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Walter P. Kistler Book Award


HOME | NOMINATION PROCESS | RECIPIENTS 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008


Steven Pinker Receives Walter P. Kistler Book Award for 2005

Dr. Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, is the 2005 recipient of the Walter P. Kistler Book Award. He received the award in a public ceremony March 18, 2020, at Kane Hall, on the University of Washington campus. The lecture and ceremony were free of charge to the public, on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature tackles head-on the fears and taboos associated with acknowledging the existence of universal, biologically based human nature. Dr. Pinker not only brings the light of modern sciences of the mind to moribund dogmas, but shows why biological explanations of human nature do not undermine humane values. In contrast, the Blank Slate doctrine, he writes, “is an anti-life, anti-human theoretical abstraction” that pretends to celebrate human potential but actually does the opposite. The Blank Slate was published in hardcover by Viking in 2002, and in paperback by Penguin in 2003.

The Walter P. Kistler Book Award is given annually to 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 includes a cash prize of US$10,000 and a certificate, and is presented personally by the originator of the award program, Walter Kistler, benefactor of the Foundation.


“The question is not whether human nature will increasingly be explained by the sciences of mind, brain, genes, and evolution, but what we are going to do with the knowledge. What in fact are the implications for our ideals of equality, progress, responsibility, and the worth of the person? The opponents of the sciences of human nature from the left and the right are correct about one thing: these are vital questions. But that is all the more reason that they be confronted not with fear and loathing but with reason.”

—Dr. Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate