Steven Pinker: Human nature and the blank slate

A year ago, I spoke to you about a book that I was just in the process of completing, that has come out in the interim, and I would like to talk to you today about some of the controversies that that book inspired. The book is called “The Blank Slate,” based on the popular idea that the human mind is a blank slate, and that all of its structure comes from socialization, culture, parenting, experience. The “blank slate” was an influential idea in the 20th century. Here are a few quotes indicating that: “Man has no nature,” from the historian Jose Ortega y Gasset; “Man has no instincts,” from the anthropologist Ashley Montagu; “The human brain is capable of a full range of behaviors and predisposed to none,” from the late scientist Stephen Jay Gould. There are a number of reasons to doubt that the human mind is a blank slate, and some of them just come from common sense. As many people have told me over the years, anyone who’s had more than one child knows that kids come into the world with certain temperaments and talents; it doesn’t all come from the outside. Oh, and anyone who has both a child and a house pet has surely noticed that the child, exposed to speech, will acquire a human language, whereas the house pet won’t, presumably because of some innate different between them. And anyone who’s ever been in a heterosexual relationship knows that the minds of men and the minds of women are not indistinguishable. There are also, I think, increasing results from the scientific study of humans that, indeed, we’re not born blank slates. One of them, from anthropology, is the study of human universals. If you’ve ever taken anthropology, you know that it’s a — kind of an occupational pleasure of anthropologists to show how exotic other cultures can be, and that there are places out there where, supposedly, everything is the opposite to the way it is here. But if you instead look at what is common to the world’s cultures, you find that there is an enormously rich set of behaviors and emotions and ways of construing the world that can be found in all of the world’s 6,000-odd cultures. The anthropologist Donald Brown has tried to list them all, and they range from aesthetics, affection and age statuses all the way down to weaning, weapons, weather, attempts to control, the color white and a worldview. Also, genetics and neuroscience are increasingly showing that the brain is intricately structured. This is a recent study by the neurobiologist Paul Thompson and his colleagues in which they — using MRI — measured the distribution of gray matter — that is, the outer layer of the cortex — in a large sample of pairs of people. They coded correlations in the thickness of gray matter in different parts of the brain using a false color scheme, in which no difference is coded as purple, and any color other than purple indicates a statistically significant correlation. Well, this is what happens when you pair people up at random. By definition, two people picked at random can’t have correlations in the distribution of gray matter in the cortex. This is what happens in people who share half of their DNA — fraternal twins. And as you can see, large amounts of the brain are not purple, showing that if one person has a thicker bit of cortex in that region, so does his fraternal twin. And here’s what happens if you get a pair of people who share all their DNA — namely, clones or identical twins. And you can see huge areas of cortex where there are massive correlations in the distribution of gray matter. Now, these aren’t just differences in anatomy, like the shape of your ear lobes, but they have consequences in thought and behavior that are well illustrated in this famous cartoon by Charles Addams: “Separated at birth, the Mallifert twins meet accidentally.” As you can see, there are two inventors with identical contraptions in their lap, meeting in the waiting room of a patent attorney. Now, the cartoon is not such an exaggeration, because studies of identical twins who were separated at birth and then tested in adulthood show that they have astonishing similarities. And this happens in every pair of identical twins separated at birth ever studied — but much less so with fraternal twins separated at birth. My favorite example is a pair of twins, one of whom was brought up as a Catholic in a Nazi family in Germany, the other brought up in a Jewish family in Trinidad. When they walked into the lab in Minnesota, they were wearing identical navy blue shirts with epaulettes; both of them liked to dip buttered toast in coffee, both of them kept rubber bands around their wrists, both of them flushed the toilet before using it as well as after, and both of them liked to surprise people by sneezing in crowded elevators to watch them jump. Now — the story might seem to good to be true, but when you administer batteries of psychological tests, you get the same results — namely, identical twins separated at birth show quite astonishing similarities. Now, given both the common sense and scientific data calling the doctrine of the blank slate into question, why should it have been such an appealing notion? Well, there are a number of political reasons why people have found it congenial. The foremost is that if we’re blank slates, then, by definition, we are equal, because zero equals zero equals zero. But if something is written on the slate, then some people could have more of it than others, and according to this line of thinking, that would justify discrimination and inequality. Another political fear of human nature is that if we are blank slates, we can perfect mankind — the age-old dream of the perfectibility of our species through social engineering. Whereas, if we’re born with certain instincts, then perhaps some of them might condemn us to selfishness, prejudice and violence. Well, in the book, I argue that these are, in fact, non sequiturs. And just to make a long story short: first of all, the concept of fairness is not the same as the concept of sameness. And so when Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” he did not mean “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are clones.” Rather, that all men are equal in terms of their rights, and that every person ought to be treated as an individual, and not prejudged by the statistics of particular groups that they may belong to. Also, even if we were born with certain ignoble motives, they don’t automatically lead to ignoble behavior. That is because the human mind is a complex system with many parts, and some of them can inhibit others. For example, there’s excellent reason