Steven Pinker, Political Correctness, and the Urge To Censor

One of the highlights of 2012 for me was that I got to sit down and interview Harvard psychology professor and bestselling author Steven Pinker. During the course of our conversation, we discussed his books, the role dissent plays in society, the special importance of free speech on campus, and the origins of political correctness. Professor Pinker is the author of The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of our Nature, and The Stuff of Thought, a member of FIRE’s Board of Advisors, and one of my favorite authors.

In this video, Pinker notes the irony that campuses, which rely on the open exchange of ideas more than any other institution, often restrict speech more aggressively than society at large. Pinker describes how the urge to censor is related to the “psychology of taboo,” a topic he expanded upon back in 2010 when he, along with Harvey Silverglate and me, accepted an award on FIRE’s behalf from Boston’s Ford Hall Forum.

Do you agree with Pinker that the urge to censor is related to the “psychology of taboo?” Or, for that matter, do you think we have a natural instinct to censor?

(Also, for fun, check out what Pinker had to say about my book.)