Educational and psychological theories of the mid-20th century saw the human brain as an infinitely flexible learning machine, with no “factory presets”. But the picture that is now emerging of our mental apparatus is of a suite of prewired cognitive modules, located in various areas of the brain, each of which has been shaped by natural selection for some useful task. These modules provide us with a common a priori framework for organizing our model of the world, and each module contributes an intuitive description of some aspect of our environment.
Steven Pinker, in The Blank Slate (pp. 219-223), notes that we have preinstalled instincts and intuitions about physics, engineering, biology, probability, language, and number, to name just a few. Many of the cultural, mathematical, and scientific tools we have developed, however, are either beyond the inborn capability of these modules, or actually at odds with them. For example, we have no problem learning to walk, throw a stone, or speak – all of which are extraordinarily complex tasks – but reading, mathematics, and the like are too recently adaptive to have had time to have entered our set of inherited and intuitive abilities, and must be painstakingly acquired in school. As Pinker points out,
Far from being empty receptacles or universal learners, then, children are equipped with a toolbox of implements for reasoning and learning in particular ways, and those implements must be cleverly recruited to master problems for which they were not designed. That requires not just inserting new facts and skills in children’s minds but debugging and disabling old ones. Students cannot learn Newtonian physics until they unlearn their intuitive, impetus-based physics. They cannot learn modern biology until they unlearn their intuitive biology, which thinks in terms of vital essences. And they cannot learn evolution until they unlearn their intuitive engineering, which attributes design to the intentions of a designer.
-The Blank Slate, p. 223 [emphasis mine]
Fifty-one percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form.