Tarring Steve Pinker and others with Jeffrey Epstein

July 12, 2019 • 1:35 pm

Several times this week I’ve seen people of low character go after Steve Pinker because of his supposed association with accused sexual predator and child-sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. (Note: my own view is that there’s overwhelming evidence that Epstein is guilty and, after a fair trial, deserves to go to jail for decades.)

But that’s not enough. I see articles where, on no evidence at all, scientists and atheists are tarred because they either knew Epstein or associated with him. This innuendo is meant to imply that those people knew about Epstein’s crimes and either ignored them or, perhaps, even participated in them. In other words, they’re complicit. I could reproduce several examples, but I suspect readers have already seen them, and I’m not going to highlight and send traffic to miscreants involved in slander or character assassination.

But this kind of stuff disturbed me so much—since Pinker is a friend whose character I respect—that I wrote to him, asking what was up with him and Epstein. Did he know the man, and under what circumstances? Didn’t he ever suspect that there was sexual predation going on? I told Steve that he didn’t have to answer if he didn’t want to, but that I was concerned, and that if he did respond, I wouldn’t publish anything he said without his permission.

Steve did email me, and when I read what he wrote I asked permission to publish what he said. I didn’t think he would say “yes”, but he did—as I would if I were so slandered—so here you have Pinker’s own response to the slurs against him. His words are indented.

I’m happy to share my encounters with Epstein.

The annoying irony is that I could never stand the guy, never took research funding from him, and always tried to keep my distance. Friends and colleagues described him to me as a quantitative genius and a scientific sophisticate, and they invited me to salons and coffee klatches at which he held court. But I found him to be a kibitzer and a dilettante — he would abruptly change the subject ADD style, dismiss an observation with an adolescent wisecrack, and privilege his own intuitions over systematic data. I think the dislike was mutual—according to a friend, he “voted me off the island,” presumably because he was sick of me trying to keep the conversation on track and correcting him when he shot off his mouth on topics he knew nothing about. But Epstein had insinuated himself with so many people I intersected with (Alan Dershowitz, Martin Nowak, John Brockman, Steve Kosslyn, Lawrence Krauss) and so many institutions he helped fund (Harvard’s Program in Evolutionary Dynamics, ASU’s Origins Project, even Harvard Hillel) that I often ended up at the same place with him. (Most of these gatherings were prior to the revelation of his sex crimes, such as the 2002 plane trip to TED with Dawkins, Dennett, the Brockmans, and others, but Krauss’s Origins Project Meeting came after he served his sentence.) Since I was often the most recognizable person in the room, someone would snap a picture; some of them resurfaced this past week, circulated by people who disagree with me on various topics and apparently believe that the photos are effective arguments.

In the interests of full disclosure, there was another connection. Alan Dershowitz and I are friends and colleagues, and we taught a course together at Harvard. He often asks me questions about syntax and semantics of laws, most recently the impeachment statute. While he was representing Epstein, he asked me about the natural interpretation of one of the relevant laws, and I offered my opinion; this was cited in a court document. I did it as a favor to a friend and colleague, not as a paid expert witness, but I now regret that I did so. And needless to say I find Epstein’s behavior reprehensible.

Since some of the social-media snark insinuates that I downplay sexual exploitation, it may be worth adding that I have a paper trail of abhorrence of violence against women, have celebrated efforts to stamp it out, and have tried to make my own small contribution to this effort.

My review of the history of rape and battering in The Better Angels of Our Nature begins:

“Rape is one of the prime atrocities in the human repertoire. It combines pain, degradation, terror, trauma, the seizure of a woman’s means of perpetuating life, and an intrusion into the makeup of her progeny. It is also one of the commonest of atrocities.”

The lengthy section lauds feminist writers like Susan Brownmiller who first documented the prevalence of rape and the historic indifference to it, and who called for concerted measures to eliminate it. I then refute the cynical assumption that those measures are idealistic or utopian, that nothing can be done to combat violence against women until some distant day in the future in which the patriarchy is finally dismantled or human nature changes. On the contrary, I show that this campaign has achieved considerable success: rates of sexual assault and domestic violence against women have dropped dramatically since data were first kept by Bureau of Justice Statistics, and societal tolerance has plummeted as well. (I updated the data In Enlightenment Now.) As far as I know I’m the only writer who has documented and celebrated actual progress in reducing violence against women, and argued that this progress shows that the effort is not futile and should embolden us to press for greater reductions still.

Given my longstanding distaste for everything Epstein, it’s galling to be publicly associated with him based on some photos and mutual associates, but I suppose this is one of the dubious perquisites of fame (by academic standards).  And it’s a particular hazard in the era of social media — last year I was featured in a New York Times op-ed by Jesse Singal called “Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A”; this year I appear to be Exhibit B.

There you have it. If people are going to tar Pinker by flaunting his association with Epstein, then Pinker deserves a reply. This is his reply, and any further discussion should take it into account.

Note: At Steve’s request I’ve made two small emendations for clarity.

163 thoughts on “Tarring Steve Pinker and others with Jeffrey Epstein

  1. I think it likely that even here, in the WEIT comments, there will be a “yeah, but” comment. Or worse.

    1. This section of his response is a problem that leads to more questions. He’s a smart guy he has to know that.

      “While he was representing Epstein, he asked me about the natural interpretation of one of the relevant laws, and I offered my opinion; this was cited in a court document. I did it as a favor to a friend and colleague, not as a paid expert witness, but I now regret that I did so.”

        1. Well, it may be seen as a problem since Pinker cannot explain his explanation. It is interpreted and used by an attorney with reference to a well know academic – Pinker.

  2. Ya know what is disturbing? All these rich fuckers knew what the fuck was going on and THEY LOOKED THE OTHER WAY while kids were fucking raped and trafficked. BURN IT ALL DOWN.

      1. Ironically, the only person I knew who ever used that phrase was a 20yo kid who voted for Trump, because he “wanted to burn it all down,” without even knowing what that might mean. (And he was black.)

        Such comments are… not helpful.

        1. But instructive. Humans are capable of incredibly incongruous and fractured epistemological foundations. They can run one belief OS 0.9 of the time and turn to a wholly incompatible one the remainder for security or tribalism or simply ignorance.

    1. Who is “they” and “all these rich fuckers”? How do you know what they knew or didn’t know? Burn what down?

      We know that Bill Clinton took one of Epstein’s planes nicknamed the “lolita express” to his “lolita” island over two dozen times, and half dozen of those ditching his secret service. So is Bill Clinton one of the “rich fuckers” you are talking about? If so, then how do you know what he knew or didn’t know? I dislike Clinton for many other reasons, and think it highly likely he was raping children, but I don’t know that, and I don’t think he has even been accused.

      Do you have a list of people you are referring to here and what evidence do you have?

