Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just a little bit reductionist don't you think?

I've recently got a hold of Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen's latest attempt to mine the market in pop psychology books (and what a rich and easy vein that is), and it includes a chapter titled "The Empathy Gene". In all seriousness, this professor seems to be taking the position that if people appear to lack empathy (and judging by his past writings on the subject the prof defines empathy in any way that suits his purposes at the time), and their lack of empathy cannot be explained by environmental influences in childhood, then we must assume that there is something wrong with their gene or genes for empathy. This academic seems to believe that writing as a scientist means he must forget or deny the existence of human free will or moral choices or present environmental influences or character or education or socialization or contemporary cultural influences - we are just wind-up robots playing out the effects of our good or bad childhood experiences and our genes, and a concept as complex and as difficult to define as empathy (and I am sure that this sloppy s*** of a professor has still never made any serious attempt to define empathy, having read his last book on the subject) can be determined pretty much wholly by genetics. Do you buy that? I don't buy that, and I recommend that you don't buy the book.

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