STEVEN PINKER: EVOLUTIONARY POP STAR

STEVEN PINKER'S NEW BOOK ABOUT THE MIND IS BIG, BRASH AND A LOT OF FUN. TOO MUCH FUN, SAY HIS CRITICS

His shoulder-length hair bouncing, Steve Pinker strides into the lecture hall like a rock star taking center stage. He flings his leather jacket over the back of a chair, fingers some chords on an electronic keyboard and flicks on his microphone. Over the next hour and a half, Pinker, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will treat 325 undergraduates to a series of demonstrations highlighting design glitches in that evanescent thing we call the mind.

He starts by projecting stereograms--two-dimensional images that produce three-dimensional illusions--onto a big movie screen. As the students stare, a...