      With money and paying non-rich employees to turn a blind eye it seems quite easy for Epstein to rape kids without the other rich people actually knowing about it. I am not sure why you just assume “all these rich fuckers” are guilty and that it “all” needs to “burn”. What about all the poor and middle class people who possibly knew? Are they not to be dealt with?

  3. I had no idea of any connection between this guy and Pinker. The guilt by association thing is always something that can happen to any of us. I hope sending you that article earlier today on Harvard’s connection to Epstein did not offend. It was meant to show, I suppose, what a creepy guy he was. Gaining favor from the school only to raise his phony reputation.

  4. I had heard nothing, but thanks for setting the record straight.

    For some reason, many of my leftist friends seem to have an ax to grind with Professor Pinker…evidently for talking about the problems of the day in something beyond slogans that fit on a bumper sticker.

  5. That’s a good email from Pinker, one that bears the indicia of probity. And I have no reason at all to doubt his utter blamelessness.

    OTOH, and completely unrelated to Pinker, I suspect there are some tight sphincters out there this week among any of the high-and-mighty who might’ve engaged in any dodgy conduct with Jeffrey Epstein.

    Epstein’s going down for the count, from the looks of things. And he doesn’t strike me as a guy who will do his time easy. Which means he’ll be looking to give up anyone he can for a potential sentence reduction.

    His only chance of catching a sentence he can outlive will be to hand up a YOOGE target, the higher and the mightier the better for him. And the highest and mightiest of all the guys Epstein used to knock around with (assuming for the sake of argument that he’s got anything on them, which I don’t know to be the case) are those two notorious roués, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.

    1. I saw something on the Internet (I don’t know if it’s true) that he’s offered to give up the names of his friends who PAID for sex in return for a five-year sentence for himself. But of course nobody of huge stature would have paid for sex if they had it: it would have been free for them.

      1. If that’s true, it’s a nice opening bid, and I’m sure the prosecutors in the US Attorney’s office for the SDNY had a good laugh over it. Epstein, who’s in his sixties, is looking at 45 years. He doesn’t get to dictate who he’ll give up; the prosecutors do.

        If there’s a deal to be reached, they’ll give Epstein a so-called “Queen for a Day” letter, which let’s him come in and bare his soul (without anything he says during the proffer session being admissible against him at a potential trial). At that point, the prosecutors will let him know if anything he has is worth anything to them and, if so, the negotiating over numbers can begin in earnest. It would have to be something BIG.

        And even if Epstein doesn’t end up cutting a deal, anyone who’s engaged in anything hinky with him has to be nervous about what might come out during debriefings — of Epstein or of other potential witnesses — or, even worse, what might be said from the witness stand if the case proceeds to trial.

        Also (even though we’ve been warned not to read too much into it) keep in mind that this case is being handled NOT by the U.S. Attorney office’s sex-crimes unit (where it would presumably belong), but by its specialists in public corruption.

        1. I want to get excited about the Public Corruption aspect of this story, but I think just the role of Alex Acosta in the Florida case could explain it. I really want Individual One to be involved, though. Hizzoner would be somewhat satisfying, too.

        2. And so, what would you read into that business about who is handling the case? And by the way, did you happen to read Preet Bhara, Doing Justice? It is worth a look.

          1. Haven’t had a chance to read Bharara’s book yet. But, from what I’ve seen of him, Bharara strikes me as one of the two most insightful legal commentators who appear regularly on the tube — the other being former acting US Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

            Those two have more to say than the usual drivel.

          2. Try to read the book. Very good and an interesting look at big time prosecution at SDNY. He breaks it out into all the segments and tells several stories to make it even better.

          3. I read Bharara’s book. It is excellent. I also listen to his excellent podcast, Stay Tuned with Preet.

        3. Keep in mind that when a prosecutor offers clemency in exchange for testimony against others, to a criminal that doesn’t want to testify against his accomplices it will look just like soliciting perjury.

    2. Bill Clinton and Donald Trump might not play a big part in the trial at all. As Keith Richards once famously remarked about the CIA working secretly against The Rolling Stones: “Naah, this would have been too f****** big.”

    3. I’ve seen the photos with Pinker and others. But I’m sure many people have had their photo taken with Epstein under similar, completely innocent, circumstances. He was a billionaire after all. And that’s the worst thing I’ve heard in regard to Pinker — that he appears in the occasional photo. Nothing more. I never considered that a photo with this guy = guilty.

      Alan Dershowitz represented Epstein. Some people may find that reprehensible, but even the worst criminals deserve representation. I’ve read that Dershowitz has been shunned by his Hamptons neighbors. I’ve also read some more overt allegations made about Dershowitz. I’ve not heard any such allegations regarding Pinker (although the leering insinuation is bad enough).

      1. I should have added here, which I’ve mentioned several times on this site, that I was on O.J. Simpson’s defense team as an expert witness on DNA statistics, though I didn’t take money. Simpson was accused of a double murder—a horrible crime.

        All I was trying to do was ensure that the government used its DNA statistics correctly. Still, I’m surprised that I haven’t met the fate of Ronald Sullivan or Dershowitz (in this case). Nobody has (yet) demonized me for defending an accused murderer.

      2. At least one of the girls (now women) who was victimized by Epstein, and who recently came forward to tell her story to the Miami Herald, has also accused Dershowitz of abusing her. (Dershowitz denies it vehemently, but then — innocent or guilty — he would, wouldn’t he?)

        What’s clear is that Dershowitz spent time as a guest at Epstein’s private Caribbean island (where underage girls were regularly transported for sex, and where the victim claims she was abused by Dershowitz).

        In so doing, The Dersh broke the first rule of criminal defense lawyer survival — never, ever socialize privately with a client. Never. That kinda crap is okay for civil lawyers, but it has compromised countless criminal defense counsel. The last line of cooperation for a convicted client is to flip on his own lawyer. Never give ’em that chance, is what my mentor impressed upon me.

        Goes to show, even a hotshot Harvard Law professor can be a dumb-ass sometimes.

          1. That’s the reason he’s been shunned by the bien-pensant crowd on Martha’s Vineyard.

          2. He also used to have a monthly column in Penthouse magazine.Strange bedfellows. Some neighbors might shun for either of these.

        1. Yeah jeez don’t these lawyers realize that their clients have nothing keeping them from keeping their mouths shut?

  6. Frankly I don’t understand the impetus behind the barrage of scurrilous idiocy that Dr Pinker has to deal with. He is far more sanguine about it than I would be.

    What possible motivation could they have? The good Dr wrote a couple of books that make a case for optimism about us and that makes him literally Hilter? One could disagree with his methods and conclusions but why go from there to a kind of vile opprobrium and making shit up about complicity in (alleged) heinous crimes? I guess I just don’t understand people.

    1. You can be the most progressive person on the planet, if you found unenthusiastic about particular aspects of Wokeness, and you are notable enough (or just have 15 minutes of fame), they’ll try to obliterate your reputation, livelihood and online persona.