to believe that virtually all humans are born with a moral sense, and that we have cognitive abilities that allow us to profit from the lessons of history. So even if people did have impulses towards selfishness or greed, that’s not the only thing in the skull, and there are other parts of the mind that can counteract them. In the book, I go over controversies such as this one, and a number of other hot buttons, hot zones, Chernobyls, third rails, and so on — including the arts, cloning, crime, free will, education, evolution, gender differences, God, homosexuality, infanticide, inequality, Marxism, morality, Nazism, parenting, politics, race, rape, religion, resource depletion, social engineering, technological risk and war. And needless to say, there were certain risks in taking on these subjects. When I wrote a first draft of the book, I circulated it to a number of colleagues for comments, and here are some of the reactions that I got: “Better get a security camera for your house.” “Don’t expect to get any more awards, job offers or positions in scholarly societies.” “Tell your publisher not to list your hometown in your author bio.” “Do you have tenure?” (Laughter) Well, the book came out in October, and nothing terrible has happened. I — I like — There was indeed reason to be nervous, and there were moments in which I did feel nervous, knowing the history of what has happened to people who’ve taken controversial stands or discovered disquieting findings in the behavioral sciences. There are many cases, some of which I talk about in the book, of people who have been slandered, called Nazis, physically assaulted, threatened with criminal prosecution for stumbling across or arguing about controversial findings. And you never know when you’re going to come across one of these booby traps. My favorite example is a pair of psychologists who did research on left-handers, and published some data showing that left-handers are, on average, more susceptible to disease, more prone to accidents and have a shorter lifespan. It’s not clear, by the way, since then, whether that is an accurate generalization, but the data at the time seemed to support that. Well, pretty soon they were barraged with enraged letters, death threats, ban on the topic in a number of scientific journals, coming from irate left-handers and their advocates, and they were literally afraid to open their mail because of the venom and vituperation that they had inadvertently inspired. Well, the night is young, but the book has been out for half a year, and nothing terrible has happened. None of the dire professional consequences has taken place — I haven’t been exiled from the city of Cambridge. But what I wanted to talk about are two of these hot buttons that have aroused the strongest response in the 80-odd reviews that The Blank Slate has received. I’ll just put that list up for a few seconds, and see if you can guess which two — I would estimate that probably two of these topics inspired probably 90 percent of the reaction in the various reviews and radio interviews. It’s not violence and war, it’s not race, it’s not gender, it’s not Marxism, it’s not Nazism. They are: the arts and parenting. (Laughter) So let me tell you what aroused such irate responses, and I’ll let you decide if whether they — the claims are really that outrageous. Let me start with the arts. I note that among the long list of human universals that I presented a few slides ago are art. There is no society ever discovered in the remotest corner of the world that has not had something that we would consider the arts. Visual arts — decoration of surfaces and bodies — appears to be a human universal. The telling of stories, music, dance, poetry — found in all cultures, and many of the motifs and themes that give us pleasure in the arts can be found in all human societies: a preference for symmetrical forms, the use of repetition and variation, even things as specific as the fact that in poetry all over the world, you have lines that are very close to three seconds long, separated by pauses. Now, on the other hand, in the second half of the 20th century, the arts are frequently said to be in decline. And I have a collection, probably 10 or 15 headlines, from highbrow magazines deploring the fact that the arts are in decline in our time. I’ll give you a couple of representative quotes: “We can assert with some confidence that our own period is one of decline, that the standards of culture are lower than they were 50 years ago, and that the evidences of this decline are visible in every department of human activity.” That’s a quote from T. S. Eliot, a little more than 50 years ago. And a more recent one: “The possibility of sustaining high culture in our time is becoming increasing problematical. Serious book stores are losing their franchise, nonprofit theaters are surviving primarily by commercializing their repertory, symphony orchestras are diluting their programs, public television is increasing its dependence on reruns of British sitcoms, classical radio stations are dwindling, museums are resorting to blockbuster shows, dance is dying.” That’s from Robert Brustein, the famous drama critic and director, in The New Republic about five years ago. Well, in fact, the arts are not in decline. I don’t think this will as a surprise to anyone in this room, but by any standard they have never been flourishing to a greater extent. There are, of course, entirely new art forms and new media, many of which you’ve heard over these few days. By any economic standard, the demand for art of all forms is skyrocketing, as you can tell from the price of opera tickets, by the number of books sold, by the number of books published, the number of musical titles released, the number of new albums and so on. The only grain of truth to this complaint that the arts are in decline come from three spheres. One of them is in elite art since the 1930s — say, the kinds of works performed by major symphony orchestras, where most of the repertory is before 1930, or the works shown in major galleries and prestigious museums. In literary criticism and analysis, probably 40 or 50 years ago, literary critics were a kind of cultural hero; now they’re kind of a national joke. And the humanities and arts programs in the universities, which by many measures, indeed are in decline. Students are staying away in droves, universities are disinvesting in the arts and humanities. Well, here’s a diagnosis. They didn’t ask me, but by their own admission, they need all the help that they can get. And I would like to suggest that it’s not a coincidence that this supposed decline in the