In the video, Steven Pinker discusses the topic of identical twins and the way that even those separated at birth demonstrate very similar characteristics beyond just a physical level. And while anatomy is important in justifying this, in the response of certain genetic makeup to social and environmental stimuli, what the twin study also suggests is the capacity of humans to demonstrate similar behavioral traits regardless of circumstance. This can be described otherwise as human nature, the qualities we attribute to our being independent of time and place. But is human nature something we just naturally inherit? Or do we learn what it means to be human from other humans?
Because if human behaviour is based so largely on a response to other human behaviour, surely there must be a point where this concept as a whole originated. In the beginning of the video Pinker talks about the belief of the human mind being a ‘blank slate’ that is nurtured by its surroundings. So in that case if all human behaviour is an adoption of the societal circumstances, is the idea of society itself originated from the natural world? Are humans just a reflection of science? So therefore, can all human behaviour be explained by science?
A concept that has always deeply fascinated me is the theory of natural selection. Despite being speculated by scientists for centuries, it was Charles Darwin who put this theory into print in 1859, supported by his scientific method of the observations of the development of species, and in particular the relationship between their individual characteristics and the external environment. What he was able to deduce from this is the concept of the ‘survival of the fittest’, in that individuals within a species that demonstrated traits best suited to their environment survived while those who didn’t died out, until only those most genetically ‘desirable’ remained. This is how evolution occurs, as it creates a competitive environment for species within an ecosystem to adapt or face the threat of extinction. The field of philosophy can produce its own response to the Theory of Evolution in ‘Social Darwinism’, which describes the ongoing social evolution of humankind from being psychologically equivalent to animals initially to a state of universal civilisation.
These theories justify the idea of social development reflecting scientific development, that humans are forced to evolve themselves in response to science just as science must develop to meet the increasing social needs of humans. Therefore it can be said that the scientific method can be applied to humans as despite their differing layers of complexity, through long term observation both can be categorized in a similar manner for in essence, science and the modern human being are both direct results of the other.