      It’s a mistake to consider them left or progressive, when evidently, they are most hostile to other progressives, liberals and leftist that aren’t entirely on board with intersectional mumbo jumbo, or their social media hate mobs.

      Woke people arrayed themselves against Pinker in particular because he criticised core woke beliefs in “Blank Slate”, is associated with evolutionary biology, New Atheists and the “IDW”, each in disagrement with some dogmata of wokeness: teenage nerds are the patriarchy, Muslims are oppressed, sex and gender are socially constructed, science is white male colonialism, a double entendre in a lift is “rape culture” and so forth.

      1. I agree about the motive for smearing Prof. Pinker. I’m taken aback by the level of viciousness, though. Not surprisingly, Slate is at the head of the pack of yapping dogs with an article that portrays him as just another member of a criminal gang of prominent celebrities.

    2. I’ve never got the anti-Pinker thing either. Methinks too many people get their knickers in a twist about the truth.

      I’m glad Jerry posted this, and I’m really pleased to see how many of us shared it. Pinker doesn’t deserve to be associated with Epstein, and those that are doing it are the true scum.

      1. My suggestion is that many people have been gunning for Pinker since he wrote ‘The Blank Slate’ (published 2003). How very dare he (sarcasm) consider that human nature shows both nurture *and* nature? He then compounded his error (sarcasm) by suggesting that human societies’ behaviours have improved without the guiding hand of approved politicians.

    3. Years ago Gawker published Epstein’s flight logs. They contained the names of numerous luminaries who were assumed to have been guests at “Rape Island.”

      That’s how Pinker got dragged into this. His name was in the flight logs.

      Since then, many articles have been written about the rumors and suspicions surrounding Epstein’s fortune, perversions, and the sweetheart deal he received for child sex trafficking in FL. Pinker has been mentioned in more than one. I know because I scoffed at the inclusion of Pinker in the comment section of an article and was roundly scolded by people who’d been who’d been following the Epstein saga for years.

      Turns out Epstein is as vile as they claimed he was. No doubt some his associates will go down with him—and we should be happy to have them brought to justice. If Pinker wasn’t boinking minors, he’ll be fine. He’ll, in fact, get his name removed from the list of Epstein’s potentially evil cronies.

      I’m glad he wrote this email. I never thought he was that kind of guy. But he is believed to have flown on the fly on the “Lolita Express” and he probably ought to say something about that.

      1. He said Epstein had “voted me off the island”. The idea that whoever was a guest on that island was involved with child sexual abuse is preposterous.

  7. When the internet became widely available in the late 90’s it was heralded as a force to spread democracy and enlightenment throughout the world. Yet, it seems the opposite has happened. From the Russians interfering in our elections to these scurrilous attacks on Pinker, the Internet serves as medium to induce a significant portion of the population into tribalism and a denial to hear opposite views. Trump probably would never have been elected or even nominated without the Internet. Of course, tribalism has always existed, but the Internet has intensified it. We will never go back to a pre-internet world barring a global catastrophe. It has done much good, but it may be a prime contributor to ignorance, hatred, and the decline of democracy. There doesn’t seem that there is much we can do to stop this because it would require censorship and the diminution of free speech, something also very depressing.

    1. I would not give up all hope. There may eventually be many things coming to the big internet platforms that will improve the current problems. If our congress and executive were not currently so useless, many things would have been done already. The technology has been way ahead of the regulators and the law but it will not always be that way.

    2. I think the internet is still a great force to spread democracy and improve life. It’s social media that is the real problem. I’ve never gotten involved, but everyone I know who has a twitter/facebook account has been negatively affected. They’ve been estranged from family members and lost friends; they’ve been threatened or otherwise emotionally abused. Twitter has allowed Trump to create an alternate reality for millions caught in his personality cult. That alone is proof that Twitter is a very dangerous platform. The world would be a much saner place without social media. I imagine after the internet was invented, this byproduct was inevitable, but it causes more harm than good. A modern example of Pandora’s box.

      1. And, yet, here we are productively ‘socializing’. I would never have encountered this blog entry without a Twitter account.

    3. Whenever I read Twitter I feel depression coming on, as it is just a cesspool of hate. I follow a number of scientists and journalists on twitter, and it is not even possible for people to talk about anything without being accused of being genocidal Nazis.

      “oh, you think biological sex is real, Nazi!”

      Not making that up.

      Twitter is only increasing political polarization, as the extremists are controlling the conversation from their echo chambers. Apparently it is ok to beat up journalists now, as they are ‘guilty of literal violence’ should they disagree with Antifa.

    4. A side note. On a recent trip to Las Vegas I learned that the principal reason for recent changes to the rules of blackjack is that due to the Internet a LOT more players understand basic blackjack strategy. That is why if you are dealt a blackjack casinos now pay out a measly 6 to 5 instead of the classic 3 to 2

  8. I hear PZ has chimed in. The same PZ who has actually been accused of rape.

    The same PZ who used to be opposed to such fallacies as “guilt by association”.

    The NewRacists and FTBullies have jumped in, as you would expect.

    1. The sexual charge against PZ is almost certainly scurrilous. But it is still ironic to ‘throw it in his face’, since scurrilous charges is what he has been doing to Pinker.

      1. We don’t know that. It was quite a long time ago, when professors like Mr. Tentacles could get potential rape allegations closed down quickly, especially if they got to the Dean’s office (“zoom”) to set the narrative, and leave the poor woman in a room. We only know his side of the story. I suspect her side would be a LOT different. I hope she comes forward one day.

        But that isn’t all there is. Mr. Tentacles defended and allowed a self-confessed child rapist to comment on his site. He and his “horde” gave him hugs, etc.

        Annnnndddd, he is not the only FTB blogger (now moved to the failure of The Orbit) to be accused of rape.

          1. I believe that is the very point. Those who happily throw accusations with malicious intent, might reasonably expect to find themselves on the receiving end of some return fire.
            I can see that idiots will be idiots, and the jealous will continue to be spiteful, but what bothers me most is the willingness of the followers to believe without any form of formal investigation. They are explicit: ‘this is not a witch hunt!’ and ‘this is not a trial,’ whilst simplistically treating the accusation as if it were as solid (I know) as a criminal conviction.

  9. Thank you for publishing this. I think we can all agree that there was a network of powerful people who protected this predator and that they need to be brought to justice. But when those with an axe to grind try to smear others who may have simply had a conversation with the predator or served on a board with him or spoken on a panel with him, that trivializes the seriousness with which we need to respond to pedophiles and their enablers. I would go so far as to say that those trying to link Dr. Pinker with the predator are showing great disrespect not only to Dr. Pinker, but to the dozens if not hundreds of the victims of this travesty. Let’s all condemn pedophilia and the intimidation of witnesses without exploiting it to further our own agendas. And that includes not salivating at it being a possible smoking gun to bring down either a former president or the current president.

