Christian Long

Steven Pinker: Chalks It Up to the Blank Slate

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Reflection by DANIEL L.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Steven Pinker:  Chalks It Up to the Blank Slate

Some people believe that when you are born, you are born with a “blank slate”. What that means is that your mind learns everything through culture, enviornment, and home life. If this were true, it would mean that everyone would be born equal and nobody would have any innate and unique abilities.

A man by the name of Steven Pinker argued this idea of people being born with a “blank slate”. Steven pinker is highly intellegent and has written many books on how the mind works. He even wrote a book with the title ” The Blank Slate”. In this book Steven Pinker talked about how people are born with instincts and that everyone is born with different capabilites. Pinker made a great point when he said that the concept of fairness is not the same as the concept of sameness. What he means by this is, when Thomas Jefferson wrote in The Declaration of Independence, he said ” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. What Thomas Jefferson did not mean is that all men are clones.

Steven Pinker gave an example using twins.

He showed a cartoon of these two twins that were separated at birth and were raised in completely opposite cultures, and they ended up meeting accidently and they were wearing the same exact clothes and were exactly alike. What was interesting about this is studies of identical twins that are separated at birth and then meet in adulthood are said to have astonishing similarities. This is interesting because then Pinker asked the question, what if these twins weren’t separated at birth and what if they grew up together. People would probably think that they would be more similar and would have more things in common because they are raised in the same environment and the same household. Well Pinker says that they wouldn’t be any more or less similar then they would be if they were separated at birth. Pinker believes that everything that happens to you in a given home over all of those years appears to leave no permanent stamp on your personality or permanent intellect.

I do believe that everyone is born with there own personalities, traits and instincts.

One thing that I do disagree with Steven Pinker is that, if your born in a certain environment and you experience things, well then that is probably going to change your personality. I believe that people learn things through experience, but nobody is born with a “blank slate”.


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