elite arts and criticism occurred in the same point in history in which there was a widespread denial of human nature. A famous quotation can be found — if you look on the web, you can find it in literally scores of English core syllabuses — “In or about December 1910, human nature changed.” A paraphrase of a quote by Virginia Woolf, and there’s some debate as to what she actually meant by that. But it’s very clear, looking at these syllabuses, that — it’s used now as a way of saying that all forms of appreciation of art that were in place for centuries, or millennia, in the 20th century were discarded. The beauty and pleasure in art — probably a human universal — were — began to be considered saccharine, or kitsch, or commercial. Barnett Newman had a famous quote that “the impulse of modern art is the desire to destroy beauty” — which was considered bourgeois or tacky. And here’s just one example. I mean, this is perhaps a representative example of the visual depiction of the female form in the 15th century; here is a representative example of the depiction of the female form in the 20th century. And, as you can see, there — something has changed in the way the elite arts appeal to the senses. Indeed, in movements of modernism and post-modernism, there was visual art without beauty, literature without narrative and plot, poetry without meter and rhyme, architecture and planning without ornament, human scale, green space and natural light, music without melody and rhythm, and criticism without clarity, attention to aesthetics and insight into the human condition. (Laughter) Let me give just you an example to back up that last statement. But here, there — one of the most famous literary English scholars of our time is the Berkeley professor, Judith Butler. And here is an example of one of her analyses: “The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from the form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects …” Well, you get the idea. By the way, this is one sentence — you can actually parse it. Well, the argument in “The Blank Slate” was that elite art and criticism in the 20th century, although not the arts in general, have disdained beauty, pleasure, clarity, insight and style. People are staying away from elite art and criticism. What a puzzle — I wonder why. Well, this turned out to be probably the most controversial claim in the book. Someone asked me whether I stuck it in in order to deflect ire from discussions of gender and Nazism and race and so on. I won’t comment on that. But it certainly inspired an energetic reaction from many university professors. Well, the other hot button is parenting. And the starting point is the — for that discussion was the fact that we have all been subject to the advice of the parenting industrial complex. Now, here is — here is a representative quote from a besieged mother: “I’m overwhelmed with parenting advice. I’m supposed to do lots of physical activity with my kids so I can instill in them a physical fitness habit so they’ll grow up to be healthy adults. And I’m supposed to do all kinds of intellectual play so they’ll grow up smart. And there are all kinds of play — clay for finger dexterity, word games for reading success, large motor play, small motor play. I feel like I could devote my life to figuring out what to play with my kids.” I think anyone who’s recently been a parent can sympathize with this mother. Well, here’s some sobering facts about parenting. Most studies of parenting on which this advice is based are useless. They’re useless because they don’t control for heritability. They measure some correlation between what the parents do, how the children turn out and assume a causal relation: that the parenting shaped the child. Parents who talk a lot to their kids have kids who grow up to be articulate, parents who spank their kids have kids who grow up to be violent and so on. And very few of them control for the possibility that parents pass on genes for — that increase the chances a child will be articulate or violent and so on. Until the studies are redone with adoptive children, who provide an environment but not genes to their kids, we have no way of knowing whether these conclusions are valid. The genetically controlled studies have some sobering results. Remember the Mallifert twins: separated at birth, then they meet in the patent office — remarkably similar. Well, what would have happened if the Mallifert twins had grown up together? You might think, well, then they’d be even more similar, because not only would they share their genes, but they would also share their environment. That would make them super-similar, right? Wrong. Identical twins, or any siblings, who are separated at birth are no less similar than if they had grown up together. Everything that happens to you in a given home over all of those years appears to leave no permanent stamp on your personality or intellect. A complementary finding, from a completely different methodology, is that adopted siblings reared together — the mirror image of identical twins reared apart, they share their parents, their home, their neighborhood, don’t share their genes — end up not similar at all. OK — two different bodies of research with a similar finding. What it suggests is that children are shaped not by their parents over the long run, but in part — only in part — by their genes, in part by their culture — the culture of the country at large and the children’s own culture, namely their peer group — as we heard from Jill Sobule earlier today, that’s what kids care about — and, to a very large extent, larger than most people are prepared to acknowledge, by chance: chance events in the wiring of the brain in utero; chance events as you live your life. So let me conclude with just a remark to bring it back to the theme of choices. I think that the sciences of human nature — behavioral genetics, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science — are going to, increasingly in the years to come, upset various dogmas, careers and deeply-held political belief systems. And that presents us with a choice. The choice is whether certain facts about humans, or topics, are to be considered taboos, forbidden knowledge, where we shouldn’t go there because no good can come from it, or whether we should explore them honestly. I have my own answer to that question, which comes from a great artist of the 19th century, Anton Chekhov, who said, “Man will become better when you show him what he is like.” And I think that the argument can’t be put any more eloquently than that. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Comments 100

