Harvard’s Pinker to lecture on history of violence

    Prof. Steven PinkerHarvard University Professor Steven Pinker will lecture on the history of violence Feb. 20, kicking off a new Contemporary Thought Speaker Series at Northwestern, the University announced Wednesday. He was invited by the Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee (UBPC) in an effort to bring more intellectual engagement to campus.

    Pinker’s lecture, titled “A History of Violence,” will focus on the decreasing prevalence of bloodshed and warfare in the modern world. The presentation will stem from his most recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

    The UPBC began planning the lecture series nearly a year ago, when student surveys expressed a desire to bring a greater degree of intellectualism to campus.

    “The way it is at Northwestern, people can often be so focused on their own majors that they all become a little bit fragmented,” said UBPC chair Jonathan Green, who led the steering committee tasked with coordinating the lecture series. “We want to follow up on our tradition from the 1920s and 30s of bringing well-known public intellectuals to campus to fulfill that need for academic enrichment.” According to Green, Pinker was an ideal candidate for the inaugural lecture of the annual speaker series and has been on the committee’s radar for months.

    “We started brainstorming names last year, and Dr. Pinker’s name was the first we came up with,” Green said. “He’s very much a specialist, accomplished but also engaging. He’s someone who asks really perennial, social and moral questions, and in that he’ll represent intellectual life returning to campus.”

    The Contemporary Thought Speaker series is set to invite one lecturer each year, and Green’s committee is already at work looking for a 2013 speaker.

    The incredible thing about event is that it’s so young and has a lot of room to grow,” Green said. “And I’m really excited to see how this program continues to grow in the future.”

    Pinker’s lecture will take place at 6 p.m. in Ryan Auditorium at the Technological Institute. Tickets for the lecture will be available through the Norris Box Office beginning Feb. 13 for students, faculty and staff. Tickets are free but needed to reserve a seat.

    Photo by Max Gerber / StevenPinker.com


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