I heard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker speak this evening at the American Enterprise Institute on the topic of his latest book, The Blank Slate. His delivery is even better than his books, and his books are brilliant. Anyone seriously interested in the scientific study of human nature should read The Blank Slate. (I also highly recommend Pinker’s more specialized work on language, notably The Language Instinct.) Then read Matt Ridley’s work, notably his Genome (a very useful introduction to genetic science) and his latest book, Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human, which offers a very nice supplement to The Blank Slate.
Pinker neatly clears the deck of silly thinking about the dominance of nurture over nature and the infinite malleability of humanity; Ridley tells us what the latest scientific research is telling us about how nature and nurture interact to make us what we are. And both Pinker and Ridley are extremely fine writers.