    1. Quite so. I find it startling how much the vaguely pro-Russian site https://theduran.com seem to offer a more balanced view.

      Perhaps an ‘alternative news’ site that doesn’t just echo other MSM sites? You will have to make your own mind up.

      1. Jerry, thanks for being around. It is quite marvelous for us that you can give us the words from the horses mouth, so to say. Thanks. Thanks for being famous. GROG

  10. There seem to be plenty of people who are uncomfortable with the arguments that Professor Pinker has set out in such detail in Better Angels and Enlightenment. They don’t have much by the way of counter-argument, so what better way of chucking muck at Pinker than to associate him with the likes of Epstein?

    I don’t do social media. I’m not tempted to start.

    1. If you cannot counter someone’s argument and/or facts, respond by:

      1) accuse them of being genocidal Nazis

      2) act offended/triggered and block them

      3) respond with fake science, ‘disproving’ their claims

  11. “Most of these gatherings were prior to the revelation of his sex crimes, such as the 2002 plane trip to TED with Dawkins, Dennett, the Brockmans, and others, but Krauss’s Origins Project Meeting came after he served his sentence.”

    You complain about people “imply[ing] that those people knew about Epstein’s crimes and … ignored them” but based on Pinker’s letter to you it sounds like he, well, knew about Epstein’s crimes and ignored them.

    1. Excuse me? Pinker goes to an Origins Project Meeting and somehow that makes him complicit in Epstein’s crimes because he went to a meeting that Epstein attended or had something to do with? Give me a break.

      1. There is a picture of the three of them (Pinker, Krauss and Epstein) apparently chumming together at the 2014 conference dinner. I know it doesn’t mean Steve is guilty of anything other than associating with two men who turned out to be abusers of women, but I wish Steve had kept better company.

          1. I only see Pinker mentioned in this paragraph:

            Other prominent figures whose names appear in the logs, which document globe-spanning flights on Epstein’s planes during various periods from 1997 to 2005, include Dershowitz, former Treasury Secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers, Naomi Campbell, and scientist Stephen Pinker.

            That would seem to indicate that the logs cover all flights of Epstein’s planes. I don’t think we can conclude that Pinker flew to “pedophile island”.

          2. Pinker may well be as innocent as he claims of any advertant support for Epstein’s crimes, but it’s a bit amusing that his excuse for being in a photo with a sexual trafficker of children is that his sexual predator friend Kraus seated them together!

            Remember that even after Epstein confessed to having sex with underage girls, Krauss was saying things like “all the women I saw him with looked at least 19 to me” and “the masseuses knew what they were doing.” As recently as 2011 he wrote of Epstein “he is a thoughtful, kind, considerate man who is generous to all his friends” making him “an easy target for those who want to take advantage of him.” It’s totally possible that Pinker was entirely unaware of Krass’ vigorous support of Epstein when he agreed to be seated with the two of them, but one wishes he’d be more perspicacious about it now.

          3. Sorry but that event took place in 2014, well before there were any accusations against Krauss for being a sexual predator. What on earth makes you think that Pinker “knew” that Krauss was a sexual predator back then?

            You may think you’re amused, but your post suggest that you simply MUST get at Pinker somehow, and if it’s to accuse him of something he couldn’t have possibly been guilty of, you’ll do it.

            However, I am amused at the lengths to which people like you will imply that Pinker was ignoring sexual malfeasance, even if it involves implausible scenarios.

        1. I guess I am being judgmental but I would be more careful about accepting gifts from wealthy people I do not know. Pinker, Dennett, Dawkins. OMG. Thank goodness PCC is not in these pics. I need some unquestioned heroes.

          1. I totally would have taken the flight gift. I take lots of shit people offer me. Now I’m scared to even be in pictures.

          2. A private jet flight could be worth up to $8500 per flight hour. Would you really be happy accepting that without knowing who the donor is or why?

            Dennett, Dawkins and Pinker have pilloried people for accepting Templeton money. Do we have a double standard for atheists or people whose ideas we like?

          3. Hell yeah I’d accept it. I have a Scottish last name. If someone offers me something I take it.

          4. Thanks Diana for being honest. Yeah, I’d take the flight too. ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.’

            Life would be impossible if we’re expected to check out the credentials (even assuming we had that ability) of everyone we come into contact with before we permit ourselves to associate with them.


          5. Usually I think “am I safe with this person” and “can I stand the company of this person” with that flight there was also Dan Dennett and Steven Pinker. The flight would be safe. Now standing the company would be tricky but you could probably avoid Epstein.

          6. Anyone who thinks these people are not “unquestioned” just because they took that flight isn’t a good thinker. That photo is clear evidence that some highly intelligent people saw no reason to be concerned. Intelligent people don’t mistake their judgments made in hindsight for the judgments they would have made without that knowledge.

            As someone who has been critical of some of Pinker’s arguments in the past, I am appalled at the intellectual dishonesty of some people who are using this tenuous association with Epstein as ammunition in such debates, or using perceived problems with some of Pinker’s stances as a basis for shoring up innuendo about his behavior in connection with Epstein. It is clear as day that Pinker is completely innocent, and it is disgusting for anyone to say otherwise or to attack his judgment because of things that he clearly was not aware of at the time. This includes saying foolish things like “I wish Steve had kept better company”, “I found something else disturbing”, “I hope Steve can give a good reason for this”, and “I’m still a bit concerned”. Just stop.

            “Dennett, Dawkins and Pinker have pilloried people for accepting Templeton money. Do we have a double standard for atheists or people whose ideas we like?”

            No, we’re just not so stupid as to equate these. Taking Templeton money influences people’s work; accepting a flight from an unknown science philanthropist who has been vouched for by people you trust does not.

    2. I’ve re-read that letter multiple times now in a futile attempt to find how you could have come up with this assertion.

    3. “but based on Pinker’s letter to you it sounds like he, well, knew about Epstein’s crimes and ignored them.”

      It doesn’t sound like that to anyone remotely intelligent.

  12. That “monster” Epstein is a member of the Human Race makes me ashamed for the race. That Dr. Pinker is also, gives me hope. Thank you to Dr. Pinker for responding to your query and to you for asking him and sharing his response with us.

  13. Not too surprised that the epitome of academic biology failure (can’t remember his name) is involved in such accusations. Or that the commenters here are “slymepitters”. Does that guy (it’s on the tip of my tongue)never get tired of repeating his nonsense? (Or it used to be, but now I can’t even be bothered to try to remember his name. Must be the Roundup.)

    1. Not only is that loser (Mr. Tentacles) who you are referring to have a history of skeezy behaviour, he was accused of rape by one of hi students, and defended a self-confessed child rapist who posted on his blog (and still does the last time I checked).

