Social Science Model
The standard social science model brings forth the argument that culture is a manufactured product of evolved psychological mechanism owing to individuals living in groups. It gives insight into the theory that the brain of a new-born baby is merely a blank slate and it is the interactions it will have by living with others that eventually shapes its beliefs and ideas (Pinker 6). The standard social sciences model draws its conviction from the fact that humans everywhere display similar characteristics and behavior within a group. These facts found in the SSSM have been critiqued by a series of cross-fostering experiments that involved the separation of twins at birth. Several years later the twins are united, and their behavior is similar, contrary that they would adopt the behavior of the foster parents. (Pinker18) Research has also shown that infants the world over have the same behavior and characteristics yet the adults greatly differ in behavior and mental organization. The Social Sciences Model has been criticized by many people who have argued that the human mind is made up of a set of evolved information-processing mechanisms found in the human nervous system. Those mechanisms, therefore, have the role of producing behavior in people at a later stage. This assignment will analyze and evaluate Pinker’s argument of culture with regards to how it emerges from the neurological and biological perspective of the human person.
Human nature is an important issue because it determines how people relate with each other and the daily decisions they make. The standard secular theory of human nature is based three doctrines namely the Blank Slate, The Noble Savage and The Ghost in the Machine. The three doctrines have often been contradicted by psychologists who base their reasoning on biological and psychological facts. Pinker, in his book “Blank Slate; The Modern Denial of Human Nature” argues that humans are not passive receptacles or empty vessels contrary to the reasoning of the social model that a newborn child’s brain is a blank state. (Pinker 12) To begin with, many behavioral geneticists have discovered that all behavioral traits are indeed heritable. For example, in many courts of law, it has been found that many of those charged with violent robbery had one of their parents in jail already. One’s chance of becoming a robber was greatly multiplied if the parent had the tendencies of robbery. This was further aggravated if the individual grew up in an abusive home. Also, twin studies affirm that the genes influence one’s tendencies much more than the environment.
Second, the doctrine of the blank state is false in that a blank brain has nothing and can never learn. However, as babies grow, they learn, socialize, recognize the close family members and are absorbed into the culture (Pinker 15). Neuroscience has shown that indeed the brain has a great genetic pattern meaning that all the behavior traits are heritable. It has also demonstrated that all the human experiences, feelings, thoughts and even emotions stem from psychological activity in the brain (Pinker 23). The aggressiveness gene, just like physical traits of shortness is inherited. Very young children can make distinctions between animate and inanimate objects. They are innately able to tell breathing in an organism through their reactions. If human beings are a blank slate, then they must all be equal. However, the human brain has been wired to discriminate based on sex, wealth, societal status, age and even physical appearance (Pinker 25).
On the ghost machine, proposed by Gilbert Ryle, he put forward the idea that the human mind was separate from the mind and the soul. This idea has been ridiculed on the basis that a human being has a higher purpose which is only made possible when the mind, body, and soul are united. Unlike machines, human beings can think for themselves and arrive at a sober conclusion. Human beings worship, pursue knowledge and even fall in love because of their innate optimism (Pinker 25). Additionally, if the human mind and brain are separate from the body, then it means that the body should keep on living when the brain dies, yet this too is all impossible. It has also been proven that actions are driven by thoughts. When the mind wills, the legs, arm and the tongue execute. Our thoughts are often displaced through the body as smiles or grimaces (Pinker 25). Cognitive science has also proven that intelligence can be tested and emotions and motives understood through feedback and control. Many methods have been designed to test human interest against their professions. Additionally, the ghost in the machine theory has been critiqued by neuroscience which has confirmed that human experiences and thoughts originate from physiological activity in the tissues of the brain. Indeed, by saying that the body is a separate entity from the mind, then people should not be held responsible for killing others. A lawyer, for example, might defend his client with the argument that his mind is responsible for the action but not his body. That argument is a fallacy because the mind and the body are found in one entity. A toddler who is learning to walk is often rewarded by the mother through hugs. The hugs excite the mind making the child repeat the action over and over again. When the mother hugs the child, the hug triggers endorphins in the brain making the child happy and encouraged. This shows that there is a link between the mind and the body.
The noble savage theory has been critiqued by findings in that demonstrate that psychopathy, lack of conscience and tendencies to crime are heritable traits. The brain has been found to carry out mechanisms that are highly linked to aggression. In many primitive societies like in the Amazon forest, for example, it was found that the men have a chance of 60% of dying in the hands of another man. This is contrary to the noble savage theory that claims that nothing is gentler than a man in his primitive state (Pinker 27). Social psychologists have further linked that though we live in a modern society and the primitiveness is long gone, many people subconsciously think of killing those who have betrayed them. The present age is experiencing a change in the human condition. Wars have greatly declined with slavery, blood feuds and even fascism also declining significantly. This is contrary to Rene Descartes’s expectation. The real reason why the world has witnessed these changes is the knowledge and the lessons from history, rules of monogamy, deterrence, and self-discipline, functioning court system as well as enforceable laws and equality. Human nature has been taken over by rational tendencies whereby one weighs the consequence of an action before undertaking it. Human beings have become more humane and devise sober solutions to problems (Pinker 35).
The doctrine of the blank state justifies totalitarianism because the people cannot reason for themselves and they have to be told what to do always. Many people in several nations have risen against totalitarianism because they believe that they should have a part in the decision-making process. This argument brings out another problem with the blank state doctrine. People are fighting for democracy the world over because they believe in fairness and justice rarely witnessed in a totalitarian state. Any attempt to hold people hostage through oppressive laws usually results in failed and collapsed systems. Human beings are free creatures with independent thoughts and ideas (Pinker 42).
In conclusion, it is evident that the blank slate, the nobleman and the ghost in the machine have been challenged by science and lack credibility. Neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have done away with the three on the basis that human beings can evolve and learn new concepts and again the brain has been found to have so much control over the decisions of people. The doctrine of the ghost in the machine goes against the sacred moral values. Man is supposed to be in control of their behavior and be responsibility for their actions. The knowledge of this has always led man into making the right decisions. The ghost doctrine, on the other hand, argues that the body has no control over the mind and vice versa. How can such reasoning protect one against making mistakes? Accepting the theory of the blank state is equal to allowing totalitarian rule and denying the normal human nature which is inquisitive and free. The human person is a complex creature who loves freedom, and if denied he is always restless. The blank slate theory can instead be manipulated by dictators who may argue that if humans are a blank slate, then they can as well control what is written on those slates thus their freedom will be taken away.
Pinker, Steven. The blank slate. Southern Utah University, 2005. Retrieved from https://stevenpinker.com/files/pinker/files/the_blank_slate_general_psychologist.pdf