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Injecting calm and rationality into debates that are notorious for ax-grinding and mud-slinging, Pinker shows the importance of an honest acknowledgment of human nature based on science and common sense.
NOTE: Some changes to the original text have been made with the author's approval.
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By Carolyn on 05-30-14
Excellent, as expected
I bought this as an audiobook so I would actually have time to read it - my husband read it several years ago and has been encouraging me to do so as well ever since, but although it's sitting on our bookshelf it never actually got read. Since I read Pinker's Better Angels of Our Nature by listening to the audiobook (and loved it), I thought I'd try the same with The Blank Slate.
I found reading this book to be a little like reading The Selfish Gene (which I did read in print), since, like that book, The Blank Slate was written to eliminate the residual shown-to-be-incorrect theories that were preventing good research from being done and/or being accepted in the author's field - in Dawkins' case, biology, and in Pinker's, social science. So, if you have some background in social science, this book won't contain too many surprises for you, but it is a great demonstration about just how much we know - even over a decade ago when the book was written - about nature versus nurture and how large a role nature plays.
This is a very accessible book for anyone, since it doesn't talk down to the reader (a pet peeve of mine) but it does describe things well in plain language and doesn't use jargon without explaining it first. I'm having a baby in a little over a month and it was good to read this book because it reminds parents that they cannot shape much of their children's personalities (except by giving them genes) and that being a good parent is enough - don't let marketers or "experts" fool you into thinking you have to be supermom or superdad to have a happy, smart, well-adjusted kid. You can teach your kid skills, like reading, but you can't change innate things about them like how extroverted they are.
Overall, I enjoyed the content and I found the narration easy to listen to. Five stars all around.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
By C. J. Hamilton on 04-14-10
The intellectual vigour demonstrated by Pinker is amazing. He spans a field so wide that most other would have problems keeping any depth, but not here.
Pinker deals with many of the most fundamental philosophical and political issues both with attention to detail and a constant reference to the whole.
It is a tough listen, and I found myself repeatedly rewind and listen to chapters again, to make sure I got it all. I have also bought the paper version, as it is easier to use for quick referencing.
Possibly the book could have been shorter. A version 1/3 of the length would catch most of the argument but with fewer examples, and that would probably suffice for most readers.
As an academic, Pinker is a true inspiration for me to get out of bed earlier, work harder, and examine my subjects more carefully. He truly sets a standard of his own in this field.
39 of 43 people found this review helpful