On this week’s installment of Exploration, Professor Daniel Dennett argues that it is possible to use evolution to explain the origin of religion. Then, at 5:30, Professor Steven Pinker argues the effect of genes and upbringing on the brain.
Daniel Clement “Dan” Dennett III (born March 28, 1942) is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science.
He is currently the Co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and a University Professor at Tufts University. Dennett is an atheist and secularist, a member of the Secular Coalition for America advisory board,as well as an outspoken supporter of the Brights movement. Dennett is referred to as one of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism“, along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens.
Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, and popular science author. He is a Harvard College Professor and the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.
Pinker’s academic specializations are visual cognition and psycholinguistics. His experimental subjects include mental imagery, shape recognition, visual attention, children’s language development, regular and irregular phenomena in language, the neural bases of words and grammar, and the psychology of innuendo and euphemism. He published two technical books which proposed a general theory of language acquisition and applied it to children’s learning of verbs. In his popular books, he has argued that language is an “instinct” or biological adaptation shaped by natural selection. He is the author of six books for a general audience: The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997), Words and Rules (2000), The Blank Slate (2002), The Stuff of Thought (2007), and The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011).