Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, draws on decades of research in the "sciences of human nature."
He attacks the notion that an infant's mind is a blank slate, arguing instead that human beings have an inherited universal structure shaped by the demands made upon the species for survival... with plenty of room for cultural and individual variation.
Pinker's clear and witty presentation, complete with comic strips and allusions to writers from Woody Allen to Emily Dickinson, keeps the material fresh.
What might amaze is the persistent, often vitriolic resistance to these findings Pinker presents and systematically takes apart.
He goes on to tour what science currently claims to know about human nature, including its cognitive, intuitive and emotional faculties. And he shows what light this research can shed on such thorny topics as gender inequality, child-rearing and modern art.
For the most part, the book is persuasive and illuminating.