The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

"Our conceptions of human nature affect every aspect of our lives, from the way we raise our children to the political movements we embrace. Yet, just as science is bringing us into a golden age of understanding human nature, many people are hostile to the idea. They fear that a biological understanding of the mind will be used to justify inequality, subvert social change, dissolve personal responsibility and strip life of meaning and purpose.

In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker (bestselling author of The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Stuff of Thought, and The Better Angels of Our Nature) explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings.

He shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature by embracing three linked dogmatic myths: The Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits), The Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society), and The Ghost in the Machine (each of us has an immaterial soul that makes choices free from biology). Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them.

Pinker tries to inject calm and rationality into these debates by showing that equality, progress, responsibility, and purpose have nothing to fear from scientific discoveries about human nature. He disarms even the most menacing threats with clear thinking, common sense, and pertinent facts from science and history.

Despite its popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, he argues, the doctrine of the Blank Slate may have done more harm than good. It denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces hard-headed analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of government, violence, parenting, and the arts."

Don't you feel just a little bit smarter now? :)
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