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10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

Discover these must-reads to expand your horizons.


10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

There is so much suffering in the world.


Learning about kids dying from cancer or seeing photos from war-torn areas makes us think negatively about the whole globe and the humans on it.


Is it true though? Is the world increasingly evil?


Steven Pinker is an American-Canadian psychologist and intellectual. He has written books like ‘Enlightenment Now’ and ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’, both of which draw our attention to all that is good in this world.


Here is a list of books recommended by him. These books will sift out the noise, so you can focus on what’s right.



10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

Holy design or cosmic accident?


For people like me, the complexity of the universe points towards a Divine force.

Dawkins forces us to ponder our assumptions.


He makes the case that natural selection is in itself enough to give rise to complex species. To him, the theory of evolution is the only true explanation of our origin.


“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. ”


Evolution doesn’t happen suddenly. It takes place over millions and millions of years.

Humans’ perception of time is limited to months and years. So it is difficult for us to contemplate such a long period, Dawkins says.


Disbelief in evolution leads to social problems. For example, a distrust of vaccines. This is the reason why the author is bent on making us realize that natural selection is the only force behind life on earth.


“In the case of living machinery, the ‘designer’ is unconscious natural selection, the blind watchmaker.”


I say, isn’t Natural Selection like a God then?


Although a bit difficult to read, I’d recommend this book to atheists and theists alike.

Whether you agree with Dawkins’ conclusion of God’s absence or not, you are sure to learn a lot about evolution and biology.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

Social media or the truth distortion machine?


A compelling book, making us confront the falsehood permeating mankind through social media posts.


People are highly susceptible to believing in fake news. They click like, share, and subscribe without ascertaining the truth of the statements.


“…intelligence is no defense against false belief.”


Trolls and propaganda machines have a field day with this vulnerability. They blur the lines between truth and falsehood.


Rauch draws our attention to the rules of liberal science which are “objectivity, factuality, rationality”. The failure to incorporate these values into social systems can lead to the downfall of democracy.


“Maybe Socrates would rather be right than popular, but most of us prefer to maintain our good standing with our tribe, a reasonable call when one considers that Socrates was executed by his fellow citizens.”


I can relate to the need for ‘good standing’. God knows how many times I have bit my tongue on social media to avoid backlash.


While there is no sure-shot solution, Raunch suggested self-accountability.


Digital publications can adhere to rules through self-regulation. This solution doesn’t require government intervention.


Raunch’s book is a wake-up call for all of us, to stick to objective facts in the face of “epistemic tribalism”.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

Questioning is your passport to infinity.


‘The sea of knowledge is limitless,’ is what I learned in my childhood.


Turns out it is right.


Deutsch explains that the human quest for answers has led to countless advancements.


You and I haven’t walked on the moon or been to the center of stars but we have learned what that’s like. Either someone else has experienced it or the answer was reached through questioning and criticism of possible theories.


“There is only one way of thinking that is capable of making progress, or of surviving in the long run, and that is the way of seeking good explanations through creativity and criticism.”


The author tells us about the 1789 theory by Malthus. Malthus theorized that humanity would stop advancing by the 19th century.


As we know he couldn’t be more wrong. Based on what he knew, this idea wasn’t farfetched.


“Like an explosive awaiting a spark, unimaginably numerous environments in the universe are waiting out there…”


There is a lot we don’t know and haven’t discovered.


What is the lesson for us? Keep questioning.


The societies that continue practicing absurd cultural rituals (like female genital mutilation) don’t allow their followers to apply critical thinking.


This book will spike your curiosity and make you marvel at humanity’s intellect.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

Data-driven answers to life’s complex questions.


Seth is a data scientist and economist. His first book, ‘Everybody Lies’ was a New York Times bestseller.


His second book uses big data to provide a refreshing view of life. It tells us what matters.


“A sixty-year-old start-up founder has a roughly three times higher chance of creating a valuable business than a thirty-year-old start-up founder.”


There are many chapters in the book focusing on different areas of life, for example, desirable traits in romantic partners, happiness, and parenting.


While there is a lot to learn, I am going to share some points which I found very intriguing.


Things like breastfeeding, TV time, etc., have surprisingly little effect on children’s success in the long run.

  1. The parents’ decision of where to raise a child has the most effect on how a child will turn out.

  2. No single factor like religion, attractiveness, wealth, etc., predicts marital success.

  3. Social media makes you miserable.

  4. The more you feel like you shouldn’t do something, the more likely it is that doing it will bring you happiness, like attending a dinner or going to the gym.

“One of the best ways to improve one’s happiness is to avoid that instinct to avoid doing things that seem like a lot of energy.”


The author crunches big numbers for us so we can understand the priority of different decisions in our lives.


There is a lot to learn from this book.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

The war since the beginning of time.


The author discusses the effects of infectious outbreaks on civilization.


Many times, the population of the world decreased significantly, thanks to the transfer of pathogens from one geographic area to the other. But humanity, in the face of it all, remained resilient.


“Two hundred years ago, almost half of all people born died before their fifth birthday, mostly from infection. Today, that figure is below one in twenty-five.”


