This book is about the recent developments in social science on human nature (“nature” vs. “nurture” is a very controversial subject). According to Mr. Pinker, the prevalent assumptions in the 20th century about human nature involved three ideas: “blank slate”, “noble savage”, and “ghost in the machine”. However, recent research and experiments show that they are not true.
“Blank slate” states that we can be anything we want to be. This idea helped greatly in the social changes in the 20th century, against many types of social oppression, discrimination, and inequality. However, this also creates unrealistic expectations from parents and well-intentioned but negatively-impacting public policies. “Noble savage” is a notion that in the natural state, we are all “good”, and that the evils in human nature is a product of modern culture. “Ghost in the machine” is an idea that the self (“ghost”) can be completely detached from the biology (“machine”).
I don’t want to go through the book literally, but the main idea of the book is that we can’t ignore our biological nature. One of the studies he included is about the affective-ness of parents (after birth) in forming children’s personalities. This type of studies are done by looking at identical/paternal twins and siblings that grew up together or separately. And it turns out the influence of parenting is almost insignificant.
It was very interesting and informative. I don’t think I agree with everything Mr. Pinker wrote, but still this is something to think about.