      He is also matey with another former FTB blogger who was ALSO accused of rape.

      1. BTW, over at Pharynguliar, Mr. Tentacles claims:

        “By the way, the author of that blog who famously insists on civility and honesty, has allowed a comment to stand in which it is claimed that I have been accused of rape. Not mentioned is that the guy who made the comment, Rich Sanderson, is also the guy who made the accusation…”

        Nope, Mr. Tentacles. I didn’t make the accusation. The student did. Remember! Which you also stated in your blog – of which I have a copy of the blog-post in which you wrote it. I never attended any of Mr. Tentacle’s classes.

        So, Mr. Tentacles, jog on.

        1. From PZ’s post: “This is confirmation of what people have found objectionable about Pinker, that he is silent in the face of repulsive behavior…”

          A little rich, coming from PZ. Recall his own despicable post about the distraction posed by Robin Williams’s tragic death. (And I recall PCC’s refreshing excoriation of it). There was nary a retraction, nary an apology, not a peep.

          The point being–and the relevance–people tend to avoid mentally discordant topics. It’s one thing to be silent in the face of repulsive behavior, and another to be silent in the face of your own repulsive behavior.

          If I had some marginal, and irrelevant, association with a person later found to be unsavory, I see no need to broadcast a public denunciation. And I see no need to be in fear of my own reputation for not doing it. I guess this is some SJW rule book entry that I’ve never become acquainted with, but I do think it exists, given the number of them who fall over themselves to beat the other out of the gate.

          Just another difference between them and sane liberals.

  14. Thanks for posting this. Honestly, isn’t this sort of fallout part of the power that people like Epstein wield? By insinuating themselves across a variety of circles, they protect themselves. I imagine the Epsteins of the world hope that the threat of being tied to him and his crimes would put people off of speaking out against him. If nothing else, Pinker’s experience is a good reminder that we should trust our better judgement regarding the character of people we keep company with.

    1. “we should trust our better judgement regarding the character of people we keep company with.”

      How can you judge? How can you even know?

      It seems no-one is immune from having past crimes, or alleged crimes, or possibly just lapses of taste, dredged up and pilloried on ‘social media’.

      If someone would please produce a list of ‘people it is safe to associate with’? Actually, I’ve just done it. Here it is:
      Start of list

      End of list
      It wasn’t very long, was it?

      And that leaves aside the fact that we don’t always have much choice in who we associate with anyway. I’m sure I could produce incriminating photos of any prominent public figure you like to name shaking hands with a known fraudster / alleged war criminal / corrupt dictator / misogynist.


          1. I’d rather date a pencil. It would have to be a #2 pencil, though, because I have selective taste.

      1. How can you judge? How can you even know?

        I’m commenting on what Pinker said in his letter.

        The annoying irony is that I could never stand the guy, never took research funding from him, and always tried to keep my distance.

        So on some level, Pinker knew he did not admire the man’s character.

        It seems no-one is immune from having past crimes, or alleged crimes, or possibly just lapses of taste, dredged up and pilloried on ‘social media’.

        Lots of people are immune from having committed the ‘past crime’ of sex-trafficking minors. Some of these things are not like the others.

        As far as choice in association? I think that someone like Pinker has a larger degree than many others and I’m glad to see him clarify his stance here. That said, if his funding was conditional on keeping company with someone he disliked so much, perhaps the issue is how we fund the sciences.

        1. I should have said “If someone’s funding” rather than his – Pinker stated he did not take Epstein’s money.

        2. Yeah but we all know people who are in our social circles who we think are assholes and we put up with them because we don’t need to make waves. So, Pinker thinking that guy is an asshole but not making a scene is hardly a blight on Pinker’s character. I highly doubt he knew anything about Epstein’s sexual misconduct because he already thought he was an asshole he didn’t have to associate with except when he was with others who knew him.

          1. I think I didn’t express myself well. I was rather reflecting on how I might choose to surround myself with people whose character I admire, and which people I ‘put up with’ despite finding them sketchy.

            I do wonder, though, how many of Epstein’s periphery circle were aware of his proclivities, not in detail, but as Trump mentioned in an interview once, Epstein’s taste in ‘younger women’. As loudly as everyone seems to be decrying his (Epstein’s) crimes, I fear there is a larger segment of our society than I am comfortable with who do not see a moral wrong in sexually pursuing (persuading, coercing, what have you) girls – children – as long as they are teens. The prevalence of certain porn genres certainly lends to this concern.

          2. Yeah and then there are the people who see it as wrong but just don’t want to get involved so ignore it. Though of course a person with that wealth and power would be hard to take on as others would look away for some sort of pay off. It’s pretty bad.

          3. As Mr Trump mentioned himself, he was well aware of Mr Epstein’s “proclivities”.
            I also note that of the many people that had one or other association with Mr Epstein, only one (as far as I know) has actually been accused of ‘partaking’ in the rape of a minor by a victim.
            Yes, I know victims often will not speak out or open a case, more reason to think it is significant.

        3. Yazikus –

          “So on some level, Pinker knew he did not admire the man’s character.”

          Yes, Pinker didn’t like him because he was brash, egocentric and loud. What has that got to do with engaging in illegal sex with underage girls?

          I repeat, how could anyone tell? Is Pinker supposed to be psychic and infallible?

          Should one, then, avoid everyone who is brash and egocentric, just on general suspicion, and confine our associations to people who are quiet, profound and simpatico? Then we’ll be deeply in the shit when one of those quiet simpatico people turns out to be a psycopathic serial killer, won’t we?

          The thing about illegal activity is that most people so engaged tend to hide it from most of their acquaintances and associates.


          1. “…. tend to hide it from most of their acquaintances and associates”. Very true.

        4. Pinker didn’t like Mr Epstein for very specific reasons, which he pointed out clearly. These reasons were obviously enough not to accept funding from him, but not enough to shun him completely (I must confess I’d probably have accepted funding from someone I did not like). Your point of funding science- or any other good cause- is taken.
          Moreover, and more importantly, I think Mr Epstein must have been a likable person to many.
          There was, for most I guess, never a hint of suspicion of having sex with, or even raping, underage girls.

      2. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…”

        I hope there aren’t very many people who are guilty of what Epstein has been accused of, but given the amount of sex trafficking being reported in the news currently, there must be a major market at more than one level of wealth.

        Even people we believe we know and love can be guilty of behavior we find reprehensible. How many of our grandmothers and other female relatives have had a child out of wedlock when that was considered a horrid crime for a female? How many of our male relatives had sex with underage (and older) female relatives? How many of us have done things we wouldn’t want anyone to know about? All of us have the potential for being both good and bad. The main distinction with Epstein is his wealth and power that have let him get away with this heinous crime for so long. Who knows what other crimes he has in prison for the rest of his life (and, maybe, learn something new about sex.)

