Brett Williams's Reviews > The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
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This book is about science and politics. Pinker took on the project this book represents after colleagues told him that little boys are aggressive because they’re socialized to be, teenagers get the idea to compete for appearance thanks to spelling bee awards, and men think sex is desirable because society tells them it is. In other words, humans are born a blank slate, only nurture, not nature, will make them what they are. “This is the mentality of a cult,” writes Pinker, “in which fantastical beliefs are flaunted as proof of one’s piety. This mentality cannot exist with an esteem for truth… [and is] responsible for unfortunate trends… [like] a stated contempt among many scholars for the concepts of truth, logic, and evidence, and the inevitable reaction [of] politically incorrect shock jocks who revel in anti-intellectualism and bigotry, emboldened by the knowledge that the intellectual establishment has forfeited claims of credibility…” Amen to that!

Pinker shows the cult fearful of findings from cognitive science, neuroscience, behavioral genetics, and evolutionary physiology. Why? Because they make the errant assumption that pre-wired humans are incapable of being made moral and humane. Their interpretation of statistics was as certainty, not probability. Hence, what we’re now so familiar with from the Right were long before practiced by the Left. Scientific findings were not only denied and vilified, but scientists who dare desecrate the creed were attacked with smear campaigns, character assassination, and words put in their mouth only to pronounce how wrong they were. Even the likes of paleontologist Steven J. Gould (stunned me), geneticist Richard Lewontin (naturally), and the neuroscientist Steven Rose (daft) were dupes for the movement. This troika and the campus snowflakes they inspired labeled E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and Robert Trivers as genocidal bigots, racists, practitioners of eugenics, Nazis (yawn), and Right-wing prophets of patriarchy (more yawn). All because Wilson et. al. found biology responsible for much of human behavior. (Was this really a surprise?) While Pinker’s focus is social “science” doctrine, not the shock jocks he refers to (Rush Limbaugh etc.), as one reads this book it becomes apparent there’s no difference between the two, other than what they proclaim as sacrosanct and blasphemy.

After a history of the blank slate starting with John Locke, followed by the Great Schism and what the cult is trying to protect, Pinker dives into measurement, data, and reason. The identical twin studies were so pronounced and ironclad, I had to reread them, then check references to believe these clones (which is what these twins are) could be so identical in their behavior. That is, twins separated at birth, shipped off to different countries, class structures, learning environments, never to know the other or their common parents, found decades later to have the same behaviors in a myriad of the most nuanced and peculiar ways. Biology matters.

So it is, with the purifying flames of science separated from politically correct programs of pseudo-morality, Pinker burns just about every quasi-religious Postmodernist liberal dogma in the blank slate arena you can name—with the exception of gender-fluidity, not yet concocted. I hope one day he’ll do the same to Creationists and global warming deniers on the Right. What a thrill, and a shame to find even biologists themselves got caught up in the PC creed of our times. It also clarified for me what almost cannot be done in physics and chemistry (except for transparent liars like Ivar Giaever). Biology, several steps up from the closest thing we’ve got to certainty in the foundations of reality, allows for some fiddle-faddle and hoodwink, so long as the promoter has a notable name like Gould. Limbaugh and Creationists love this. Gould, the troika, and their followers deserve their share of credit for the monster they helped create on the Right as a response to this kind of nonsense.
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Reading Progress

July 31, 2018 – Started Reading
July 31, 2018 – Shelved
July 31, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
October 12, 2018 – Finished Reading

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