Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Why do humans always look for Scapegoats instead of Taking Responsibility, Is it Nature or Nurture?

Written by: on February 28, 2020

When I think of human bahaviour, there are many questions that come to mind but one stands out that Pinker’s book, The Blank Slate[1] made me to explore more. Why is it that, for the most part, People use an excuse for not performing as expected or blame a scapegoat when things go wrong? Human beings, rarely own up unfavorable results  or take responsibility for consequences of their wrong actions. Its great leadership to take responsibility and own the results that you produce but I realize that leadership for the most part is learned, and mostly through nurture. Pinker seems to be particularly against the creationist theorists which, draws me to the creation story and the belief that we’re all off-springs of Adam and Eve and that the original sin, makes sinners needing a savior. Adam blamed Eve while Eve blamed the serpent for the original sin[2],  that seems to have been natural instinctive behavior. I think, if they had learned with some nurturing, they would have owned their responsibility and asked for forgiveness and things would have been different. On a different note, David takes responsibility to accept his sin of sleeping with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, when he is confronted by prophet Nathan, repents and is forgiven his sin[3], taking responsibility is more noble and it should be the more rational thing to do for a leader. David was reputed for being a man after God’s heart and must have learned responsibility from his close relationship with God and other interactions in his life. Could it be that we’ve taken Adam and Eve’s nature, inheriting their genes, and therefore behave like them, we are more prone to deny responsibility and blame someone or something? Is this not one clear evidence that clearly backs the creation theory? I value my interaction with the word of God and many mentors in my life that have nurtured me as a leader and I truly owe it to them.

Pinker in his book, The Blank Slate, leans towards evolutionary psychology, cognitive science and behavioral genetics in trying to explain human behavior, and as is characteristic of his books, shy’s away from creation theory. He discredits the Judeo-Christian Theory of human nature and asserts that the theory is no longer explicitly avowed by most academics, journalists, social analysts, and other intellectually engaged people[4]. Indeed the Blank Slate has rightly been referred as the secular religion of modern intellectual life.[5] In denying the creation Theory, Pinker points to the fact that 15% of Americans do not view creation as the best explanation for the origin of human life on earth and duly quotes a number of sources to back his claim[6], this is characteristic of Pinker’s books to provide a lot of evidence. Pinker in pursuing his path of explaining human behavior, rightly refutes the fact that the human mind is a blank slate and states that modern science has challenged the three linked dogmas attributed to mayor intellectual philosophy and psychology: the blank slate (empiricism) that the mind has no innate traits; the noble savage, that people are born good but corrupted by society (romanticism); and the ghost in the machine, that each one has a soul that makes choices independent of the biology. He dwells on a number of fears and catastrophes that have plagued humanity and for which he blames on reliance on these dogmas. Pinker blames reliance on these theories, many catastrophic decisions and actions in the past. It is clear that Pinker has done a lot of research and reading and raises very pertinent issues that modern science, especially on the role of genes in determining one’s behavior but he downplays the role of nurture which, I disagree with. While I agree that he has brought to the fore, critical knowledge and rightly gives a lot of knowledge that will be useful in making better decisions, I would still look at this knowledge in the context of the creation theory and give credit to God of creation Who from one man to every nation, created all men and put them in the place and time that they are in, that they may seek Him, though He is not far from us[7]. As a Christian leader, I will take responsibility in recognizing that human beings do not just have a blank slate but have the innate sinful nature, introduce them to the savior Jesus, and use my understanding of their great potential  to find ways of empowering them holistically, as I seek to draw them back to the author and creator of their nature. Pinker’s work points to modern science leading to  better understanding of human behavior which I belief should be used responsibly, more so by Christian leaders to attend to our calling, to lead people to a better life of abundance, through reconciling them to God.

[1] Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature. (UK: Penguin, 2003).

[2] Bible. Genesis 3: 12-13.

[3] Bible. 2 Samuel 12:13.

[4] Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The modern Denial Of Human Nature. (UK: Penguin, 2003). Page 2.

[5] Ibid.,page 3.

[6] Creation: Opinion Dynamics, August 30, 1999; Miracles: Princeton survey Research Associates, April 15, 2000; Angels: Opinion Dynamics, December 5, 1997; devil: Princeton Survey research Associates, April 20, 2000; After-life: Gallup Organization, April 1, 1998; Evolution: Opinion Dynamics, August 30, 1999. Available through the Rpper Center at the University of Connecticut Public Opinion Online: www,ropercenter.uconn.edu.

[7] Bible. Acts 17: 26-27.

About the Author

Wallace Kamau

Wallace is a believer in Christ, Married to Mary Kamau (Founder and Executive Director of Missions of Hope International) and father to 3 Wonderful children, Imani Kamau (Graduate student at London School of Economics, UK), Victory Kamau (Undergraduate student at Portland state University, Oregon, USA) and David Kamau ( Grade student at Rosslyn Academy). Founder and Director, Missions of Hope International (www.mohiafrica.org), CPA, BAchelor of Commerce (Accounting) from University of Nairobi, Masters of Arts (Leadership) from Pan African Christian University.

8 responses to “Why do humans always look for Scapegoats instead of Taking Responsibility, Is it Nature or Nurture?”

  1. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thank you, Wallace. Taking responsibility is such an important trait in Christian leadership. It models humility and grace and usually can diffuse an inflamed situation. It certainly isn’t natural for most of us, rather part of the transformational process of becoming like Christ.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    Such a great post! I think you bring out such a great point on responsibility as I know in America we want all the glory without the responsibility and that needs to change.

  3. Mary Mims says:

    Wallace, thank you for your post. What you wrote proves that there is free will in our decisions and we must take responsibility for how we use it. Pinker refuses God’s answers for our nature and also rejects that nurture can provide a way out of sin. Thank God that we don’t live in the hopeless world as described by Pinker!

  4. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks so much for a thought-provoking post! Yes, it seems our fallen human nature is always trying to find a scapegoat. Either, “it is not my fault, I was made this way” or “it is not my fault, this is the way I was raised.” Regardless, individuals, society, and academics always seem to shy away from anything related to personal responsibility. That is why the Scripture is so refreshing that I (and only I) am responsible for my behavior, this is why I need a God Savior to save me and transform me. Again, thanks so much for your thoughtful insights.

  5. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hey Wallace. A good biblical interaction with Pinker. It’s not surprising Pinker’s research takes the path it does seeing he is an atheist. In my reading of him, there is a certain biblical irony to his conclusion. Pinker says, Human nature is a major problem, but our human nature is also the cure. Christianity says, our Adamic nature is a problem, but our Image in God is our blessing. Pinker claims what theology already knows, we live in tension with ourselves.

Leave a Reply