  • He may be intelligent but he is a DA (dumbass). Why equate a hot topic with the Chernobyl Tragedy? He is not very articulate so maybe his parents were not very talkative in the home—-lol.

  • The idea that proximal social conditioning has nothing to do with the formation of a human being is a bit of an over statement. How much a parent effects the way their child ends up is dependent upon how much they condition their child. The more a parent understands conditioning the more they can shape their child's behavior.

  • This guy is just a psychologist, he isn't an actual scientist.He's a monkey whose half nuanced findings were heavily criticized by professional in the actual biological field. The monkey doesn't even know what epigenetics are.

  • Pinker's book came out about 10 years too early.
    The arguments set forth in the book are an implacable, scientific wall of refutation to the bullshit that is 3rd-wave feminism, i.e., 'gender is a social construct.' Sure it is, honey.

  • This poor video quality just makes me mad.

  • I enjoy waching Steve Pinkers lectures.You can be agree or disagree with him but he gives good arguments.

  • ib psych lol

  • i know we need change ..just say that sheesh people will get it … otherwise you burn out trying to train people to change …just lead the trend

  • If you want the answer to anything, ask Steven Pinker! This man GETS it!

  • Let me tell you something, Yaniqa. You humans, most
    of you, subscribe to this policy of an eye for an eye, a life for a
    life, which is known throughout the universe for its… stupidity

  • I converted this to an MP3 to listen to in my car, but sick of hearing "uhh" over and over, so I edited them out. It cut the video by 2 minutes and 4 seconds. That's right, 2:04 of this video is him saying "uhh".

  • That sentence by Judith at 17:12 is a work of art in and of itself.

    The findings on twins is beyond interesting.

  • Bill Gates huh?

  • I agree that we as humans are always in curve up but that doesn't mean all nations

  • More important than ever with James Demore being fired for basically saying the same thing.

