Non-nonsense nature

January 3, 2003

I do not share Michael Rutter's confidence that the blank-slate view of human nature has been widely rejected (Books, THES , December 13) and think it is unfair to claim that Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature is based on a premise that is "simply nonsense".

Pinker's book is not addressed to those who realise that biology is important in understanding human behaviour but to the many who have inherited the blank-slate assumption in their disciplines. These include sociology, anthropology, cultural studies and much of psychology.

Academics in all disciplines should start to feel comfortable using the term human nature without enclosing it in embarrassed quotation marks. They should take our evolved nature seriously in guiding their research. To the extent that Pinker's book will encourage this acceptance of human nature, by showing how ridiculous its denial is, it is far from being "silly" as Rutter claims.

Daniel Jones
London, SE16

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