Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
a book by Steven Pinker
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"My new favorite book of all time."—Bill Gates
If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.
Let's all thank these Enlightenment philosophers—the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked
Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature--tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking--which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.
With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.
Table of Contents:
- Dare to Understand!
- Entro, Evo, Info
- The Environment
- Equal Rights
- Quality of Life
- Existential Threats
- The Future of Progress
Pinker is the original glass-half-full man, though really he’s more of a glass three-quarters full one, and getting fuller with every generation, though it will never quite reach capacity—Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard (UK)
"The world is getting better, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m glad we have brilliant thinkers like Steven Pinker to help us see the big picture. Enlightenment Now is not only the best book Pinker’s ever written. It’s my new favorite book of all time.”—Bill Gates
“A terrific book…[Pinker] recounts the progress across a broad array of metrics, from health to wars, the environment to happiness, equal rights to quality of life.”—Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
"Steven Pinker’s mind bristles with pure, crystalline intelligence, deep knowledge and human sympathy."—Richard Dawkins
“Pinker is a paragon of exactly the kind of intellectual honesty and courage we need to restore conversation and community.”—David Brooks, The New York Times
“[Enlightenment Now] is magnificent, uplifting and makes you want to rush to your laptop and close your Twitter account.”—The Economist
“[A] magisterial new book…Enlightenment Now is the most uplifting work of science I’ve ever read.”—Science Magazine
“A passionate and persuasive defense of reason and science…[and] an urgently needed reminder that progress is, to no small extent, a result of values that have served us - and can serve us - extraordinarily well.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A meticulous defense of science and objective analysis, [and] a rebuttal to the tribalism, knee-jerk partisanship and disinformation that taints our politics.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Brimming with surprising data and entertaining anecdotes.”—Financial Times
“[Pinker] makes a powerful case that the main line of history has been, since the Enlightenment, one of improvement.”—Scientific American
“Let’s stop once in a while to enjoy the view—I’m glad Pinker is pushing for this in a world that does it too rarely… It’s hard not to be convinced.”—Quartz
The progress Pinker sees is undeniable, but there's another side to the story: Progress—at what price?
“Enlightenment Now is formidable.”—Financial Times
“As a demonstration of the value of reason, knowledge, and curiosity, Enlightenment Now can hardly be bettered.”—The Boston Globe
“With a wealth of knowledge, graphs and statistics, a strong grasp of history, and an engaging style of writing…Enlightenment Now provides a convincing case for gratitude.”—Pittsburgh Post Gazette
“A masterly defense of the values of modernity against ‘progressophobes’.”—Times Higher Education
“Enlightenment Now strikes a powerful blow against the contemporary mystifications being peddled by tribalists on both the left and the right.”—Reason
“Pinker presents graphs and data which deserve to be reckoned with by fair-minded people. His conclusion is provocative, as anything by Pinker is likely to be.”—Colorado Springs Gazette
“Elegantly [argues] that in various ways humanity has every reason to be optimistic over life in the twenty-first century…. A defense of progress that will provoke deep thinking and thoughtful discourse among his many fans.”—Booklist
“Pinker defends progressive ideals against contemporary critics, pundits, cantankerous philosophers, and populist politicians to demonstrate how far humanity has come since the Enlightenment…In an era of increasingly “dystopian rhetoric,” Pinker’s sober, lucid, and meticulously researched vision of human progress is heartening and important.”—Publishers Weekly
“[An] impeccably written text full of interesting tidbits from neuroscience and other disciplines…The author examines the many ways in which Enlightenment ideals have given us lives that our forebears would envy even if gloominess and pessimism are the order of the day.” —Kirkus Review
". . . the Enlightenment emphasis on the autonomous, rational individual can also lead to alienation and isolation, which make tribalist mythology all the more appealing. The dream of the 18th century was that a single, coherent set of values, rooted in rationality, could make a heaven on Earth. Pinker shares that dream. But more-recent philosophers such as Isaiah Berlin, sobered by the 20th century’s failed utopias, have argued for a more modest liberal pluralism that makes room for multiple, genuinely conflicting goods. Family and work, solidarity and autonomy, tradition and innovation are really valuable, and really in tension, in both the lives of individuals and the life of a nation. One challenge for enlightenment now is to build social institutions that can bridge and balance these values. . . . For the Enlightenment philosophers, as Pinker’s book reminds us, the great problem of politics was how to combine the desires and goals of thousands of autonomous individuals—how to coordinate the pursuit of happiness." (Source: When Truth and Reason Are No Longer Enough, Alison Gopnik, the Atlantic)
We accept Gopnik's challenge of designing social institutions that can bridge and balance the values family and work, solidarity and autonomy, and tradition and innovation. See The Big Answer, The Forest Through The Trees, and MCs—Frequently Asked Questions.
