Here's a talk topic to catch the eye: "Is the Idea of Human Nature Dangerous"? The brainy fellow who will take on that question in Seattle...

Share story

Here’s a talk topic to catch the eye: “Is the Idea of Human Nature Dangerous”?

The brainy fellow who will take on that question in Seattle this week is Steven Pinker, author of “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature” (Penguin Putnam).

Pinker, a Harvard University professor, is in town to pick up the Walter P. Kistler Book Award, presented by the Bellevue-based Foundation for the Future. The award is presented annually ” to recognize authors of science-based books that significantly increase the knowledge and understanding of the public regarding subjects that will shape the future of our species.” It carries a $10,000 cash prize. Of Pinker’s 2002 book, Seattle Times reviewer Bruce Ramsey said:

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“The human mind, he (Pinker) says, is not a blank slate like a memory chip, automatically yielding control to social software. Humans come with a ‘Pleistocene psyche.’ We are influenced by the world around us, to be sure. But we are also hard-wired for language and cooperation, for favors, for fighting and for keeping score. …

“It is a feast of a book. Pinker’s analytical and impish mind ranges from Charles Darwin to Abigail Van Buren, from scientific studies to Annie Hall. It is less about science than what science implies for our most cherished beliefs.”

Pinker will speak at 7 p.m. Friday in Room 130 at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus; free. For more information contact the University Book Store (206-634-3400; www.ubookstore.com). More information on Foundation for the Future is available at www.futurefoundation.org.

Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times book editor