This doesn't fit into the wars between people on the nature side and the nurture side very easily, and one of the things I've tried to do is to get away from the idea of the nature-nurture debate being a simple pendulum from one side to the other. The important point about this argument is that it's empirically driven. It starts with molecular biology. It starts with Seymour Benzer and other people discovering the genes involved in learning and memory; it starts with the discovery of real genes, and what they're actually doing—the work of someone like Cathy Rankin, a brilliant young scientist in Vancouver who has essentially observed in real time the changes in the nematode as it learns a new experience. She's done so by getting the genes to light up, literally. The cells that are expressing this process light up. She's also finding that those who have had a social upbringing behave differently than those with a solitary upbringing—in other words if they've been to school or been brought up at home, if you like. These are worms, remember, nematode worms with 302 neurons. Total. Maximum. No brains. And yet you can see an effect of developmental upbringing, social upbringing, etc., and it's these same synapses that are involved in the process of learning and memory. Discoveries like that are driving this new way of seeing the world, not theories. And to some extent the theories have got to be a bit humble before the new data. That's my epistemological position.

There's a possibility that you can adjust your theoretical thinking to this knowledge and say it was what you were saying all along, and to some extent there's a degree of fairness in that. But there's an awful lot of people who've been trying to put an end to the nature versus nurture debate, saying, "Come on. It's gene-environment interaction, etc." But the one thing I'm absolutely sure of is that if you go and look at the history of the nature-nurture debate—from Galton, through the 20th century, through Lysenko, Skinner, Watson on one side of the fence, and Chomsky, and people on the other side—you find that it's always very useful to pay attention to what people are saying about their own theories. It's very misleading to pay attention to what people are saying about each other's theories. On the whole, people have been pushing each other into extreme positions that they don't occupy, saying, "Look, I'm in the middle of the road. He's the guy who's on the verge. He's the extremist."

What I find happens all the time in this debate is that you say that there are genes involved in, let's say, sex differences, and people say, "Oh no, no, no. Sex differences are social. They've done an experiment that shows that sex differences are socially caused." And I say, yes, sure, sex differences are socially caused. I never said they weren't. I just said there are genes involved too. Indeed, there are genes involved in the social causation. That's the whole point. I don't actually know how sex differences and behavior come about, and I don't think anyone does yet. But it's pretty likely that what happens is a form of prepared learning, whereby there is an instinct for boys to end up one way and girls to end up another. But the way that instinct works is for boys to have an instinct to pick up from the world what boys do, not to arrive in the world with a program in their head saying, "Pick up a stick and go Pow! Pow! Pow! with it." It's "Ah, I like it when people go Pow! Pow! Pow! with sticks. That fits with my perceived way I'm heading in the world." Or I don't, according to which gender I am.

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