Judith Rich Harris, 1938-2018


With hindsight, I judge Steve Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature as something of a high-tide in biologically informed realism in the psychological and behavioral sciences in the 21st century. A reread is bittersweet, knowing what has come to pass. But one of the best things about The Blank Slate is that he gave extensive publicity to Judith Rich Harris’ The Nurture Assumption. I like to think, perhaps hope, that her work influenced many “Generation X” parents.

In January of 2006 she answered 10 Questions for this weblog. Judy and her husband were always gracious and kind in their email correspondence with me. I can’t say that for many academics who are in the fullness of their health and well-being, something she struggled with for decades.

Her life made a difference. Read The Nurture Assumption and her follow-up book, No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality, to understand why.

One thought on “Judith Rich Harris, 1938-2018

  1. “A reread is bittersweet, knowing what has come to pass.“

    Maybe, maybe not. There have been good things. Nobody takes the blank slate seriously anymore. Gould got caught (his fraud had long been pretty likely but no one had the guts to challenge it earlier). Nicholas Wade published a bestseller. There have been rumblings at the World Bank that development policies are not working as well in some regions as in others because of inborn traits. James Damore has received widespread sympathy. Publication hoaxes! The consequences of firing Bret Weinstein have been a 50% drop in applications at Evergreen. The replication crisis in social psychology gives the lie to environmental influences on behavior. Conclusion: The leftist assault on reason is a temporary irrational panic before the human genome results cause the equitists to fold. It will all be over soon—in the decade to come, I imagine. Then a new dialogue may emerge to support a hybrid socialist-capitslist system in an attempt to maintain prosperity and avoid extreme inequality. We’ll see.

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