Nevertheless, our history is shaped by these diseases. And this is precisely what the author discusses.


He also draws lessons for the future. Instead of bioweapons, we should be spending on healthcare systems.


Nowadays heart attacks and strokes are the leading causes of death. We might think of it negatively. In reality, this points towards the downfall of infectious diseases.


“…until recent decades, most people didn’t live long enough to die of heart failure.”


This book is an easy read with statistics and anecdotes. It will give you an overview of history concerning the pandemics that have come and gone.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

What’s the secret bias babies are born with?


The writer of this book is a professor of psychology.


She has done extensive research on the relationship between speech and social interactions.


“…almost every aspect of social life is shaped by the way we speak.”


In her research, kids younger than one year old showed a preference for speech with the accent of their primary caregiver.


The bias of speech develops even earlier than human children start recognizing race.

The ‘gay speech’ of men who come out as homosexual happens as their self-identity shifts. The vocal cords are the same as they were before.


“Linguists have recently discovered that people who are prone to matching their speech to others share some key personality traits… they tend to score high on openness — being broad-minded and receptive to new experiences.”


Humans alter their speech to fit in different social groups.


One interesting takeaway is the benefit of multilingualism in kids’ development. This made me feel a tinge of pride as I am raising my kid bilingual, with a plan to introduce other languages soon.


It is an interesting book that shows us how we discriminate based on accent and language.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

Fire and water can’t coexist, but can worry and optimism?


The human mind is biased towards the negative. With a changing world, we are comforted by the memories of the ‘good old past’.


Was the past better? Are we worse off than our ancestors?


Easterbrook aims to convince us that this is not the case.


“There is a great deal to worry about. But while worrying, be optimistic.”


His book covers different aspects of human life like the economy, poverty, violence, etc.

The violence, diseases, and wars have significantly declined, while prosperity and education are rising. But the average person doesn’t seem to think so.


Why is that the case?


The author thinks that the blame lies with social media.


Honestly, reading about the negative effects of social media on happiness and how it makes you see the world upside down makes me want to quit it.


“Optimism does not make us blind to the many faults of the world. Rather, optimism is the conviction that problems can be solved if we roll up our sleeves and get to work…”


The author’s message is that of hope and optimism.'


We can be realistic and work towards the solutions to problems without letting the news cloud our judgment.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

A skeptic’s take on the human desire for immortality.


We desire to give deeper meaning to the world around us. We try to explain the unexplainable through God and religion. The same is the case with death and afterlife.

Most of us are inclined to believe that the body dies and the soul remains.


In this book, Shermer explores humanity’s beliefs in the afterlife. He explores NDEs (near-death experiences) and the religious view of heaven and hell.


“Muslim scripture describes paradise as a garden that includes flowing water, along with milk, wine, honey, dates, pomegranates, and other earthly delights…”


However, being a skeptic, he criticizes religious beliefs.


He goes on to discuss scientific attempts at immortality, which he calls “techno-optimism”.


It includes:

  • cryogenics (freezing the brain or body)

  • transhumanism (improving humans through technology)

  • mind uploading (uploading the human brain to a computer)

These endeavors also get his criticism. The author doesn’t think human life can ever exceed 125 years.


“Embrace the mystery. What we do not need to do is fill in the explanatory gaps with gods or any such preternatural forces.”


To Sehmer, immortality is a meaningless pursuit. We can get happiness through social connections and living our best.


This book is an interesting dive into humanity’s desire to avoid death and live forever.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

Do Americans see the same blue as Africans?


McWhorter criticizes the extreme fringe of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which states that language affects a person’s worldview.


Japanese have the same term for blue and green. Russians have different terms for light blue and dark blue.


This doesn’t however mean that both of them don’t perceive the different shades of blue and green. They still do.


“If you want to learn about how humans differ, study cultures. However, if you want insight as to what makes all humans worldwide the same, beyond genetics, there are few better places to start than how language works.”


The writer shares various linguistic findings while criticizing the ‘Whorfian’ worldview.


He claims that the world is seen similarly by all people regardless of language differences.


I find this conclusion very compelling. In my personal experience, I find the same.


Humans view the world in the same manner despite having different words for it.




10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Steven Pinker That Will Transform Your World View

Polish your quills because you are about to get inspired.


In school, we were taught writing as a skill.


The authors of this book argue that it is an intellectual exercise.


“…writing is an intellectual activity, not a bundle of skills.”


They aim to teach the reader about the classic style of writing. While there are many styles of writing, the classic style is clear, simple, direct, and easy.


It looks effortless but it isn’t so for the writer of that piece.


“Plain style values simplicity but shuns nuance. Classic style values both simplicity and nuance.”


If the writing looks forced and wordy, it feels like the writer is trying to tell the reader how hard it was to write it. In such a case, it is not classical writing.


“The classic version introduces a refinement, a qualification, a meditation on the plain version that makes it classic.”


The authors contrast the plain style with the classic style. The classic style has all elements of the plain but isn’t plain.


An example of the plain style is, ‘The truth is pure and simple’. In classic style it would be, ‘The truth is rarely pure, and never simple.’


I found this book very interesting and would recommend it to all aspiring writers.



 

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