  • noone in their right minds, especially in this day and age, is saying its all nature, or all nurture aka blank slate

    just finished listening to a very cool series of lectures by sapolsky from stanford on human behavioral biology
    a good way to show that these short videos like this one can seem kinda cool, sure are entertaining, but you probably have to devote at least a good 20-30 hours on lectures to get a much better picture, if you really care, and if you really dont like self deluding etcetc

  • Love this guy

  • Feminazis won't like this talk..

  • We have the instinct to reproduce

  • All this couldn't be more true today with this SJW stuff trending everywhere.

  • I wish he would of defined what he meant by similar. He said they shared certain behaviors, but most people do. He probably defined those things in the book.

  • again dorking around… but If I was a lawyer I might try to argue the kleptomaniac gene… My friend for 30 years since high school walks into a store and desires everything on the shelf… I'm like 'yeah that's cool but why do you want to possess it?' Then from there it all comes down to what you do in response to your desire… I find myself abnormal because I seem not to desire as much as the normal person actually I desire so less often it's disturbing… What do you think of Scientist call what they don't understand in the DNA the Junk Sector? What is the purpose in science? Are they trying to create a new universe? Why so much drawing all forceful conclusions without all the data being in? Then the community is divided by theory…. me? 'yeah ok keep digging' lol… Oh that is interesting how are we born with a moral sense?

  • Postmodernism back at it again!

  • This appears to be at odds with Robert Sapolsky

  • I thought I was the only one who wore elastic bands on my wrists and flush the toilet before and after. Maybe we are actually quadruplets

  • This is really excellent. I love the sheer common sense and good humour of this intelligent man. I love his observations about the decline of art convergent with the non recognition of human nature. Brilliant!

  • Pinker's analysis of artistic decline/preservation is absolutely embarrassing. His reference to Butler means nothing, and he in no way links the problem of artistic experimentation to the problem of human nature.

  • Another expert telling us what is true. Of course you could educate yourself and make observations yourself. I know it's a lot of trouble but it is possible. I did it and you know what, sometimes it's not in agreement with the expert. Who'd a thunk?

  • My sister and I were born 4 years apart and live in different countries yet we like to drink water when we are thirsty, both have hair and, outrageously, both enjoy a glass of red wine! Maybe he is onto something.

  • TED has become so ideologically compromised I doubt they would offer a platform to Pinker, Dr C Murray et al these days. The new Inquisition has begun

  • Mankind can never move forward until we come to grips with not who we are but what we are.

  • Surely there is some reason to be a good parent? Why not just hand your kids over to the community to raise? An infant's brain is not finished developing at the time of birth.

  • Love Planet Earth and be an Eco Hero! 🌍❤️

  • Since it is so hard to "read someone else's mind", why do all of these kinds of studies depend on observing others, instead of one's self? If a researcher is truly objective, then he could observe himself in one of his own experiments. This would eliminate any handicaps of language/understanding/misinterpretation. Why does it always boil down to "showing them how they are", instead of "understanding how I/we am/are"? And with that, I'm going to attempt to define/describe art: The process/result of taking fragments of "reality as we know it" as objective facts, and synthesizing them into an entity that has subjective/relative value to our own personal values. With that as an understanding of art, it becomes obvious that art is essential to our well-being. That also explains, that the "decline in art" is really just an evolution/metamorphosis from one subjective realm to another. In fact, it's decline or incline, is itself, a subjective evaluation, instead of an objective observation. For example:
    Writing Poetry

    Poetry in general, is an enjoyable thing.
    It should roll off the tongue, and appear to sing.
    But some would strain for an impressive phrase.
    And get an awkward line, and cause a haze.
    A little color is fine. But one would hope,
    That no line is turned into a kaleidoscope.
    When it's too bright, and not very clear,
    It gets hard to read, and hard to hear.

  • this is so relevant today

  • Everything humans does is essentially a part of their nature. You can't just cherry pick a certain aspect of their behavior and call that "natural" or "nature". It's all of it, both good and bad. Then you can argue that there are some bad traits to that "nature" or there are some good traits, and point them out, but essentially every little single thing we do is a part of our "nature". This is how we are designed, and it's very complex, it's something we won't understand anytime soon.

  • Was this powerpoint done in Windows 95?

