Steven Pinker: Human nature and the blank slate | TED Talk | TED^ pinker, steven, the blank slate: the modern denial of human nature (viking, 2002), p. culture and human nature, for perspectives that are of special relevance, see pinker's paper on our "cognitive niche"[i] which, not least, deals with the problem of how natural selection came to endow our species with adaptations that enable us to perform cognitive feats so advanced that they would have been surplus to the adaptive requirements of our ancestors. you can see this in the way pinker prefers hypotheses based on manipulation, even suggesting that kinship systems and forms of social organization are primarily products of individuals' efforts at a grand deception or conspiracy. the book's topic, the english past tense, is in yang's view unglamorous, and pinker's attempts at compromise risk being in no man's land between rival theories. first, wilson makes the converse error that pinker does – that if he describes a phenomenon in russian, then the english account must be wrong. his jewish background pinker has said, "i was never religious in the theological sense . we agree with pinker that the multifarious intentions of agents shape the emergence and spread of cultural traits, these are merely aspects of proximate causation in cultural evolution and do not preclude the possibility of selection by consequences. understand why pinker would pose such a question, it is necessary to describe the concept of gene selection. locke's an essay concerning human understanding (1690) is often cited as the foundational document of the "blank slate" view. pinker said it was unlikely since the decline in violence happened too rapidly to be explained by genetic changes. situation as it presented itself by the end of the 20th century was summarized in the blank slate: the modern denial of human nature (2002) by steven pinker. we would like to amplify one of pinker's points about the dearth of empirical evidence for group selection, and address several related issues that appear perniciously difficult to communicate. nature and nurture: the complex interplay of genetic and environmental influences on human behavior and development. nature is what we think of as pre-wiring and is influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors. according to the models of group-selection from the 1970s, on which pinker is leaning for his dismissal of group selection, this team found something that should not exist. pinker compares music to "auditory cheesecake", stating that "as far as biological cause and effect is concerned, music is useless". pinker argues that all three dogmas were held onto for an extended period even in the face of evidence because they were seen as desirable in the sense that if any human trait is purely conditioned by culture, any undesired trait (such as crime or aggression) may be engineered away by purely cultural (political means). we’re successful (as a species, and generally as individuals) precisely because our brains learn readily and —as carl zimmer points out nicely in a recent essay — both brains and genes fluidly adapt to a surprising range of environments and challenges.. (1993) "behavioral genetics of cognitive ability: a life-span perspective", in nature, nurture, and psychology, by r. but i suspect that carr — hardly alone in doing so — expressed a nature v. gladwell replied, disputing pinker's comments about the importance of iq on teaching performance and by analogy, the effect, if any, of draft order on quarterback performance in the national football league. after all, group selection sounds like a reasonable extension of evolutionary theory and a plausible explanation of the social nature of humans.^ "professor stephen pinker", new college of the humanities, accessed 4 november 2014. "peace in our time: steven pinker's history of violence in decline".'s research includes delving into human nature and what science says about it. large body of ethnographic and experimental work stands in stark contrast to the empirical work pinker offers to support his view, being limited to american undergraduates who are known not only to be psychologically unusual in many important dimensions, but also to be particularly unusual in behavioral games, in stark contrast to the several foraging groups we tested [48, 49, 59].
