Home | Third Culture | Digerati | Reality Club

"THE TWO STEVES"-Pinker vs. Rose - A Debate (Part I)

SUSAN BLACKMORE: Before we begin I would like to say a few words about what this debate is, and is not, all about. First it is not pro- or anti-evolution. Both our speakers are committed to the idea that our bodies, our brains and our minds got here by evolution. It is not about moral issues. Neither of our speakers will commit the naturalistic fallacy-that is confusing the way things are with the way we want them to be. If we discover that humans are naturally aggressive or greedy, this does not mean that we have to accept that as right.

It is not a debate about nurture vs nature. Both Pinker and Rose would agree that genes and environment interact in all evolutionary processes and this is not the focus of their disagreement.

What divides them is that Steven Pinker has a view of the underlying function of our minds that is quite different from Stephen Rose's. Pinker is an ultra-Darwinist and therefore believes that the ultimate function of our minds is all to do with passing on our genes-not that everything we do now benefits our genes but that our minds and behaviour were designed by and for the genes.

For Rose, by contrast, the underlying functions, and the motivations for what we do, lie more in the individual. He emphasizes the human being in his or her entire life-their "lifeline". Another important difference is that for Pinker the mind is modular-like the body is. It consists of a lot of different bits and pieces that carry out their functions relatively independently. Whereas for Rose that mechanistic reductionist view misses out on the unity of conscious purpose of an individual human being. So, you can see that tonight's debate concerns the crucial issues of human identity, consciousness, and even free will.

- Susan Blackmore

Previous | Page 1 2 3 4 5 | Next