        1. Blood relatives though? *cringe* I don’t think I’ve ever hooked up with a blood relative or even an in-law. I have not. Yuck.

          1. I can’t imagine it either, but I have heard from women who’ve experienced this and I’ve also read about it. So, I’m pretty sure it happens.

  15. What else does one expect from sewage that supports the most disgusting, vile, corrupt, worthless, beast that has ever infected the Oval Office? Trump is the pimple. His supporters/apologists are the pus.

  16. Pinker is probably too harsh on the guy. It’s a known fact that the more money you have, the better and smarter you are. It’s called the Worthington’s Law.

  17. Obviously off-topic, but speaking of human nature, I’m curious to know more about the nature of the ‘abused’ young women’s behaviors. Were they all duped, drugged, beaten, coerced, etc into participating in the alleged sex trafficking ring?

    I’m not trying to excuse Epstein or any other person who availed themselves of sex with underage females. But, I am genuinely curious to know if and why any of them willingly participated; whether they unanimously believe themselves to have been exploited – or, at least, felt that way before this scandal erupted publicly. I saw a woman on TV expressing regret for recruiting other young females to participate in Epstein’s sex ring. What motivated them to willingly join and her to willingly recruit? What did they believe they were getting involved in?

    I am also curious to understand how men, especially high achieving, highly intelligent men like Pinker, Clinton, Dershowitz, etc who some suggest had sex with these underage females can even relate to 14-year olds who have nothing in common with them. I’m as ‘horny’ as any other straight male but find it hard to imagine myself having sex with a young women who is either clearly frightened and/or unable to carry on an adult conversation. (Yes, I recognize that they might have been terrorized into pretending to welcome sex with older men.) However, would none of the young victims have recognized a former POTUS and begged for his help to escape?

    I’ve read several of Pinker’s books and appreciate his insights into human nature and the price he’s paid for publicizing them. Taking into account that, in many cultures in the past – possibly even today in some, females often married shortly after puberty, sex with underage females has not always been verboten. Is the only reason for modern legal age of consent laws the ‘power imbalance’ between adults and children (informed by the recognition that cognitive development and life experience before age 18, say, is insufficient to allow an informed decision about sexual relations or cohabiting with adults)?

    1. “if and why any of them willingly”

      They were children. They are not adults. They do not have agency. They were after security. Food, shelter, money, love. Maslo’s hierarchy of needs.

      “However, would none of the young victims have recognized a former POTUS and begged for his help to escape?”

      The onus was upon the adults around them to protect the vulnerable children from exploitation. The adults failed the children.

      You do realize Lolita was satire, yes?

      1. Hmmm, you appear to have ranted emotionally rather than trying to answer my specific Q’s. And, your points ignore my clear indication that I understand the adult-child gap that underlies current age of consent laws. And, that I wasn’t at all attempting to excuse the behavior of any adults involved.

        Where/how did you learn the motivations of the girls involved in this case? Were the Maslovian needs of any of them satisfied by their relationship(s) with Epstein and/or his ‘clients’? As I asked, did any of them know exactly what they were getting into, that they willingly accepted the ‘arrangement’ and did not feel they were abused? (I am not asking if they OUGHT to have; only if they did.)

        Of course, they have SOME agency although you pretend otherwise. Have you never encountered a teen? If the age of consent was 18 yrs and any of the females was, say, 17 1/2 yrs, would you expect their ‘agency’ to magically appear within those 6 mo’s?

        Why so sanctimonious about my Q re: former POTUS Clinton? Of course, the adults involved failed the children. But, my point was to wonder why a victim might not seek the help of a famous, recognizable authority figure to escape the abuse. ie I was raising the credibility of the suggestion that Clinton availed himself of underage sex. And also raising the issue that some of the females might actually have been content with the situation they found themselves in.

        You also overlooked my point that, in many cultures, girls as young as some of those involved in this case often married and had children. How common that is today I have no clue. But, my point was that, presumably, not every such early marriage was inherently traumatizing nor contrary to human nature or the practice would not have persisted. Did such arrangements have an evolutionary benefit? (Yes, I recognize that in many or most of these early marriages, the husband was quite likely also relatively young – not a middle-aged ‘creep’.)

        1. Legally, children under the age of 16 (or whatever it is in a particular state – some are 18) cannot consent to have sex with an adult. It therefore doesn’t matter what the girls were thinking or doing. What matters is what the adults were thinking and doing because adults are legally culpable for their actions. The fact you are asking about this suggests that you are seeking some kind of culpability on their part based on their motivation or to minimize the nature of the crime. It’s entirely irrelevant to the case at hand and I suspect that those who bring it up are often trying to rationalize illegal behavior on the part of adults.

          Trying to compare the sexual abuse of children in any way to historic practices of early marriage and childbearing is disingenuous and abhorrent morally. People used to be drawn and quartered as a legitimate form of punishment but that doesn’t make a similar act today any more comprehensible or legitimate. There is no moral equivalency between historic practices of early marriage and pedophiles abusing children to fulfill their sexual perversions.

    2. It is per se unlawful for adults to engage in sexual activity with minors — depending on the nature of the sexual contact, either statutory rape or lewd & lascivious conduct. It does not matter if the minors “willingly participated” in the conduct, since minors are legally incapable of granting consent, although if force or intoxication was used, it would aggravate the degree of the felony committed.

      If you’ve followed the Epstein saga at all, you’d know that Epstein and his “recruiters” tended to prey upon girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and dysfunctional families. The motivation for the girls was primarily economic: they were paid a couple hundred dollars per encounter, although some were also recruited through blandishments regarding future modeling or acting work.

      1. I have followed the Epstein saga somewhat and, yet, was not yet aware of the type of girls his recruiters prayed upon. So, your logic is flawed.

        How many of the girls have you spoken to or read interviews of or reports about to allow you to conclude their motivations were primarily economic? Another commenter has claimed they sought to satisfy Maslov’s hierarchy of needs – which used to include sexual needs.

        Please read my reply to NOT_A_HUMAN_BEING. I am trying to probe a little deeper into the aspects of human nature underlying the behavior of both the girls/young women and the men involved in this ‘saga’. I am well aware of western cultural norms and laws relating to age of consent and sex with underage persons. But, there are other cultures on this earth that accept/allow different behaviors. I suspect – but am willing to be proven wrong – that the people in those societies also evolved to have the same ‘human nature’ as us.

        1. Wait, you’re not sure “of the type of girls his recruiters prayed [sic] upon,” so MY logic is flawed? This was reported upon in depth in the Miami Herald investigative piece (and in several follow-up pieces) that broke this story wide open: the recruitment of girls from troubled, economically deprived backgrounds followed a recurring pattern, as reported both by the girls so recruited themselves, and by the girls Epstein turned into his “recruiters.”