  • Stupid hair-do.
    BTW, 20th century art didn't have disdain for "beauty", but having been liberated from the churches and the courts, and the obligatory adherence to one stifling narrative for hundreds of years, the question was posed as to what should be the criteria for beauty, or indeed what IS beauty? A new array opened up for art, including African art, the East, and in fact any source that the now free and thinking artist preferred. This new situation was much more respectable than being the servant of an official doctrine. … In any case, this person seems to not know much, at least about art. The rest are cliches and anecdotes it seems. Why not? Its entertainment.

  • One of the major confounders of what Mr. Pinker was discussing about the parenting is that he appears to believe that siblings would have a tendency to be like each other when raised in the same environment, and that not being similar somehow reflected on the decreased importance of parenting. What he failed to realize was that siblings were not like each other specifically because they were raised together. This is particularly true of identical twins. Each sibling creates their own niche, including some separation in ways of doing things because they have a need to be seen as a separate person. This does not diminish the effect of parenting, but rather, shows some interesting insights into sibling relationships.

  • Remember 'Poverty of Input' ?

  • cool

  • Who else is here because you can’t afford college so you have to self educate?

  • Why does it always look like he’s SMIRKING

  • What about Dweck research. I'm not buying your talk. I have 2 sibilings and there is almost nothing similar in treating us by our parents. The similarity in sibilings environment is fiction. Every topic you presented is like 2D description. Like you forgot about the other part. So many publication are useless? Your cherry picking descripton is more of use? Thank God for research discussion.

  • Liberals just hate facts… makes then feel bad…

  • Idk, I think at this day and age it’s very hard to conduct an experiment that revolves around raising children simply because there are too many moving parts, that’s why I stopped looking into these types of stats because it’s nonsensical. Parents raise kids but there are so many outside forces that influence the mind of a child, like friends uncles grandmas, the teacher, role models like actors comedians and the list will literally go on forever. Not only that and crazy experience can happen to them that can literally alter the way they perceive reality. A perfect example is North Korea, they are closed off from the rest of the world, so they believe 100% that the US is the enemy, and the children there are being raised by parents that don’t know the truth so it’s just an infinite process. Same goes for people in japan, because of how society works over there children grow up to be very intelligent not because of there genetics , but only because how they grow up, with strict discipline from their parents and the way their society is built, where there life is their job, work work work. This guy gave some really good content but he’s not in the field of these scientist so I can only take what he says with a grain of salt.We are all blank slates if we start from the beginning of the universe, that is the only way because once somthing is on the paper well you just wrote in permanent marker so yeah. It’s like starting a character in dark souls if you put the wrong stats on your character well you are fucked.
    Potential is limitless for everyone, and if you think that it isn’t, that’s probably the reason why you didn’t accomplish anything in your life

  • That information in regards to Book Sales it's something I'm a bit fascinated with. I was under the misconception that reading in general was on the decline.

    Thank you for that… That helps me make the decision I was toiling with for the past few years… I will indeed write a book, several perhaps.

  • There are innate factors in regards to our genetics, and then the biochemistry and neurological structural geometry that are yielded from it as well as formation happening after the fact in regards to stimuli.

    at the core of our Behavior, the heaviest contributing factor is our perception of reality. Our perception of reality is in part because of the neurological structural geometry and the biochemical state of which is affected by the environment and cultural brainwashing, aka the pretend time of the zomnambulant masses.

    I must point out that the cultural brainwashing in regards to what perception of reality the majority choose to live by is a much heavier contributing factor in regards to our Behavior. … Perhaps it is a natural thing to fill in the blanks with a delusional concept instead of admitting not knowing and facing that fear or living in a state of fear or Perpetual Mass distraction so that we don't have to focus on the fear of not knowing what we are but I would not call that natural and the taxonomy of human is a gross oversimplification.

    Therefore, Human Nature is a ridiculous term and concept. Then to argue whether it does or does not exist is just bifurcation logical fallacy that only serves those who are addicted to arguing over their horseshit understandings of the complexity of reality and neither will get the right answer. If one of them wins that debate it is merely one convincing the other of another wrong answer.

    debate is a horseshit approach to everything as a matter of fact. It is extremely inefficient. It is nothing but a distraction tactic so the people don't have to face their fears like rational beings and admit when they don't know something. Fucking pathetic high school debate team bullshit. The annoying behavior of the majority of the simpleton masses.

  • Funny how YouTube suggested this 2008 presentation now, 10 years later. Thank you, it was interesting and still holds truth to this day.

