"Did Native Americans engage in genocide and despoil the landscape? Would society be better off if heroin and cocaine were legalized? Would Africa have a better chance of rising out of poverty if it hosted more polluting industries or accepted Europe's nuclear waste? Would lives be saved if we instituted a free market in organs for transplantation?" (Pinker 530).
Steven Pinker, a scholar, philosopher, and professor at Harvard University starts an article titled "In Defense of Dangerous Ideas" with these and many other questions and ideas most people would consider controversial, offensive, or shocking. Pinker describes these questions as "dangerous ideas." According to Pinker, "dangerous ideas" are "Statements of fact or policy that are defended with evidence and argument by serious scientists and thinkers but which are felt to challenge the collective decency of age" (530). From Pinker's perspective, these are ideas society is quick to censor and disparage, Pinker insists that "dangerous ideas" are important, and they should be open for discussion regardless of how they make people feel. Pinker excludes ideas that are false, hate-filled, or purposely harmful. Instead, he only refers to ideas based on truth and policy. Although some may think in this article Pinker may seem a bit elitist, but I believe he is simply calling upon the educators, government officials, and intellectuals to embrace "dangerous ideas" to help combat ignorance, censorship, and outright lies. If we can eliminate the taboo of these dangerous ideas, they can finally be discussed, and only by discussing these ideas, we can find the truth. .
Pinker explains that the concept of "dangerous ideas" is nothing new and all throughout history we have seen institutions punish intellectuals for their ideas. Pinker writes that "in tellectual intimidation, whether by sword or by pen, inevitably shapes the ideas that are taken seriously in a given era" (531).