          I conclude that the girls’ motivation was primarily economic because every girl interviewed reported being paid for “services” rendered.

          How many of the girls have you spoken to or read interviews of or reports about to allow YOU to conclude that their motivations lay primarily in fulfilling some other, non-economic need according to Maslow’s hierarchy? I’m guessing none.

          Do you really think these 14 and 15 and 16 year old girls sought out Epstein for their own sexual gratification, so that they could give him “massages” and watch him jerk off (which, according to the reports, is how most of the “sessions” ended, although on occasion Epstein had forcible, penetrative sex with some of them)?

          Are you in favor of entirely doing away with age-of-consent laws, as your comment suggests? Are you in favor of allowing adult kiddie-diddlers to put on a defense that a five-year-old consented? If not, then you must favor drawing the line regarding age-of-consent somewhere. And wherever it’s drawn, that line will, in a sense, be arbitrary — some people below that age will have the maturity to consent, some above it will not. That’s inherent to the nature of legal line-drawing itself.

          Most states in the US have elected to draw the age-of-consent line at the same age required for most other adult activities: 18. That seems to me to be a reasonable (albeit imperfect) solution. Other cultures’ mileage may vary. So be it.

          1. I pointed to myself as proof that your facile statement “If you’ve followed the Epstein saga at all, you’d know …” was illogical and, therefore, incorrect. I have followed the saga SOMEWHAT but had not yet learned the details you claim magically accrue to anybody who follows it AT ALL.

            I pointed to ANOTHER commenter’s claim (not mine) that the girls were seeking to satisfy the hierarchy of basic human needs described by Maslov. The bottom-to-top trajectory of his hierarchy is physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. (When I studied psychology, sex drive was included among the physiological components.)

            Somehow, because they were paid, you magically know which of the basic needs of each girl were met by servicing Epstein and his ‘friends’? You said nothing about whether the payments ALONE were sufficient to cause each girl to continue to ‘participate’ in the sex ring. (And, in an attempt to reinforce your flimsy arguments, you only mention the worst aspects of their interactions with Epstein – conveniently leaving out the alleged servicing of prominent men like Clinton and Prince Andrew.) You ignore my Q about whether they were drugged, beaten or otherwise coerced into staying unwillingly. How many other girls came and left the ring – and what motivated some to leave and others to stay? I’ve seen an interview in which one of the women who was sent for massage training simply called Epstein and told him she wouldn’t be returning. His response: have a good life. Not “I’ll kill your family.” or “I’m sending a couple of fellows to escort you back to my compound.” Or worse.

            More generally, you fail to recognize and respond to my interest in digging deeper into the behavior of the girls. And the behavior of all of the men alleged to have been involved. Your sanctimony (and defensiveness) have overtaken your rationality. How, on earth, are you able to conclude that my comments in any way suggest that I’m “in favor of entirely doing away with age-of-consent laws”? Or believe that 5-year olds can consent to being diddled. I don’t believe I could have been any clearer in my comments to you and NOT_A_HUMAN_BEING that I understand the basis for our laws but am curious to understand how other societies have fared under different standards. This is a blog dealing with evolution (one I’ve just visited for the first time) and I explicitly asked “Did such arrangements have an evolutionary benefit?” in the hope that the author and/or regular consumers of his blog might respond.

            This blog post was about people who jump to unwarranted conclusions because they don’t like Pinker. You are equally guilty of such distorted thinking. And an utterly abysmal lack of curiosity about the human condition.

          2. You’re simply making stuff up to spin an unsupported tale. There’s been no credible allegation — let alone any evidence — that the girls involved “servic[ed] prominent men like Clinton and Prince Andrew” or anyone else for that matter (aside from one girl who says she was abused by Alan Dershowitz). Nor has anyone alleged that Epstein employed drugs or threats to coerce these girls.

            Your twaddle about Maslow’s hierarchy seems nothing more than a veiled allegation that these girls were groupies or starfuckers who gained self-esteem through their propinquity to powerful men. Not only is there no evidence so far implicating any other powerful men; there’s no evidence that any of these girls knew Epstein from Adam (I doubt many of them were regular readers of The Financial Times) — or that they knew Epstein as anything other than some rich asshole in a big house who got his rocks off by beating his meat while middle-teen girls rubbed on him and tweaked his nipples, a “service” for which he was willing to pay $200 a pop.

            What does “Did such arrangements have an evolutionary benefit?” even mean in this context — that these girls were like salmon swimming upstream to spawn? No one involved was reproducing, let alone reproducing selectively in response to some adaptive pressure.

            Finally, I never “conclude[d]” anything about you in my comment; I asked you a straightforward question — do you think there should be age-of-consent laws and, if so, what that age should be — a question to which you’ve failed to give a straightforward answer.

        2. If you *really* wanted to “probe a little deeper into the aspects of human nature underlying the behavior of both the girls/young women…” you could read up on the subject, and the women who’ve tried to help them escape. Epstein isn’t the first rich male to have escaped justice for so long.

    3. “I’m not trying to excuse Epstein”

      Oh yes you are, as soon as you put “abused” is scare quotes.

      “men like Pinker, Clinton, Dershowitz, etc”

      You’re engaging in a whole lot of innuendo.

  18. Is anyone else getting trolled (I think) by someone named priyaranjanblogs?? I’ve gotten over 50 “likes” from him/her across several posts and they keep on coming! JERRY, please block him.

  19. Let’s say time restarted and it was 2002. What would people do different to prevent this from happening as it did? Would we change with hindsight?

  20. A case like this is a perfect storm for accusations to fly. There is…

    – The moral panic and conspiracy theory thinking that set in – understandably so, in this case – when you have a horrible situation that sounds like it should be the stuff of a Dan Brown novel, not real life.

    – Sensationalist click bait articles which benefit from making the story as big as possible and trying to associate as many famous names as possible.

    – Opponents hoping for a schadenfreude opportunity to see someone they dislike implicated in something terrible, or, in some cases, just a chance to virtue signal about how they would have known better somehow and stopped it all from happening, again, somehow.

    – The general instinct that people must be blamed and punished (and must have been at fault) when something horrible happens – preferably someone that people always thought needed to be knocked down a few pegs anyways. (This is why there has been more than one crisis with medical malpractice insurance in this country, in my opinion. The same instant blaming instinct often comes into play with “Those rich doctors! This must be their fault!”)

    It’s disheartening to see people on Twitter making accusations that Pinker must have knowingly enabled a predator because he once offered professional expertise to Epstein’s legal team (Something that should absolutely be protected, to my mind – perhaps some people these days think that everything is subjective anyways, so *any defense is automatically bias in favor of the guilty party, but I stick to the idea that there are such a thing as facts – and both parties, no matter how heinous, are 100% entitled to the right to have the facts presented accurately in their case. Things go to hell in a hand basket fast when rights only apply to people you perceive as innocent.) and because they were both at a couple of the same fundraisers or parties. Again, that is a *horrible standard. Think of it applied to someone you viewed more sympathetically – a minority youth who may have been accused unfairly. Now think of someone trying to skewer that youth by saying they once went to a party where someone *else was convicted of a crime, ergo they enabled that person. Again, that is an *awful standard.

