Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Book Review: Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature"



Headline: Tabula Pinker: In his latest book, linguist Steven Pinker calls for a scientific revolution

"The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature," By Steven Pinker, Viking, 528 pages.

In his earlier volumes, "The Language Instinct" and "How the Mind Works," Steven Pinker won critical and popular acclaim for his lucid expositions of how language and the brain function. Surprisingly, his new book is an overgrown broadside, by turns dull and illuminating. What happened?

Pinker assumes the mantle of bellicose and ambitious prophet, proclaiming, as the century starts, that mankind is in for a transformation of Copernican proportions. There is a shorter, more modest, and more trustworthy volume huddling in the folds of this one, but maybe it's better that it had not been written. Since this book is nothing less than a manifesto for a scientific revolution, we might as well have the whole agenda on the table, prejudices and all.