Like Andrew Sullivan, Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate" was a game changer for me. It took genetics out of the dog house SJ Gould had sentenced it to, and brought it back into its share of the spotlight. It wasn't only Pinker who was doing this, but also Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and the great E.O. Wilson. It's true that Gould, in his anti-geneticism was equating genetics with the Nazis ill use of it, but he fought genetics to the point of denying and surprising scientific truth. We are indebted to Pinker for pointing this out.
I loved and have been forever influenced by Pinker's take down of the Tabula Rosa, the idea that nothing comes with us, nothing biological, and that we are a blackboard that can be infinity rewritten.
So much for utopias, then, whether right to left. No, we couldn't be rewritten to serve either a Mao or a Hitler. There are certain constraints, and a rebound to them, no matter how much torture might have been applied to overcoming them.
I interviewed Steven Pinker, at least once, and tussled with him. The points he made in The Blank Slate were necessary and undeniable. And yet, there was something else, a reductionism, as in his notion that the only difference between a preference for Shakespeare over Buffy The Vampire Killer was the need for status.
Forgive me, but LOL. Pinker had overstepped, which he tends to do in proclaiming he has the new philosopher's stone.
I'm not going to go for a detailed critique of, "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress."
I will say that Pinker's often trumpeted confusion about the purpose of music — What it for? For what purpose did it evolve? — is arrogant and, may I go full blast? — stupefying.
The problem isn't about music but refers back to and is about Pinkerism