Americans & Trust: An Interview With Steven Pinker

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker is author of The Language Instinct , How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, and The Stuff of Thought. Among other contributions, he is widely known for his work in the field of evolutionary psychology. He is also something of a pubic intellectual, and in the following interview he shares his thinking on the current social and political landscape.

"Americans' trust in the media, their government, and each other has declined over the past four decades. And yet, according to many national surveys, trust in science and scientists remains high. In a 2006 Harris poll, for example, 77 percent of respondents said they trust scientists to tell the truth–roughly 60 percent more than the number who trusted the president.

In recent years, however, several areas of scientific research—from global warming to stem cell research to evolution—have become highly politicized, in ways that threaten the credibility of prominent scientists and their findings.

In one notorious instance, the Bush administration fired cell biologist Elizabeth Blackburn and medical ethicist William May from the President's Council on Bioethics, a decision that many critics alleged was part of an effort to purge the Council of dissenting scientific voices." More

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