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Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature - Steven Pinker

Human is not blank slate. 


The social scientists are wrong for so many years.


The pure behaviors are also wrong. Skinner is wrong to assume that the human behaviors are shaped by the environment.


Freud is wrong of course.


Cognitive psychology have to revised its theory to include some form of behaviorist analysis.


Stephen Pinker is up to date, at least that mentioned the wrongs of psychologists to interchange study subject and project behaviors of rats and pigeons to humans. 


I'm only on the 3rd chapter and I again wonder why this book sit on my to-read pile for so long. 


So gene predetermine a lot of factor. There is an intermediate motivate, a proximate cause of behaviors.




More coming... 


OK. The nasty bit about how studies of evolution theory that goes against the concept was attacked by sociologists.


Behavioral scientists are being attack for discovering human inborn theory. 


We are not born equal. We have inborn trend. These trend could be different among races or genders. 

The theory that we could all achieve the same thing is false. Like we are not good at sport because of the ability we are born with. Intelligent and other factors could also make us less accomplish than we like to be. 


That's good to hear actually. 


The other cool thing is, that he goes into details into free will.


Just that we are born with certain tendency does not make us less responsible for the things we do. 


Pre-frontal cortex could stop us for behaving badly even if we desire to do, after we think of the possible consequence. 


So, free will still exist for most.


Next is punishment for crime. 


The important of knowing our nature scientifically.


There is a whole of hostility against scientists that study the human nature. The right wing use this to justify their hostility toward whoever they are bias against.


The scientists who really study human nature, are not "against" any particular groups. People are different, and the genes that bring out the trend is the butter and bread for the scientists.


So, it is interesting that professors and students are not on the left, and hold respect for people being different. Those who are conservatives and religious or both are against everyone that fall out of the narrow acceptable standard the right wing set for themselves. 


It is not education but the preconception of the human nature that bring out this huge difference. 


Human are just human living out their natural intend and compromise so the good for staying in the society. 


Those who don't see individuals but collective social psychology would try to make everyone fall inline to authority, be it political or religious.


A great read. 


There are some really good bits that I would like to commit to memory.


Human nature is capable of violence, that's why anarchy doesn't work. Pinker cited Montreal 1969 police strike as a good example of how good nature, well mannered people have a small population that would act violently if they could get away with it.


The question is not why human are violence. The question should be why violence incidents don't happen more often. Frontal lobes that give human self control would say a lot. When there are consequences, human act better to avoid unfavorable outcome. 


The other thing he goes against is the gender feminist theory. A lot of them are bullshit. Rape is not just about power, it is about sex. Men want sex. When some men want sex from women that refused, and they choose not to use the usual method of seduction, wooing. to get into women pants, some men use violence. From the genetic point of view, even when the rate of 5% of rape resulted in pregnancy, the gene of the type of men who would rape would live on in the civilization. 


The other one is about the cocky-poop about parental influence. They have genetic influence. If parental care is normal, and not abusive, neglect, then most children would come out the way they are supposed to, with the genetic materials. 


The 3 laws are like this. 


The first law : All human behavioral traits are heritable. (50%)

Th second law: The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of the genes. (0%)

The third law: A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families. (50%)


Quoting Pinker regarding the result to find siblings that raised apart are similar in trend while adoptive siblings that are raised together have the same level of behavioral trend similarity like strangers, "Not to put too fine a point on it, but much of the advice from the parenting experts is flapdoodle."


Like it. Self help books are bullshit. Now we know parental guides are mostly bullshit too. 


Good one. 


Closer to finishing this. Enjoying this a lot. 



For those who has a strong dislike for postmodernism would love the chapter on Art. Scientists like Pinker had echoed the dislike for the artists or theorists who ignored the human nature for beauty. 

Quoting Pinker, "Once we recognize what modernism and postmodernism have done to the elite arts and humanities, the reasons for their decline and fall become all too obvious. The movements are based on a false theory of human psychology, the Blank Slate. They fail to apply their most vaunted ability - stripping away the pretense - to themselves. An they take all the fun of out art!

Modernism and postmodernism cling to a theory of perception that was rejected long ago: that the sense organs present the brain with a tableau of raw colors and sounds and hat everything else in perceptual experience is a learned social construction." 

The mass production of beautiful arts in both commercial and non commercials sectors would make arts so available that we are overwhelmed by them.

Arts is linked to hunger for status. Once art is common, it lost that part of the value. So modernism and postmodernism has kind of driven, to make art less available. So unavailable that it require critics to put a narrative to it before normal people could appreciate them. 

Pinker quoting Tom Wolfe in the "The Painted Word".

"Not "seeing is believing", you ninny, but "believing is seeing", for Modern Art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the the text."

The postmodernist arts had turned away from human nature of appreciation of beauty. It is "destroying beauty", and tried to shock people. It failed in many ways but still be appreciated as "big name artists" are still marketable and fed the rich for their hunger for status. 


As Pinker had put it, "A final blind spot to human nature is the failure of contemporary artists and theorists to deconstruct their own moral pretensions. Artists and critics have long believed that an appreciation of elite art is ennobling and have spoken of cultural philistines in tones ordinarily reserved for child molesters (as we see in the two meanings of the word barbarian). The affectation of social reform that surrounds modernism and postmodernism is part of this tradition." 

"The dominant theories of elite art and criticism i the twentieth century grew out of a militant denial of human nature. One legacy is ugly, baffling, and insulting art. The other is pretentious and unintelligible scholarship. And they're surprised that people are staying away in droves?"

Things are changing. Some artists are now including the scientific understanding of human nature in their arts. Good one. Pinker named some names and I'm looking forward to their arts.

Last chapter. The Voice of Species. 


Pinker against blank slate is obvious and strong and reasonable. I've read enough books (not a lot, but enough) that pretend human is blank slate when it is not. And it has it dark side.

"The Blank Slate is not some ideal that we should all hope and pray is true. No, it is anti-life, anti-human theoretical abstraction that denies our common humanity, our inherent interests, and our individual preferences. Though it has pretensions of celebrating our potential, i does the opposite, because our potential comes from the combinatorial interplay of wonderfully complex faculties, not from passive blankness of an empty tablet."  

Great work. Why does it take me so long to read it? I should have read it years ago, and would love it like I love it now.


Much read for all. Especially postmodernists, blank slate believers. You are wrong about human nature and it is good to know what's right.