  • At the Royal of being of topic and finding what I'm looking for, does anyone know where I can get in contact with those militant lefties?

  • Your boring and a very bad communicator

  • Identical twins share an intrauterine environment hence claiming that identical twins are more similar due to their shared genetics is flawed since the intrauterine environment is sidelined by blinkered assignment to genetics.

  • Universities have disinvested in science too – except for junk pseudoscience like Einstein's relativity and its derivatives.

  • Genes for articulateness or violence – what BS! Articulateness and post-childhood violence are synthesized behaviors not due to 'genes for such tendencies.'

  • I wonder if he could consider that only maybe not surely but maybe climate change (man made) theories is another topic that was deemed taboo, because some people supporting the non mainstream theories about that used it to push a bad agenda.

    Like some used the fact that male and females are biologically different making claims that they (women) are less worthy or something like that.

    I mean even without believing in co2 related climate change, most of the policies promoted "to save the climate" still make sense. As example it's a fact that coal plants emit very toxic things like quicksilver that makes people sick and die faster. And we do wars over those fuels.

    I would even say that this are better reasons to reduce the use of that energies than the climate, they are way less abstract and happen today. So maybe a open discussion with scientists that have different theories about climate change would help, even if it's only to proof that they are wrong and that they loose people that believe them.

    Instead we have this belief it or we shame you tactics I hate. I believed it very long then I saw how the media lied about many things. So why should I believe it then blindly? Just because of the numbers? because most scientists subscribe to the mainstream theory? Most scientist also believe in the more or less blank slate, and they attack people that oppose that, recently even the good Dr? Pinker himself. So numbers are no real proof.

    Discuss the evidence publicly don't start from the conclusion and shame everybody into believing it.

    Btw I don't even believe that it's not true, I just feel that I have not enough information to be able to make a informed decision what to believe now, because the discussion about it is more or less censored.

  • Postmodern neo-marxist progressives will end up taking us into a second dark ages… Man this video could have been done today and it couldn't be more relevant.

  • Do you look at curemcy and human nature?

  • Judith Butler is a joke

  • Redpilled before it was cool

  • How do I cite this in APA format?

  • who else is here for the video quality?

  • Why does Pinker have this platform to talk about something controversial that is not even proven? There's no empirical evidence that proves humans are born with moral sense or that humans are born with ignoble motives.

    Instead of going on and on about people who oppose him, he could have just did more scientific research to prove his point.

  • Arts are in decline because art is dependent upon rigorous canons through which the individual reveals themself primarily through their depth of nuanced understanding, not by lambasting their subjects with vainglorious assertions of their profound individualness, otherwise it's more or less high falutin muck raking. Also, mass production destroys art in the traditional sense. The human condition underwent radical transformation in the 19th and 20th century. These seem like rhetorical arguments geared toward millenials. I heard his talk about academic language too, that it should be riveting like a dime store novel and avoid big, hard to understand words that mean what you're trying to say. I disagree.

  • Bless this man.

  • What about "feral children" i think they proves that human brain is actually a blank slate but i agree we have some biological functions but as a whole surrounding environment is very important otherwise if we are raised in the forest with animals we could not develop language skills and other human qualities.

  • Great book.

  • Bookstore Sales Fell 37% in the Last Decade. SO this is the problem trusting these guys. What about Movies? What did Quentin T a film maker say about this? Cinema attendance is dead. Music is dead, it is all drum machines . Photography is DEAD it is all photoshop and In body stablization. Pinker is known for making statements that have no source other than his opinion that suits his arguments. The arts are not dying>

  • self programming in political way:))

  • Okay kids be intrigued and curious and let it spark your interest into the study of languages but don't think just because it makes some sense his explanation of language that he is actually correct and Chomsky is wrong because that is not the case and if you did actual research you would know that.

  • It seems like the nature-nurture debate will never stop. It's only that, depending upon current findings and the general zeitgeist, one side will have the upper hand while the other will be subjugated for a certain amount of time. Huh

  • Elite white folks like Pinker perpetuate the myth, the big lie about progress. That we could create a perfect society. That human endeavours can make the world a better place while all evidence shows that it's become far worse. Simple folks seem to love Steven Pinker and his bourgeois eloquence, in place of the facts, reality and the sufferings of millions of human being that rises every year every day. His analysis is unplugged from reality. And remember that Enlightenment gave Jacobians, Utopia and Fascism too.

