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Unread April 13th, 2006, 07:38 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Hi Carey, Thanks for the constructive criticism. I'll try to keep your points in mind.

I tried to make my seed post, not an argument against Pinker, but a request to JimB to help me see what his argument was. JimB had suggested that by reading this book I would understand (apparently why I was wrong about genetic determinism).

For that, I was accused of dishonestly using the forum as a resource for a book and told that I'd have to manage my own blindness. Then, Fred tells me
Your inability and/or refusal to accept or acknowledge this reality, despite the overwhelming evidence that has been provided here and in the excellent resources you’ve recently been reading, suggests that your cognitive capability is less than optimal and/or or that you’re blinded by your emotions
I have to ask, instead of attacking my intelligence and honesty why did neither of them simply give me a one paragraph synopsis of Pinker's thesis in their own words - as I had asked? I suspect the reason they did not do this is that Pinker is not saying in The Blank Slate that culture is not part of the equation as JimB maintains. And therefore he can not restate that thesis because it does not exist.

I think what Pinker is saying is that the outmoded philosophical notion of the blank slate does not exist - at least among any serious psychologists. I agree with Pinker on that and I don't know any psychologists who disagree. I have not read any such things by Gould or Lewontin. They both assert however, that culture has an important part to play in behavior and ability - and they probably would disagree with Pinker over how large that part is. But that seems like a fair scientific question to ask - not necessarily an ideological question.

I could be wrong about that but no-one has yet offered to clarify this for me.

Another question would be why didn't Fred point out my supposed bullshit rather than calling me emotionally blind and stupid? If it was so obvious then it should have been easy enough to do and it could have even proven me wrong.

But, beyond all that - discussing my theory would be really interesting to me as I know there are people here (like you) who know much more about this stuff than I do. It seems to me that one of the strongest pieces of evidence for my theory is the story of Phinneas Gage - who I assume is known to all students of psychology these days.

When his prefrontal cortex was destroyed, what changed was not his basic intelligence or language ability - which was thoroughly tested. It was his ability to choose appropriate behavior. More modern science has determined that the prefrontal cortex is the part of the human brain associated with social emotions.

Toward the end of Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens he offers his Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Here he establishes that mental images are tagged with emotional markers - and describes the implications of that. Based on the story of Phinneas Gage I extended the Somatic Marker Hypothesis to what I call the Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis.

I'm not sure whether this is the laughable idea of an engineering/physics major trying to think about neuro-psychology - or if it may actually have some merit. I'd love to get into a discussion about that but so far I've been stuck defending a place for some level of cultural influence within the EP paradigm. Or, more accurately, defending my honesty and intelligence from attack because I suggested that cultural influences have some place within that paradigm.

I don't see how anyone could deny that evolution and genetics are the ultimate cause of human behavior. Our central nervous systems are obviously a product of evolution. It seems that the arguments are over the proximate causes of particular behavior choices. Are they direct genetic influences or indirect genetic influences by way of an inherited ability to adopt behavior provided by our culture.

If one sees behavior choice as the result of emotional negotiation, then the EP question becomes deciphering those direct and indirect genetic causes. Or, using my Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis, discovering the source of the particular emotions that are negotiated when we make behavior choices.

For example, the question of what motivates a young boy or girl to adopt an identity as a future scientist and then apply a huge amount of mental energy over the rest of their lives to fulfill that identity seems like a much more interesting question than whether males or females have a bigger range of IQ's scores and whether those are completely inherited or subject to developmental influences.

It seemed to me that an EP forum was a great place to discuss these questions perhaps because EP seemed like a more grounded form of psychology than most of the others. Unfortunately, I found myself in an ideological tempest defending questions that I wasn't that interested in.

In any case, I'd love to hear your opinion on any of the above (cringe). I'll accept your previous criticism as an indication of my poor communication skills. These are difficult concepts to discuss clearly but well worth the effort IMO. You must admit though, that discussing difficult concepts is easier when you're not defending yourself from personal attacks.

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