Sophomores and Beer Money

Steven Pinker:

When psychologists say “most people” they usually mean “most of the two dozen sophomores who filled out a questionnaire for beer money.”

Fascinating article in the New York Times on “The Moral Instinct.” For what it’s worth — and at the risk of seeming self-promoting — there is a free, non-profit educational web site that has several full interviews with Dr. Norman Borlaug about his work in agriculture. Go to and click on the “Media Resouces” for video podcasts of his interviews. Or go to the “Farming in the 50s-60s” section and click on the “Crops” subsection to see longer articles about the history and debate about the Green Revolution. Again, it’s totally free and non-profit.

I’ve only recently become aware of the experimental philosophy movement for morality, but it is absolutely fascinating and makes me wish I were back in college so I could spend more time with it. Pinker’s article is an excellent summary of the field. He (or, rather, his scholarship) is actually directly responsible for my discovering this new branch of scholarship. I was reading his Language Instinct on a whim; because of his explanation of Chomsky’s theories, I was able to understand an article that John Mikhail posted on SSRN (this one, I think, though it’s not his best); and Mikhail’s article opened the door to everything else.

That being said, it does make me a little bit sad that science appears to be encroaching on yet another area formerly reserved to pure thought.