Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

The Blank Slate
By Steven Pinkerthe blank slate
  Narrated by Victor Bevine

Kill the killer!


That is not what Steven Pinker writes but capital punishment is one of several provocative subjects in his book. He argues that there is some justification for capital punishment. Pinker is a Professor of Psychology at MIT.

People who have an opinion about human nature may change their mind. Victor Bevine professionally narrates this interesting exploration.

Pinker systematically dismantles many modern beliefs about human nature. He believes clinical studies of the subject are manipulated to distort the truth.

Pinker does not deny that nature and nurture make us who we are but he argues that balance between genetics (nature) and environment (nurture) is distorted; genetics are under valued and environment is over valued as human nature’s source.

He makes his point by citing and explaining how clinical studies are misinterpreted, by scientists, politicians, and the general public. Pinker says that 50 percent of “who we are” is inherited. Human beings are not born with a “…Blank Slate” mind. He argues that clinical studies show that inherited genes interacting with today’s environment are the primary determinants of human nature.

Even twins. when raised in the same environment , are different.

Our environment changes in small ways; i.e., we hear the tone of a piano key, see a bird fly, or taste and feel the texture of a raspberry. External stimulus triggers chemical interaction between genetic inheritance and the environment in unfathomably complicated and varied ways. That is why even twins, raised in the same environment and family, are different.  Pinker asserts that scientific studies show that less than ten percent; maybe zero percent, of who we become is based on how we were raised.

This observation is saying that parenting has little to do with who our children become. Pinker’s argument is that human nature is mankind’s genetic inheritance with individuation shaped by moments of environmental interaction. A corollary of that belief is that a person can be inadvertently programmed for violence; justifying a “kill the killer” mentality. Genetic interaction with environmental incidents may develop an immutable part of a person’s human nature. This is oversimplifying Pinker’s genetic argument but it does make a listener think about rational justification for capital punishment.

“Blank Slate” is provocative and worth a critical review.


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