Modern subcommunity: MC with Japanese Garden and Central Hub for Childcare, etc.
The advanced benefits we’re experiencing are being wasted on the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots—we are far better off today than we have ever been, but we don’t seem to be paying attention
". . . the advanced benefits we’re experiencing are being 'wasted on the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.' We are far better off today than we have ever been. But we don’t seem to be paying attention." (Source: Steven Pinker: Why Our World Is Getting Better, 52 Insights)
"If you read his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, then you know about Pinker’s facility with evidenced-based arguments. Extend this data-rich methodology from violence decline to long-term economic growth, poverty reduction, health and longevity improvements, and economic mobility - and you have an idea of Pinker’s approach. Crucially, Pinker does not rely solely on data to make his case. He dives deeply into the psychology of our systemic blindspots, and the history of thinking about the idea of progress. By situating the story of material improvement in the larger story about how thinkers have thought about progress, Pinker helps us understand why there continues to be such cognitive and political resistance to the ideas and practices that explain and lead to human betterment." (Source: Situating Steven Pinker's Splendid 'Enlightenment Now' Within the Progress Genre, Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed)
In gross, general terms, a large proportion of the planet is living a better life than ever before, however, no amount of oohing and aahing over the encouraging graphs in Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress's will change the overall power dynamic as specified magnificently by Noam Chomsky in Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, the best book of the 21st century. This is one of the most important books (and documentary films) ever written, and it comes at a critical time in American history. It is a coherent narrative of the corruption of our American socio-economic-political systems. In addition to being a requiem, the film is also a post mortem, containing descriptions of the strategies and tactics that have transformed the United States of America into an corrupt oligarchy that is the biggest debtor nation in history.
The huge income gap in the USA screams to all who will listen: the United States is no longer a democracy, it's a corrupt oligarchy
As we learned from Chomsky, the burst of activism and democracy in the United States in the 1960s scared the protectors of wealth and privilege, and Chomsky admits that he did not anticipate the strength of the backlash through which we have been suffering since. In plain English, the rich saw that the nonrich—unless stopped—could use democratic methods to attempt to make life fair for all classes and races and genders. But if it was fair, the rich would get only their fair share and no more. But, like the spoiled little girl in the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the rich simply do not intend to settle for only their fair share, they want the whole world and they want it now. Perhaps they never learned to share as children. Sounds like bad parenting to us—which also applies to the cute, bratty little girl in the movie.
I want the whole world and I want it now!
At least the rich will leave us a few scraps once they're done eating
The graph proves Pinker's assertion of great progress in the USA, but, like Chomsky, it asks the question: Progress for whom?
[Pinker] "could have ended every chapter by saying, 'But all this progress is threatened if Donald Trump gets his way.' Trumpism risks knocking the world backward in almost every department of life, especially by trying to undo the international structures that have made progress possible: peace and trade agreements, health care, climate change accords and the general understanding that nuclear weapons should never be used. All this is now in question." (Source: Steven Pinker Continues to See the Glass Half Full, Sarah Bakewell, NY Times)
How Trump sees himself, and how Trump's basket of deplorables sees him, both of which are totally at odds with how the rest of humanity sees him
Trump's basket of deplorables—unfairly named by Hillary, demonstrating her annoying tendency to speak before thinking
Enlightenment Now concludes with three chapters defending what Pinker sees as Enlightenment values: reason, science, and humanism. Pinker argues that these values are under threat from modern trends such as religious fundamentalism, political correctness, and postmodernism. In an interview about the book published in Scientific American, Pinker has clarified that his book is not merely an expression of hope—it is a documentation of how much we have gained as a result of Enlightenment values, and how much we have to lose if those values are abandoned.
The repression of science by the Religious Right has been joined by both the political Left and the political Right
In a world where young people are being misled, misinformed, and misguided by political correctness scripture based on entirely erroneous ideas and principles, The Coddling of the American Mind is a godsend that not only brilliantly diagnoses the problem but also explains its origin as well as its cure. The book deserves to be the go-to book for all safetyism and speech-related issues, because their insight about safetyism's major cognitive distortions is so profound, helpful, and insightful. Pinker sees the modern trend of political correctness with its social justice warriors as a huge mistake, naively and stupidly fighting the Enlightenment values every step of the way.
