall Forum honored FIRE with the 2010 Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award. Since its founding in 1981, the award has recognized "individuals and organizations that demonstrate extraordinary commitment to promoting and facilitating the thoughtful exercise of our right to freedom of expression." FIRE was, and continues to be, deeply gratified by this accolade.
FIRE was doubly honored that bestselling author, Harvard professor, and FIRE Board of Advisors member Steven Pinker was available to speak at the event about the importance of FIRE's work in defending the First Amendment on campus. Pinker, an expert in cognitive science, discussed the "psychology of taboo" and its deleterious effects on freedom of thought. In his speech, Pinker stated that he was "grateful that we have an organization like FIRE to push back against the tendency in human nature to squelch inquiry under the mentality of taboo." FIRE has now made available a transcript of Pinker's brief but illuminating speech. Pinker's speech brings up intriguing questions about human psychology that are well worth contemplating.
Boston PBS affiliate WGBH has also posted video of the event online. You can now watch the award ceremony online at the WGBH Forum Network. In a panel moderated by federal District Judge Nancy Gertner, Greg also discusses his new book project and FIRE Board Chairman Harvey Silverglate talks about FIRE's founding and its continued relevance. You can also download the video through iTunes.