Steven Pinker | Penguin Random Housein my opinion, pinker needs to absorb the fact that the process of natural selection requires heredity and that genes are a particular mechanism of heredity. one prominent opponent of pinker's view is geoffrey sampson whose 1997 book, educating eve: the 'language instinct' debate has been described as the "definitive response" to pinker's book. however, these claims have attracted a number of criticisms [9-13], not least because of the highly artificial nature of experimental economic laboratories. pinker sets out the problems with the current enthusiasm for group selection clearly and fairly, except for what are, in my opinion, two regrettable but easily corrected misplaced emphases. rather than just asserting it, these models allow theorists to study how varying amounts of random variation vs. he sums the matter up: “with violence, as with so many other concerns, human nature is the problem, but human nature is also the solution. he identified approximately 150 such features, coming to the conclusion there is indeed a "universal human nature", and that these features point to what that universal human nature is.^ pinker, steven (2002), the blank slate: the modern denial of human nature, penguin putnam, isbn 0-670-03151-8. focusing on the main points where i believe that the debate over selection models has gone astray, i want to point out a potentially important example of group selection that pinker overlooks: human languages. however, the moral nature of human society, and the key role of morality in our success as a species, can be accommodated without requiring evolutionary biology to abandon its cherished accomplishments. pinker further argued that since the ten most frequently occurring english verbs (be, have, do, say, make .^ gutiérrez, luci (january 24, 2014) time to retire the simplicity of nature vs. reality of pinker's proposed language instinct, and the related claim that grammar is innate and genetically based, has been contested by many linguists. underline this point, consider pinker's suggestion that if somehow the variation on which a selective process acts is non-random, it is not an "evolutionary" process., reciprocity theory does not say what pinker thinks it says. pinker questions the very nature of our thoughts — the way we use words, how we learn, and how we relate to others. the term has thus moved away from its original connotation of "cultural influences" to include all effects of the environment, including; indeed, a substantial source of environmental input to human nature may arise from stochastic variations in prenatal development and is thus in no sense of the term "cultural". this essay pinker convincingly argues that the idea of group selection, as popularized by leading scientists such as e. brown mentored pinker through his thesis; pinker stated that brown's "funny and instructive" book words and things (1958) was one of the inspirations for the language instinct. understanding human nature requires mapping the nature of human psychological adaptations. steven pinker wants banished from our science is a modeling tool that has proved useful for breaking down and analyzing different components of a selective process. pinker is a harvard college professor and johnstone family professor of psychology; harvard university. that is apparent design; the design in nature, in contrast, is typically as good as, or even much better than, the designs we "intelligent" artificers have yet devised. 2008, he has chaired the usage panel of the american heritage dictionary, and wrote the essay on usage for the fifth edition of the dictionary, which was published in 2011. pinker's book the blank slate argues that all humans are born with some innate traits. pinker sees language as unique to humans, evolved to solve the specific problem of communication among social hunter-gatherers.
^ "steven pinker: the mind reader" by ed douglas the guardian accessed 3 february 2006. "be warned," he states, "that if you wish, as i do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. pinker argued that language depends on two things, the associative remembering of sounds and their meanings in words, and the use of rules to manipulate symbols for grammar. compared to the way people treat nonrelatives, they are far more likely to feed their relatives, nurture them, do them favors, live near them, take risks to protect them, avoid hurting them, back away from fights with them, donate organs to them, and leave them inheritances. "dig-dug, think-thunk (review of words and rules by steven pinker)". the alliterative expression "nature and nurture" in english has been in use since at least the elizabethan period and goes back to medieval french. (2004) "the nature of nurture: maternal effects and chromatin remodelling", in essays in social neuroscience, cacioppo, jt & berntson, gg eds. "nature, nurture and cognitive development from 1 to 16 years: a parent-offspring adoption study". 2009, pinker wrote a mixed review of malcolm gladwell's essays in the new york times criticizing his analytical methods." because expectation of reciprocity and concern for reputation are basically selfish and do not involve a fundamental respect for moral values, pinker is simply reiterating dawkins' message of a half-century ago that we are the selfish product of selfish genes. bowles's formulation tells you exactly what kind of empirical data you need to test the model: (1) what the minimum ratio of genetic variances needs to be (between vs. pinker might reply that this is beside the point since if an individual cannot talk then their genes will be eliminated due, perhaps, to sexual selection, so that language only appears to be group-selected. these results did not in any way point to overwhelming contribution of heritable factors, with heritability typically ranging around 40% to 50%, so that the controversy may not be cast in terms of purist behaviorism vs. to pinker, group selection "adds nothing to conventional history" as an explanation of cultural change. but as pinker argues, and in our view as well, there are no data that demonstrate the existence of group selected adaptations in humans. further, aleksander writes that while pinker criticises some attempts to explain language processing with neural nets, pinker later makes use of a neural net to create past tense verb forms correctly. it is curious but telling that proponents of group selection always concentrate on its logical and mathematical soundness rather than on its usefulness in explaining features of real organisms in nature. this essay i'll concentrate on the sense of "group selection" as a version of natural selection which acts on groups in the same way that it acts on individual organisms, namely, to maximize their inclusive fitness (alternatively, which acts on groups in the same way it acts on genes, namely to increase the number of copies that appear in the next generation; i will treat these formulations as equivalent)., group selection and inclusive fitness are not equivalent; the price equation vs. assumptions underlying the nativist view have also been criticised in jeffrey elman's rethinking innateness: a connectionist perspective on development, which defends the connectionist approach that pinker attacked. or, in a situation that pinker skips, the net effect of what's going on within groups is zero (a "stable equilibria"), and all the action comes from the relative contribution of each group to the evolutionary change. as both "nature" and "nurture" factors were found to contribute substantially, often in an extricable manner, such views were seen as naive or outdated by most scholars of human development by the 2000s. variability of trait can be meaningfully spoken of as being due in certain proportions to genetic differences ("nature"), or environments ("nurture"). words and rules: the ingredients of language (1999), pinker argues from his own research that regular and irregular phenomena are products of computation and memory lookup, respectively, and that language can be understood as an interaction between the two. his seventh popular book, the sense of style: the thinking person's guide to writing in the 21st century (2014), pinker attempts to provide a writing style guide that is informed by modern science and psychology, offering advice on how to produce more comprehensible and unambiguous writing in nonfiction contexts and explaining why so much of today's academic and popular writing is difficult for readers to understand. contributions tend to decline rapidly, and in his essay, steven pinker concludes from this research that "humans are not a group-selected adaptation which capitalizes on opportunities to make sacrifices for the common good.
what appears to be self-sacrifice is thus simply a superficial veneer covering our selfish natures.'s essay is centered on a different question: can a concept of group selection be formulated that is comparable to the concept of gene selection? pinker is also noted for having identified the rename of phillip morris to altria as an "egregious example" of phonesthesia - with the company attempting to "switch its image from bad people who sell addictive carcinogens to a place or state marked by altruism and other lofty values". 1951, calvin hall suggested that the dichotomy opposing nature to nurture is ultimately fruitless. data, then—as well as the absence of data for pervasive altruism—point to group selection as a rather unimportant force in nature. these remarks i concentrate on the steven pinker's misconceptions about cultural evolution, cultural group selection, and gene-culture coevolution.: a born devil, on whose nature nurture can never stick) and richard barnfield (nature and nurture once together met / the soule and shape in decent order set. as pinker notes, models of group selection are either mathematically equivalent to those based on kin selection but less tractable, or are so nebulous that they can't be analyzed at all. pinker criticizes several widely held ideas about language – that it needs to be taught, that people's grammar is poor and getting worse with new ways of speaking, the sapir–whorf hypothesis that language limits the kinds of thoughts a person can have, and that other great apes can learn languages. thus, pinker's claims about human psychology depend on evolutionary predictions about the content of norms. the image is used by pinker in the better angels of our nature, with the comment "as the housebook illustrations suggest, [the knights] did not restrict their killing to other knights". for pinker, this is the only way that the term "group selection" makes sense, but it is not the concept of group selection that began with darwin, was refined by population geneticists, rejected in the 1960's, and revived today. we need to get out of the dictionary and into the field, to go beyond essentialist discussions of natural selection vs. the economics and psychology journals, including the most influential natural science journals, science and nature, are full of accounts of human moral and prosocial behavior. nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception e. "frequently asked questions about the better angels of our nature: why violence has declined". the end, group selection, while innately appealing, has not helped us understand very much about nature., style and writing in the 21st century: with steven pinker, royal institution, october 2015. is a welcome relief that steve pinker has applied his usual acuity to the ever-vexatious debate on group selection. the reason is that in many fields of research, close feedback loops have been found in which "nature" and "nurture" influence one another constantly, as seen in self-domestication. the stuff of thought (2007), pinker looks at a wide range of issues around the way words related to thoughts on the one hand, and to the world outside ourselves on the other. the hypothesis is, as pinker notes, is designed to explain those features of evolution—especially traits like altruism and cooperation in our own species—that seem disadvantageous to individuals but good for groups. this framework is quite clearly delineated in scientific terms (see, for instance, my overview, "gene-culture coevolution and the nature of human sociality") 2 which i can summarize as follows. problems in his essay begin with the idea that mutations have to be random with respect to fitness for natural selection to occur.) true altruism in humans, which does exist, is the sole exception, but, as pinker notes, this is almost certainly because of cultural features unique to our species. queller, often cited as a contemporary critic of group selection, helped to coordinate the much discussed reply by 137 co-authors  to the article by nowak, tarnita and wilson on group selection published in nature.