December 4, 2002

0rg4n1z4710n4l 5k1llz

Yesterday was crunch day. I turned in my short story that’s been brewing for the entire semester, and by the end was stained with blood draining from my eyes. It’s a nice piece about a road trip, but as with anything written it’s not finished yet. Not done. Never done. You don’t finish a work, you abandon it. Nevertheless, I may soon post a few excepts here for ya’ll.

In another class I gave an hour-long presentation on the current state of the Nature vs. Nurture debate according to Steven Pinker. Pinker is a psychology professor at MIT that does work in cognitive science. Pinker believes in an innate and universal human nature. Pinker is also a self-proclaimed expert in everything. EVERYTHING.

His new book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature., is topping out best-seller lists all over the place. His new book is also a mishmash of everything that Pinker is an expert in. Pinker is a fine writer, and the pages fly by fine as you read it, and you say, “Hey, here’s a scientist that speaks my language. This’um is a boy I can understand!” But when you step back from the seduction of the poet you realize that Pinker doesn’t follow through with any of his arguments. He tosses something out, “Parents have very little influence on the way their kids develop, while peer groups do,” and keeps citing the same circular evidence for the statement.

A few subjects that Pinker is an expert in:

Psychology, evolutionary psychology, family values, violence, rape, selfish gene theory, moral philosophy, egoism, utilitarianism, neoptism, epistemology, parenting, socialism, capitalism, the Left, the Right, anthropology, social constructivism, reductionism, religion, relativism, ethics, crime and punishment, society, culture, superorganisms, the individual, folk science, education…

The book topic is so grandiose that Pinker does justice to nothing, and may be doing science a huge disfavor with his rubbish selling like hotcakes. However, I would definitely recommend you read it. Just please don’t hold it like the Bible. Throw away the dust cover. Drag the book behind your car and tear out pages when you finish them. Always keep in mind that what this boy says is not legitimate science.

When I finished my presentation my professor paused, scratched his head and said, “Your paper’s going to be organized, right?”

I took the rest of the day off.