This audiobook lacks structure. You don't quite know where it's going, and some issues are not takled as deeply as they should be. So once you're done, it feels like you've been to a 15 minute lecture.
It's not bad, and worth listening to anyway. But it was disapointingly light in its problem raising.
This book is an emotionally charged mess. It was also published in 2002 and has become obsolete by new findings in neuroscience. Don't even bother.
Its hostile angry tone, a juvenile use of belittling language, and a full array of annoying logic that runs in circles would be enough to cause frustration. When you add to that a continuous misunderstanding of the latest findings of science and the arrogance to divine the future of science as well, it becomes unbearable.
Also, the book is about the classic "nature vs nurture" argument and he spends the majority of the time fighting and belittling an extreme "Nurture" stance that no one believes in anyway. This stance makes his arguments out of touch with the reader, who is left asking him to move on. But Steven is stuck. It feels like someone with an emotional grudge, always making one more point, and misinterpreting the other side at every turn. The number of straw man fallacies and other spin tactics that are present here are simply too many to count.
If there is any justification to the dustjacket claim Pinker is one of the world's 100 most influential thinkers, it is based on his talk show appearances, not his standing among peers. His basic thesis is that recent scientific discoveries have proven social conservatives right about the need for military buildup, a get-tough approach to crime, strict parenting, etc. Affirmative action is a waste of time because it tries to change behaviour that is hard wired into our genes. America and the other countries most like it are the pinnacle of human evolution, because, well, evolution has produced them and therefore they must be a true expression of the unchangeable programming carried in our genes. No wonder Time put him on its cover.
Granted I'm only a little over two hours into this book, but I'm giving up. This is, to say it bluntly, trash -- one of the most unsatisfying pieces of sophistry I've read in a long while. The author knocks down scores of straw men to make his case, quoting, often out-of-context, mostly 17th, 18th and 19th century philosophers. His conclusions and summaries of psychology and psychologists are sometimes just simple-minded, but far too often just simply wrong. I honestly don't get how this was accepted for publication, let alone made it as an Audible audio book. Granted, I might have found gold inside if I had stuck with it longer -- but if there's really gold there, the author or his editors ought to have introduced it with something a little more compelling than this garbage. Just my opinion but: Don't bother.
I'm totally awesome.
While the concept of this book is interesting the information becomes redundant. I was done after the second chapter.
It's well read and written.
I am not a professional scientist but I am very curious about brain science. I have read many of the scientists against which Mr. Pinker rails and I have never sensed the tunnel vision that he proposes to refute. I have read extensively about brain plasticity but I have never sensed that its proponents feel that it represents a complete rejection of a genetic component in the development and specialization of the brain and, in turn, human consciousness and intelligence. It is expected that someone who spends his or her life studying some aspect of science will have a bit of a one-track mind but Mr. Pinker seems to assume that focus precludes any common sense about the limitations of one theory or another. The narrator's taunting, sarcastic delivery doesn't make the authors adversarial tone any better. At this point (about a third) I am still hoping there is something of value coming but whether or not I can listen long enough to find remains to be seen.
Bookman Old Style
I had to give up on this one, even though I am a believer in evolution and neuroscience. This book was too long and too pedantic, even for me. Human nature exists and is not totally changeable. It was evolved to fit the environment of millions of years ago, and sometimes causes great problems for everyone, everywhere today. We are not blank slates , basically beautiful and good savages, or predetermined vehicles of a benevolent power. Utopian schemes don't work because they don't take certain basic human instincts into account. We are imperfect creatures. If you want mind-numbing details on these fairly self-evident facts, dear reader, go to Mr. Pinker. I've gone out to lunch.
As a student of Sociology, I often get bogged down by theories of social constructivism. It can be rather depressing. The book was quite long, as Pinker's usually are, but there was much to provoke thought even though I was not entirely sure where he was going with it much of the time until the end. I actually think that was a beneficial tactic because it allows the listener to ponder different aspects and use that information in forming an opinion as opposed to the author's viewpoint seeming to be the only right way to view the situation. So for those who have listened to his books and have wondered the same thing, hang in there. The last chapter brought it all home and made it so worth it.
Pinker cites a lot of research on various personality and character traits, many of which turn the nature/nurture discussion on its ear. I really have a better appreciation for how different some people around me are and how it may really be even more out of their control than I ever suspected. So much else is in here, I really wouldn't know where to start...
His presentation is very balanced...I think he took risks in presenting his information without bias
It was hard to get out of the car.
The ideas are so well presented that the book seems like an easy read. But some of the concepts are actually very hard to grasp. Some of the points are controversial, and some people will strongly disagree with them. But Pinker's discussion will help anyone understand clearly what the controversies are.
I decided to get the audiobook and I keep getting more out of each listen.