Read Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker Online

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

"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." --The New York TimesThe follow-up to Pinker's groundbreaking The Better Angels of Our Nature presents the big picture of human progress: 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.Far from being a nave 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....

Title : Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
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ISBN : 9780525427575
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 576 pages
Url Type : Home » Enlightenment » Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

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Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress Reviews

  • Richard

    Pinker’s latest is getting a lot of press, of course.

    Here are a few links:

    His own synopsis at the Wall Street Journal: The Enlightenment Is Working (paywall; try Googling wsj The Enlightenment Is Working and clicking through from Google, maybe into “private browsing mode”. Works sometimes.)

    Ezra Klein of Vox is a pretty good interviewer, and he hooked up with Pinker at his podcast. I really liked that they both name-dropped Dan Kahan's work at his Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School

    Materialism

    Ridley points out that humans have evolved into incredibly efficient organisms at solving the problems our paleolithic ancestors faced. Most humans alive today have access to food, health and a length of life that would astonish even our great-grandparents.

    And given how important those things are in our life, I’m also optimistic that we’re going to keep getting better at them. Given the staggering amount of research that’s going on, it would be very surprising if the coming decades don’t provide continuing delights at keeping people healthier and living longer.

    But here’s the problem: when I look around me, most of the people I see are already pretty satisfied on those counts. Sure, it’ll be really sweet when we finally cure cancer, and when we can reliably prevent Alzheimer’s, etc., etc. But the existential threats that drove paleolithic existence aren’t reflected on most folks’ day-to-day anxiety list, are they?

    The upshot of this is a little tricky: if the existential threats present during evolutionary time aren’t what drives us today… what does? Something I think is important to realize is that no matter what the answer is to that question, it isn’t embedded in our nature, at least certainly not in the same way as the old threats. Which means it is a very flexible thing, informed by culture, preference, and contingency. And that means individual and societal choices will vary widely, and might often contradict each other. I can easily imagine some of those drives being cause for pessimism — whether they be growth-for-growth’s sake of the capitalist, or the holy wars of various religious extremists. Those mimetic constructs could, in turn, put a damper on the pollyannaish future presented here.

    Since Ridley merely examines how good we are at meeting the materialistic goals of cavemen, he really never gets it. The pessimism of the post-modern isn’t about Malthusian crises, but about the lack of focused direction for our post-materialist civilization to take.

    Ridley doesn’t see that problem, and his book is fundamentally flawed.
    My complaint has broadened in the eight years since I reviewed that book, because it has been informed by the social crises we face today, especially regarding how social identity in the modern world has become a more salient dividing point between populations, despite the astonishing fact that it is often quite arbitrary. Modernity has a whole host of problems which are becoming ever more germane.

    So now I’m a bit more curious, and might have to read this to see if Pinker even notices that a whole host of new problems face humanity. ...more

  • Peter Mcloughlin

    I really enjoy Pinker's books. I think I have read all of them. I enjoyed this one as well despite some of my political differences with Pinker. I laud his hailing of the enlightenment. I am with him this maligned movement should get more respect than it does. I am a big believer in modernity. I agree science and reason even when done by flawed bipeds like ourselves is the best guide in our mental toolbox. Pinker recognizes that our modern politics is tribal and this clouds our judgment turning ...more

  • Jonathan Yu

    I see a lot of hostile commentary on this book. My opinion is that they didn’t read it as they hash the same issues that the author addresses.

    This book is flawed. It’s sorta long and it lags at the end but I still say it’s 5 stars because of the mindset it instills in you. They want you to sit down and solve problems - not wait for things on faith and not always be wanting to tear the structure down. The structure is working and the doomsday doomers (which I find myself gravitating too at times
    ...more

  • Ryan Boissonneault

    Francis Bacon once said that “some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” This is one of the few.

    The main thesis of the book is that the enlightenment values of reason, science, and humanism have led to scientific and moral progress and that the embrace of these values will continue the trend. This, as opposed to counter-enlightenment values (religious faith, nationalism, tribalism, relativism, declinism), is the recipe for the maximizati
    ...more

  • David Wineberg

    You’ve never had it so good, and Steven Pinker has the stats and charts (over 70!) to prove it. Wars are fewer and less severe, homicides are down, racism is in decline, terrorism is a fading fad, democracy rules, communicable diseases and poverty are on their way out. Life expectancy is up, and police are killing fewer people, both black and white. Even the poor have refrigerators. Inequality is a requisite sign of success. So appreciate the wonderful state of affairs you find yourself in. This ...more

  • Edouard Stenger

    Enlightenment Now is Steven Pinker’s latest book. Pinker was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and his books are regularly featured in the best-selling lists.

    While the purpose of this book is commendable – to show with extensive use of data that we are living in the best of times – two reasons made me cringe while reading it. Firstly, the author completely misses the mark on the topic I have dedicated part of my professional life for the past 10+ year
    ...more

  • Edward Sudall

    There are more slaves than there ever has been therefore the world is worse than it ever has been. That is my parodic example of oversimple and overgeneral Pinker-logic.

    Wasn't it Albert Einstein that once said "not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

    Actually, it was the Sociologist William Bruce Cameron. (But Einstein's celebrity authority, is like Pinker's: if he says it, it becomes more believed). The full quote is:

    "It would be nice if all of
    ...more

  • Trevor

    Why I won't be reading this:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentis...