November 19, 2002
THE RIGHT TURNS PINKER?:Techsploits: Right-Wing Darwinism (Annalee Newitz, 11/14/02, MetroActive)
REPUBLICANS swept the recent elections, and now we have to wonder what this will mean for science. Although many have argued that good science should be apolitical, unfortunately this isn't the case. The U.S. government is far too involved in science funding and policy-making for a rightward shift in Congress to make no difference. And yet perhaps science is changing the right wing as much as the right wing is changing science.
Case in point: Steven Pinker, Darwinism's new poster boy and the author of a several highly acclaimed books about evolution and the brain. His latest book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, is a kind of rejoinder to the work of pundits like the late Stephen Jay Gould, who argued that human beings are as much a product of their environments as they are their genes. Last week, I attended a lecture by Pinker on this very topic, in which he argued quite plainly that all of human nature is, in fact, biological. "There is no 'ghost in the machine'," he explained with a chuckle. "It's all just feedback and control in the brain."
The notion that this denial of free will and the human soul has any appeal to the Right is, of course, absurd. However, any rigorous application of the scientific method is deadly for liberalism, which is based on a utopian understanding of human nature, so I guess she's right to be scared. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 19, 2002 12:30 PM