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CNN: Pinker says it's nature, not nurture

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  • Jusfiq HADJAR
    Pinker says it s nature, not nurture Genes, instincts determine thoughts, feelings, behavior (CNN) -- According to Steven Pinker, every human exclamation,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2004
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      Pinker says it's nature, not nurture
      Genes, instincts determine thoughts, feelings, behavior

      (CNN) -- According to Steven Pinker, every human exclamation, every
      chuckle, every expression of love stems not from life experience, but
      from millions of years of human development.

      The best-selling author and Harvard professor argues that evolution,
      more than environment, has shaped the human mind -- echoing Charles
      Darwin's famous contention that natural development, occurring over
      centuries, altered the makeup of the human body.

      In his latest book, "The Blank Slate," Pinker takes aim at the theory
      that people are born with minds that are blank, to be filled by
      experiences and lessons. Instead, he contends, many human behaviors
      are the product of genes and, thus, innate.

      "During the past century the doctrine of the blank slate has set the
      agenda for much of the social sciences and humanities," Pinker writes.
      "... Psychology has sought to explain all thought, feeling, and
      behavior with a few simple mechanisms of learning."

      A native of Montreal, Canada, Pinker has spent most of his adult life
      studying and teaching in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Three years after
      earning his doctorate at Harvard University in 1979, he began a 21-
      year stint at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Last year, he
      returned to Harvard as a psychology professor.

      The mind and, especially, language have long interested Pinker, 49.
      Early in his career, the experimental psychologist researched language
      development in children. He examined the ways children acquire
      vocabulary and grammar and also looked at their ability to distinguish
      between different types of verbs.

      In 1994, Pinker translated some of his findings into a book aimed at a
      general audience, "The Language Instinct," in which he promoted the
      idea that language is a biological adaptation. A few years later,
      "Words and Rules" described how language works in general.

      He expanded on his linguistic theory in 1997's critically
      praised "How the Mind Works," which proposed that emotions and other
      brain functions stem from an evolutionary process, too. In the book,
      he used evolution to explain a range of everyday behaviors, such as
      why people find something funny, how they can appreciate art, or the
      mechanics behind falling in love.

      With 2002's "The Blank Slate," Pinker used pop culture and psychology
      references to show that people's conceptions of human nature affect
      everything from child-rearing to politics to morality to the arts.

      Pinker's way with words has earned him finalist nods for the Pulitzer
      Prize in 1998 and 2003 (for "How the Mind Works" and "The Blank
      Slate," respectively), as well as the Los Angeles Times Science Book
      Prize (for "How the Mind Works"). In 1984, the American Psychology
      Association awarded him its Early Career Award. In addition to his
      duties at Harvard, Pinker currently serves as an adviser for The
      American Heritage Dictionary.

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