I appreciate it when somebody knows all the answers. It makes being lazy less costly. You don’t have to discover the truth, you just have to contort logic and reason in its defence the way a dextrous Yogi can turn themself into a pretzel while enhancing the inner calm. Luckily for all us chickens, the real smart Smart Guys from UCLA have arrived with the veritable Lamp of Wisdom to dispel our pitiable ineluctibility.
According to this orthodoxy, all of the specific content of the human mind originally derives from the “outside” — from the environment and the social world — and the evolved architecture of the mind consists solely or predominantly of a small number of general purpose mechanisms that are content-independent, and which sail under names such as “learning,” “induction,” “intelligence,” “imitation,” “rationality,” “the capacity for culture,” or simply “culture.”
According to this view, the same mechanisms are thought to govern how one acquires a language, how one learns to recognize emotional expressions, how one thinks about incest, or how one acquires ideas and attitudes about friends and reciprocity — everything but perception. This is because the mechanisms that govern reasoning, learning, and memory are assumed to operate uniformly, according to unchanging principles, regardless of the content they are operating on or the larger category or domain involved.
I can respect a kernel of truth in the quote above. It explains, in part, why good, effective teachers, schools and churches are both good and effective. However, it isn’t quite safe to till-deer these academic guys. The screed really doesn’t get too theological until that run-on sentence at the end of Paragraph II. It could do with a snappy re-write. The Koran was much more snappy in declaring Mohammad The Seal of The Prophets.
As we evaluate the sacred verses of scripture, we find that environment is literally everything. Every young mind that enters the world is… dare I say it? A Blank Slate. I’ve preached against the other, Hard Determinist extreme. However, these guys at UCLA are no closer to reality than the Calvanist Edict that only the Elect will end up being saved.
So what I propose is a truce on this stuff. Anyone with the courage to give this John Derbyshire piece a fair and impartial reading would have to concede that genetic hard-wiring based on race, nation and family impacts the life of all children born into the human species. We start with a subtle but important edit to Paragraph I of the sacred scripture above. “Ceteris Paribus, all of the specific content of the human mind originally derives from the ‘outside’…”
Once we’ve inserted the necessary lawyer clause above, we can then get down to the dirty business of explaining how ceteris ain’t always paribus in the brutal and unfair game of life. As Einstein once put it, Newton’s Laws hold true within a closed frame of reference. Outside the specified reference frame, relativity degrades the predictive power of this model. When examing human cognitive development, we replace frame of reference with human bio-diversity. We are all equally blank slates when we lie there dead on a slab.
Now that this superior model has been kicked into play, we can no longer just assume stupid things about societal development and cultural history based upon assumption without loss of generality from The Standard Social Science Model preached at us by geniuses from UCLA. Once we’re all just Blank Slates, Guns, Germs and Steel presents a defendable view of human history. It implicitely posits that if Shaka Zulu had gotten his hands on Mongolian Horses instead of Zebras, he could have eventually invaded Poland like the Mongols.
The Blank Slate Theory totally fails to explain what happened just two centuries after the functionally illiterate Apache Tribes in Texas and Arizona got their hands on some decent ponies. They tied the US Cavalry into knots and utterly terrorized the early Mexican settlers in Texas. The Apache were somewhat kinder and gentler than their hard-partying neighbors The Comanche. Somehow the poor, underpriveleged Comanche figured out the finer sadisms of torture with no cultural access to Fifty Shades of Grey whatsoever.
The Blank Slate Theory of Human Evolutionary Psychology spawns from the delusion born of drinking the nasty bong resin water of equalitarianism. God does indeed play dice with the universe. Human races are cognitively different. The world of human genetics is inherently unfair and Mr. Logic could truly care less if that hurts your feelings.
Hard Determinism is laziness. God offers you certain oportunities. Only once did Jesus offer anyone a free lunch. In the end, you are responsible for what you make of yourself, your family and your culture. IQ, physical measurables and other genetic traits never won anyone a Rugby World Cup or a Fields Medal. A lazy idiot’s “Clean Slate” will get totally covered with profane grafiti. Life is consequentialist and much of the life you live will result from your personal endeavors regardless of your environment or genetic heritage.
Tags: consequentialism, determinism