Pinker, Peter de Florez professor of psychology in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, is the author of various popular science books including How the Mind Works (1997). In this book he discusses the debate of nature vs. nurture. He attempts to answer the question of whether personality, intelligence, gender, and moral sense are due to genetics or cultural influence.Pinker is an opponent of the belief that humans are born with an empty mind, a tabula rasa. The blank slate is the idea that all knowledge comes from experience and that differences between races, ethnic groups, sexes, and individuals are dependent on experiences and environment. Pinker believed that the blank slate theory was simply false. He argues that differences are due to the fact that our minds are partially “hardwired” at birth. He even thinks that traits such as personality traits are partly genetic and that male and female minds differ biologically.
Although he believes that morality does not depend on biology, he says that people are wrong to think that the Blank Slate is a moral good. He thinks that all aspects of a human are at least partly genetic but that doesn’t mean that crimes such as murder and rape should not be condemned.
Pinker strongly believes in Darwinian science and most of his claims are from the point of view of evolutionary psychology. He even claims that human’s moral sense is itself a product of evolution. Most of his arguments though, are too extreme to a point in which it is hard to find evidence that confirms his beliefs which makes some of his tales sound like sheer speculation.
The Blank Slate idea is itself very extreme. The belief that humans are born with an empty mind seems ignorant due to the fact that we have plenty of scientific research that proves that human minds are partially "hardwired" at birth. Most of Pinker's main ideas are in base of these research and findings, but he also makes many claims that cannot be supported. For instance, he says that personality traits are partly genetic when there is no concrete research that confirms this. In my opinion, this article didn't give as much information on Pinker's beliefs. Instead it was mostly criticizing the book for the most part of the article.
- Is there any kind of evidence that confirms the belief that humans are born with an empty mind?
- How do male and female minds differ biologially?
Orr, H. Allen. "Darwinian Storytelling." New York Review of Books. Feb. 27 2003: 17+. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 19 Feb 2012.