Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Steven Pinker: I believe there is such a thing as human nature–that the mind is not a blank slate, and that we don’t get all our emotions and drives from culture, parents, and socialization. But the very idea of human nature raises a fear in many people: if we’re “killer apes” with “genes for aggression” and a “violent brain,” would that mean that we are doomed to perpetual war and mayhem, and shouldn’t even bother trying to make the world a better place? But I knew that this fear made no sense for two reasons. One is that human nature is a complex system with many parts: some of them lead us to commit violence; others–what Lincoln called “The better angels of our nature”–inhibit us from violence. Whether violence actually breaks out depends on which features of human nature are triggered by the environment.
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