September 03, 2009

The Blank Slate Of Youth

In the early part of this decade Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate took the country by storm and spent many weeks at the top of the bestseller lists. To a great extent this book helped to rocket Pinker up to the status of a first-rank public intellectual in the same league as Richard Dawkins or E. O. Wilson (The Language Instinct was a great book, but was not a cultural phenomenon). But some of the objections to Pinker’s thesis was that it was addressing a problem which didn’t exist, that is, the denial of human nature in academic and public forums. It seems the success of The Blank Slate contradict such assertions, but over the past few days I poked around the General Social Survey and found that contrary to Pinker’s critics the tabula rasa remains supreme in the minds of the public. I posted my first find over at Secular Right, but there’s another variable of even greater interest, “LFEGENES,” which asks if some people are born with better genes than others. The most surprising thing is that general uniformity of opinion on this issue. Of the results below in general only those for age groups show a difference outside of the 95th confidence interval. In other words, excepting the old we are all blank slaters now….


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