The Modern Denial of Human Nature

In his preface, Pinker states: "The idea that nature and nurture interact to shape some part of the mind might turn out to be wrong, but it is not wishy-washy or unexceptionable, even in the twenty-first century, thousands of years after the issue was framed. When it comes to explaining human thought and behavior, the possibility that heredity plays any role at all still has the power to shock. To acknowledge human nature, many think, is to endorse racism, sexism, war, greed, genocide, nihilism, reactionary politics, and neglect of children and the disadvantaged. Any claim that the mind has an innate organization strikes people not as a hypothesis that might be incorrect but as a thought it is immoral to think."

Pinker considers the greatest scientific achievement of the twentieth century is putting together the understanding of life and the understanding of matter and energy. Molecular biology shows that the nonliving part of the physical world is a collection of molecular machinery, complex in the extreme, but machinery all the same.


Reviewed by Naomi Sherer

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