Pinker sees the modern trend of political correctness with its social justice warriors as a huge mistake, naively and stupidly fighting the Enlightenment values every step of the way—here's an Antifa thug SJW
"But many of the [political correctness-related] liberal outbursts on campuses have not been directed at demagogues or fanatics, but rather at scholars [e.g., David Horowitz] who made a reasoned case for their positions. They may be mistaken, but they are certainly worth hearing. The reason for the opposition isn’t that there’s an absence of attention to argument and data, but rather that the conclusions are unpalatable, according to the prevailing politics of the institution." (Source: Steven Pinker: We’re Living Better through Enlightenment, Hope Reese, JSTOR Daily)
Steven Pinker rightly tells us that part of the blame for Trump’s election is the scourge of political correctness—Trump was against it, as is Pinker; here Trump wants you to respect his authoritah
Steven Pinker rightly tells us that part of the blame for Trump’s election is the scourge of political correctness. Trump was against it, as is Pinker. They are both right. A good thinker would never let himself be swayed by the radical fads of the PC fanatics, in spite of their threats, harrassments, and SJW thugs. Their campaigns to deny speakers with conservative views exposes the foolishness of their thinking. If they're terrified of a point of view that is not CW and PC-police approved, it means they secretly fear that their positions are shaky at best or nonsense at worst.
If the leftists are terrified of a point of view that is not CW and PC-police approved, it means they secretly fear that their positions are shaky at best or nonsense at worst
Pinker errs when he attaches the concept of progress to free market economics, and he paints too rosy a picture of the direction things are moving in our country and our world. He might as well have championed Reagan's "trickle down economics" scam while he was at it. And as Jeremy Lent says, "He berates those who focus on what is wrong with the world’s current condition as pessimists who only help to incite regressive reactionaries. Instead, he glorifies the dominant neoliberal, technocratic approach to solving the world’s problems as the only one that has worked in the past and will continue to lead humanity on its current triumphant path. . . . [Pinker naively cheers on] the dominant world order. . . . [On the other hand, Pinker wisely and insightfully] spoke to the world’s elite this year at the World’s Economic Forum in Davos on the perils of what he calls 'political correctness.' . . . [However] Since his work offers an intellectual rationale for many in the elite to continue practices that imperil humanity, it needs to be met with a detailed and rigorous response." (Source: Steven Pinker’s Ideas About Progress Are Fatally Flawed. These Eight Graphs Show Why, Jeremy Lent, Resilience)
The idea that neoliberalism's benefits will eventually trickle down to the have-nots was a covertly mean-spirited scam from day one. The have-nots did not get trickled TO—they got trickled ON
You either bow down and kiss the ring of the PC emperors and support their misguided ideas or you become the enemy, whose words are violence because they create discomfort (this is known as cognitive distortion)
Pinker makes the liberals angry when he wisely warns us of the extreme perils of political correctness, since the liberal narrative says you either bow down and kiss the ring of the PC emperors and support their misguided ideas or you become the enemy, whose words are violence because they create discomfort, and non-PC words are evil and can cause people to shatter—especially delicate liberal snowflakes.
College students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like, wrongly believing that they are so fragile that hearing the wrong words or concepts will shatter them
Most students are not fragile, they are not 'snowflakes, and they are not afraid of ideas, but the PC-loving hypersensitive hyperliberal safetyists are all these things
" . . . over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing 'widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.' . . . Whether it’s CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species, or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday. . . . the U.S. media is controlled by a few large corporations. Like all shareholder-owned companies, their overriding concern is making profits, in this case from advertising dollars. The news services, once considered a hallowed responsibility administered for the public good, have been reduced to just another profit center—and it was decided that climate change news isn’t good for advertising revenue . . . Like any Ponzi scheme, this global growth frenzy is based on maintaining the illusion for as long as possible. Once it becomes clear that this rate of growth is truly unsustainable, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down." (Source: What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?, Jeremy Lent, Patterns of Meaning)
Once it becomes clear that this rate of growth is truly unsustainable, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down
The U.S. is going to be swirling the drain once the dire climate change news changes to a terrible reality—if Pinker believed in science as much as he says, he'd realize this
The world will be going off a cliff once the dire climate change news changes to a terrible reality—if Pinker believed in science as much as he says, he'd realize this; See Good News and Bad News
Once we hit the point where it's too late and ecological collapse is upon us, life on Earth will degenerate into rats fighting in a toilet
Once we hit the point where it's too late and ecological collapse is upon us, life on Earth will degenerate into global warming Hell