Here are their opening statements, as captured on the TED Blog:
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: Reason appears to have fallen on hard times. Popular culture plumbs new depths of dumb; political discourse has become a race to the bottom. We live in an era of scientific creationism, 9/11 conspiracy theories, psychic hotlines and an insurgence of religious fundamentalism. People who think too well are often accused of elitism. Even in the academy there are attacks on logocentrism, the crime of letting logic dominate our thinking.
Steven Pinker: Is this necessarily a bad thing? Maybe reason is over-rated? Maybe it’s dominated by overeducated policy wonks, like the best and brightest who dragged us into the quagmire of Vietnam. They threatened our way of living with weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps compassion and conscience, not a whole-hearted calculation, will save us. My fellow psychologists have shown we live by our bodies and emotions; they use a teeny power of reason to rationalize feelings after the fact. Wasn’t it no less a thinker than your fellow philosopher, David Hume, who famously wrote: “reason is, and ought to be, only the slave of the passions?” Perhaps if irrationality is inevitable, we should lie back and enjoy it?