You would think that in the intellectually respectable world of the chattering classes, someone like Stephen Pinker a Harvard Proffessor of Pyschology no less, would in his writing on culture, and the mind, know a false meme when he saw it.
Yet he perpetuates the mythology of autism we have inherited down through the changeling of mediaeval legend through Bettelheims exported Freudian metaphor to Simon Baron Cohen’s Theory of mind hypothesis (by way of Philip K Dicks Androids, and the Voight Kampf test)
Fact and fiction seamlessly integrated, for on page 62 of Stephen Pinker’s “The Blank Slate” (Penguin London 2002) He states “Autism is an innate neurological condition with strong genetic roots. Together with robots and chimpanzees. people with autism remind us that cultural learning is possible only because neurologically normal people have innate equipment to accomplish it.”
The notions seem to be lifted straight out of Simon Baron Cohen’s 1995 (and well out of date) tome, Mindblindness, an Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. for he also states :
“A mind unequipped to discern other peoples beliefs and intentions, even if it can learn in other ways, is incapable of the kind of learning that perpetuates culture. People with Autism suffer from an impairment of that kind. They can grasp physical representations like maps and diagrams, but cannot grasp mental representations …”
For a professor of psychology Pinker seems extraordinarily ignorant about what language, culture and representation actually are as concepts and how they relate in terms of cognition. In other words he has no idea of my world, it’s levels of complexity and richness.
This whole network of blogs we belong to on the Autism Hub, if it proves nothing else proves that we have representation (in more one sense of the word) and the means of transmitting culture for if this is not it, what is?
So what is it then the robot as exemplified by culturally complex character Roy Batty of Blade Runner, or the sophisticated Chimpanzees of the Planet of the Apes.?
Beware Professor Pinker, the Autists might take over the planet one day and strip you of your academic credentials.