    If there are people who knowingly engaged in or supported Epstein’s criminal activity, they need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. For the people who did nothing wrong, it is unfair to somehow implicate them in Epstein’s callous cruelty.

    1. And virtue signalling. Look at me standing up for the children and demonizing others. I’m a good person.

  21. Having read as much on this as I care to, I conclude that it all stems from Harvard’s chase of the filthy lucre. Not surprisingly, a star like Pinker would be expected to facilitate that chase by being nice to Epstein. Pinker denies getting any Epstein dosh and there is no evidence that he has got any. But his tangential association with Epstein invites a smear by Pinker’s enemies who dislike his ideas.

  22. I think Epstein’s actions are horrific and egregious.

    I am very curious about the science of pedophilia, hebephilia, and ephebophilia. It would be interesting to read a science post on here possibly sometime when it’s not related to something where there are victims and predators as the subject also.

  23. Note that the age of consent varies by country:
    In Nigeria it is 11.
    In The Philippines 12.
    It is 13 in West Sahara, the Comores, Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) and Japan.
    And it is 14 in more than a dozen of countries From China or Peru to Brazil or Italy.
    And there are a lot if Islamic countries were the age is less important than the fact of being married, (one should note that marriage and especially divorce are ‘easy’ -for males at least- in many Islamic countries).
    Official prostitution works that way in eg. Iran: a Mollah marries you (for a fee, of course) and after the act the patron divorces.
    In several countires, such as eg South Africa, the age of the partner plays a role: if the age difference (in the 12 to 16 category) between the partners is less than 3 years, it is not automatically statutory rape.
    Before you get all worked up about this, note that in the good state of Delaware, not too long ago, it was 7 (Yes, seven).
    With it’s ups and downs, the age of consent has been increasing, which I think is good up to a point. It gives support to Pinker’s thesis that we are improving.

    1. “In The Philippines 12.”

      IIRC, in the Philippines there is a some sort of law against “seduction.”

    2. None of that is at all relevant. All good people agree that Epstein’s behavior was vile and illegal.

  24. I thought “guilt by association” was something we long since agreed was wrong. Have I missed something?

  25. Pinker is, to use a British expression, a telly-don at Harvard. It must therefore be difficult for him to avoid the occasional company of some pretty horrible people. I’ll bet, for instance, that he has met Larry Summers.

  26. I have an enormous respect for Dr. Pinker and his work. It is troubling to see attacks on people based on acquaintance or association.

    Thank you and Dr. Pinker for the clarity.

  27. But what, precisely, do you mean by “tarring” Pinker?

    Pinker gave an opinion about statutory language concerning the most basic welfare of minors, without asking what the case was about. He did this for a friend, who was representing a billionaire accused of soliciting very young teen girls for sexual services and seeking a nonprosecution agreement for him.

    Is this a fair summary?

    If someone is speculating about Pinker’s own personal, sexual relationships, solely on THIS basis, I agree that’s absurd. I hope that’s not happening.

    But what about what Pinker did? What do you think about that?

    1. You are describing it already in a way that makes it look bad. What about “served as an expert witness in interpreting language”. What does it matter what the crime was or how rich the client was? Do you think I was a monster for giving expert advice to O.J. Simpson’s defense team?

      And yes, people are speculating that Pinker knew about Epstein’s crimes and ignored them, and “flew on the Lolita plane”. That is innuendo and tarring?

      I don’t think Pinker did anything wrong, nor do I think I did anything wrong by serving as a consultant (for free) for O.J. Simpson’s defense team. Expert witnesses are an essential part of the judicial system, and anybody, no matter how rich or how odious the crime he’s accused of, deserved to have them.

      1. I’m making it sound bad — or it is bad as it stands?

        OJ is a separate case — as is Weinstein’s criminal case, for that matter, due to probable police misconduct. I am not weighing in on those cases.

        I know I would not have simply given an opinion about the language of THAT statute without asking some questions.

        That certain highly privileged, celebrated, and wealthy people don’t think that way, and don’t even raise those questions, is very interesting. We should keep that in mind.

        But I agree about the crazy innuendo. I think it’s way iff the mark. The Dr. Pangloss analogy (the bliss of the oblivious) sounds fair to me.

        1. It is irrelevant whether Epstein was accused of rape or some other crime, or how rich he was, when adjudicating whether Pinker did anything wrong to offer an opinion on legal language.

          As for OJ’s or Weinstein’s cases, those are relevant because the discussion is about whether somebody is being immoral by giving an expert opinion to the defense. Why does police misconduct in the Simpson case have any effect on that? You’re not weighing in simply to avoid addressing the general argument; it’s manifestly clear that you’re implying that Pinker did something wrong. I disagree.

          This discussion is at an end for me.

    2. “Is this a fair summary?”

      Of course not. There’s no basis for the implication that Pinker knew who the defendant was, what he was charged with, or that a nonprosecution agreement was involved. You’re dinging him for not asking what the case was about at the same time that you’re implying that he knew things that would be cause not to give advice.

  28. Tarring? Yeah, it’s hard to separate yourself from the way institutions work at funding opportunities as that level while especially being apart of the said institutions.

    That being said, I can say specifically not for Pinker but Krauss that he should be grilled on how he defended Epstein in 2011 after the 2008 trial. The only reason justice didn’t come was not because of the lack of evidence as Krauss had suggested but of how sociopolitical factors saved him (upper class 4D chess).


    Biggest take away from this academia side fallout is to extract the wisdom without getting personally entrenched in your favorite intellectuals until the sociopolitical landscape is somehow bettered.

    F/ Krauss –“I don’t feel tarnished in any way by my relationship with Jeffrey; I feel raised by it.”

    What a joke, I get 250k funding for the Origins Project is a big deal but he’s a little too comfortable with sacrificing normative ethics for the sake of a long-game investment in science.

  29. This reminds me of the old adage that is manifestly false: a picture doesn’t tell a thousand words. It tells a thousand lies.

  30. Is pinker standing by his denials in light of today’s report in The Nation? Specifically was he unaware that Epstein was responsible for financing the creation of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics the same year that Pinker was hired to fill the newly created Mind Brain Behavior chair at Harvard?

    And is he really asserting that when Alan Dershowitz called on him to provide on-the-record analysis of a child molestation statute he responded for attribution without asking what it was about?

    1. I haven’t seen that report and you should address your comments to Pinker, since you’re asking what Pinker knew. He’s already explained his helping Dershowitz. Pinker has Twitter and an email address, so write to him, not me.

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