Pinker's latest bestseller - "The Blank Slate" I remember having a discussion on this a while back ... with Wu Li, if I'm not mistaken. I am reading Pinker's latest bestseller - "The Blank Slate" and found some very relevant parts in it. Learned behaviour and public health theories are moral declarations, public avowals that the declarer is opposed to violence. Condemning violence is all to the good, of course, but not if it is disguised as an empirical claim about our psychological makeup. Perhaps the purest example of this wishful confusion comes from Ramsey Clark, attorney general in the Johnson administration and author of the 1970 bestseller "Crime in Amerca". In arguing that the criminal justice system should replace punishment with rehabilitation. Clark explained : " The theory of rehabilitation is based on the belief that healthy, rational people will not injure others, that they will understand that the individual and his society are best served by conduct that does not inflict injury, that a just society has the ability to provide health and purpose and opportunity for all its citizens. Rehabilitated, an individual will not have the capacity - cannot bring himself - to injure another or take or destroy property. " Would that it were so ! This theory is a fine example of the moralistic fallacy : it would be so nice if the idea were true that we should all believe that it is true. The problem is that its not true. History has shown that plenty of healthy, rational people can bring themselves to injure others and destroy property because, tragically, an individual's interest sometimes ARE served by hurting others (especially if criminal penalties for hurting others are eliminated, an irony that Clark seems to hav missed). Conflicts of interest are inherent to the human condition, and as Martin Daly and Margo Wilson point out - " Killing one's adversary is the ultimate conflict resolution technique. " .................. Boys in all cultures spontaneously engage in rough-and-tumble play, which is obviously practice for fighting. They also divide themselves into colaitions that compete aggressively. And children are violent well before they have been infected by war toys or cultural stereotypes. The most violent age is not adolescence but toddlerhood. In a recent large study, almost half the boys just past the age of two, and a slightly smaller percentage of the girls, engaged in hitting, biting and kicking. As the author pointed out, " Babies do not kill each other because we do not give them access to knives and guns. The questions ... we've been trying to answer for the past 30 years is how do children learn to aggress ... [but] thats the wrong question. The right question is how do they learn not to aggress. " - S.