Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature and many other works, is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Pinker is fascinated with the mind and visual cognition and language play a significant role in our human development. In The Blank Slate, Pinker explores “political, moral, and emotional aspects of human nature, in modern life.” Pinkers’ aim is not controversial and polarizing, but instead, focused on debunking myths about human nature as dangerous. Ultimately, he believes that discussing the appropriate role of human nature will actually help humanity in our scholarship, personal and public relations, as well as reaching into the mundane of our daily lives.
In this work, Pinker spends time discussing some of the surrounding theories around the idea of the Blank Slate, including the Noble Savage and the Ghost in the Machine. Pinker also spends significant time discussing the fears against the criticisms around theory of the Blank Slate, citing inequality, imperfectability, determinism, and nihilism, as the main four.
Last summer, I desperately wanted to watch Avengers: End Game. But my husband, a committed marvel movie fan absolutely refused because I was too far behind. So I’m trying to watch one movie every other week or so, to slowly catch up. So you can imagine my surprise when I’m watching Avengers: Age of Ultron (still 11 movies away from my target), and I see Steven Pinker everywhere on my screen! While the robots don’t have his magnificent hair, the robots have an unquenchable desire to first, create systems of justice where all are equal; second, rid the world of those who have bad motives and perfect the human race before they take action on their bad motives; third, take away the free will of others to determine the outcome; and fourth create beauty which can only come from complete destruction. These are in fact, inequality, imperfectability, determinism, and nihilism. If you aren’t familiar with the movie yet, sorry – Spoilers ahead.
Essentially, through the discovery of artificial intelligence through a fancy stick (it’s Loki’s scepter, I know), it’s decided between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner to use this AI to complete the Ultron global defense program created by Stark. But it gets out of hand quickly when the Ultron attacks the Avengers and decides to take out the entire fictional city of Sokovia in order to an effort to force the earth and its inhabitants to evolve.
The dialogue in the film is rich with the ideas put forward by Pinker, highlighting the constant struggle between the ordinary nature of humanity, with the forced desires of what can be nurtured out of them by those deemed “greater” than they. Ultron and the Vision have discussions centered around the frailty of humanity, and Capitan America chimes in, “Ultron thinks we’re monsters and we’re what’s wrong with the world. This isn’t just about beating him. It’s about whether he’s right.” The Cap’n is right, as always: This discussion must take into consideration morality.
If we center our dialogue only on what human nature is or isn’t, we miss the larger picture of how God factors into all this. When the Avengers meddle and play God and it all goes wrong, why would we ordinary humans be any different? Pinker does not seriously address the doctrine of creation or the sovereignty of God who is above all things. As fallen humans, it is human nature to desire our restored humanity and presence with God, but that doesn’t come from the Noble Savage, nor the Ghost in the Machine. This desire for reconciliation comes from a higher moral authority who brings transformation that we cannot bring ourselves. It doesn’t come from a blank slate, a fancy stick, or an ultra-computer, but instead from the One who was, and is, and is to come.
 Steven Pinker, “About”, StevenPinker.com, https://stevenpinker.com/biocv
 Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York, NY.: Penguin Books, 2016), viii.
 Ibid., viii.
 Ibid, 3
 Ibid., 138.
 Steven D. Gredanus, “The Theology and Philosophy of the Avengers: Age of Ultron, CRUXnow, October 2, 2015.