  • This video has aged well. I'm so glad that Pinker is an actual intellectual and not one of the many pseudo-intellectual cowards that have come to dominate 'education' and identity politics that we see today.

  • This also explains why Blacks will always live in Ghettos, no matter how much money you throw at them.

  • Please self-educate somewhere else

  • The only time people argue about hereditary traits is when it comes to humans and pitbulls. No one would argue the grizzly bears aren't naturally more aggressive than black bears. Or that different dogs have a genetic aptitude to do different things. Or that an African cichlid is far more aggressive than a goldfish. Blacks love to brag about how much better they are at Sports and dancing but if you discuss skills of a more cerebral nature you are a racist.

  • Too close to eugenics and Darwinism with a racial outlier. Interesting but I'm not ready to accept his research as fact when I have seen evidence to the contrary

  • Three Identical Strangers!!!!!!!!!! P.S. This man has ties to Jeffrey Epstein.


  • So you shouldn’t blame environment or your gene while you failed, you should blame both.

  • Clearly we are not born as "Black Slates"; we are either male, or female, we have inborn talents, and temperaments. Nevertheless, we humans thrive on instruction, and are quite susceptible to being trained. Especially young children respond to training and instruction. A child trained on the keybord, gives us a Mozart. A young boy trained on the golfing green, gives us a Tiger Woods. The value, and importance of intense training from a young age, cannot, and should not be underestimated. B.F. Skinner knew very well just programmable humans are.

  • How many times were you on the Lolita express Steven pinker you scumbag.

  • That hair. Never left the 80s.

  • Popularity of art is not an indicator of improvement in art. John Dooley’s work suggests that IQ has dropped significantly in the last 200 years. So that complies with the idea that modern artists don’t have the intelligence to compete with the masters of painting or musical theory from 300-500 years prior. Hence, cubism and rap music.

  • I'll just leave this here, a review of the book

  • 20:30 is great news, but not for victims

  • I was adopted and found out recently i have an older brother, him and i are very alike and have wives with similar personalities.

  • Psychology and science have been contaminated by identity politics. People need to stand up against this in every industry and silence these abhorrent degenerates. It is time again for the individual rather than the group to be at the forefront.

  • EXCELLENT!!!!!!

  • He is connected to J.Epstain network. Seams to be mossad ….
    He is telling us one things and supports apartheid state of Israel on other

  • Only those who are looking to be better, in a related way to suggestions about what they are, will deliberately improve themselves.
    The others mostly ignore everything that isn't the next meal, and a few may see suggestions about what they are as another threat to respond to by a pre-emptive strike against suspected intelligence about whatever nefarious activities they have previously kept "secret". (Real politics.., someone is always attacking signs of judgemental intelligence, with unprovoked "making examples of..")

  • Has anyone noticed that lately on youtube all commentors are not reply-able to? When one replies recently, his reply simply vanishes. But only sometimes.

    Is there a checkbox in one's youtube profile that disables "accept replies"?

  • It's funny when people talk about
    Nature and Evolution as if it was
    " Their Uncle Joe"/" Aunt Fanny"
    ( Evolution always lifts the phone! )
    ( Nature is always ready to listen)

  • Wow!
    That's a ( Walk the plank prediction)
    " The Sciences of Human Nature will be
    challenged in years to come!!!"
    I thought everything was " Rolled Up Neat"

  • Most of these big tutorials are
    Well articulated and handsomely
    delivered with adornments of stats
    and jokes ( Gemini based)
    Then the crystal balls come out and
    the ducking starts until a parting quote
    is ( paper aeroplaned into the audience)
    Then the comments stir up from the four
    corners of the 🗺🗺🗺🗺🌐

  • This is 9 years LATER!
    ( So!……. How's the Twins Now???)

  • Kant presaged Pinker with his a priori discussion in the Critique of Pure Reason.

  • Let's suppose that genes are determining at least partially how responsive we are to the environment and how much we absorb from it…

  • The concept that humans are entirely programmable is the perhaps most pernicious godawful evil concept to come out of the mind of man.

  • WHY would you choose those colors for your powerpoint presentation smh what was going on in the mid 2000s

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