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February 5, 2015 11:53 am

Jewish 100, 2014: Steven Pinker – Academia

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Steven Pinker. Photo: Rebecca Goldstein, Harvard University.

Steven Pinker

Psychologist and Harvard professor

One of the world’s most prominent psychologists, Harvard University Professor Steven Pinker has revolutionized contemporary research in such fields as neuroscience and the science of language. In 2014, he brought his substantial intellect to bear on the fevered debate about the antisemitic campaign to boycott Israel, when he protested the decision by Harvard University’s Dining Service to ban the use of the Israeli-made SodaStream soda dispenser. In a letter to Harvard’s provost and president lambasting the decision, Pinker highlighted many of the ills of contemporary academic culture, among them “the idea that students are to be protected from ‘discomfort’ or so-called ‘microaggression’ when they are exposed to beliefs that differ from theirs.” At the same time as making clear his disagreements with the current Israeli government’s policies, Pinker asserted, “I object even more strongly to the policies of the governments of countries such as Russia, India, Pakistan, China, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. In a world filled with governments with deplorable policies, it is pernicious for a university to single out one of them for opprobrium.”

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