The debunking of those false arguments has resulted in a revival of the principle of natural selection as a basic principle for the psychological and social sciences. A spate of recent books by evolutionary psychologists [e. g. BARKOW ET AL, PINKER 2002, WILSON] argue that the human mind, which has evolved over thousands of years to enable us to survive in the harsh arena of our environment, is a medium which determines how the message of culture is received and interpreted. This "tabula" is far from "rasa". Much has been written on this slate over evolutionary times. We cannot deny human nature. They argue therefore that we need to ground our sociology in psychology and our psychology in turn in biology.|
Noam Chomsky delivered an early blow to the behavioristic concept of the person with his devastating review of Skinner's Verbal Behavior. [CHOMSKY 1959]. One of his students has delivered the final blow. Steven Pinker grew up in Montreal, graduated from McGill University, went to MIT to study with Noam Chomsky, and is now a professor at Harvard University. According to Time Magazine, he was one of the 100 most important people in the world in 2006. He has no doubt retained his place with the publication of The Stuff of Thought in 2007 [PINKER 2007]. The titles of five of his recent books are listed in Figure 1. As you can see he has been alternating between books on language and books on human nature. The fifth book - The Stuff of Thought - could be considered as the conclusion of a trilogy on both language and human nature in which he argues, as the subtitle tells us, that Language is a Window into Human Nature.
First, a word about How The Mind Works [PINKER 1997]. Such a title may be premature and presumptuous but it is no longer preposterous. Evolutionary psychologists, like Pinker, are transforming many mysteries of mind into mere problems. As a child, I was addicted to jigsaw puzzles. I would start with the outer edge and work inward frame by frame. According to Pinker, the outer border of the jigsaw puzzle of mind is the principle of natural selection and the next border is the concept of the nervous system as a tool for processing information to enable us to survive (see Figure 2).
Marshall McLuhan argues that media may best be considered as extensions of the nervous system. This provides a third border to our jigsaw puzzle. In a previous book - A History of Media [GARDINER 2002] - I argue that the Big Story of historical time is the co-evolution of the person and media as extensions of the nervous system. We are born with a means of storing information (memory) and a means of transmitting information (speech). This first generation of media was adequate for a hunter-gatherer society. However, our inventions of an agricultural society, an industrial society, and now an information society, required correlated inventions of media to extend our nervous systems. We had to store information outside our bodies (Print and Film - second generation), transmit information outside our bodies (Telephone and Television - third generation) and both store and transmit information outside our bodies (Multimedia and Internet - fourth generation). If I may be so immodest as to place myself in the distinguished company of Darwin, Pinker, and McLuhan, This provides a fourth frame in the jig-saw puzzle presented in Figure 2.
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