The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
ONE OF THE ECONOMIST'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR
"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. By the author of the new book, Rationality.
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 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.
I enjoyed the review of the Enlightenment, all that’s it accomplished, and what it makes possible in the future. He loses me with a weak promotion of Humanism and poor critique of contemporary politics in the last few chapters.
Pull back the curtain
I really enjoyed this book, although I struggled a bit with the flow. Stephen Pinker is well educated and as such, prone to use obtuse words in place of simple. Fortunately reading with the iPad I could quickly find the definition of many a word I was unfamiliar with, such as “peripatetic” - nomadic, - traveling from place to place.
My world view shaped by the turbulent 60s and my indoctrination in the sect of Mormon belief painted a dark future that would only end with the second coming of Christ. It was after all, in the name of our faith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The latter days. The end of times, which were shaped by the temptations of the devil and colored with the rumor of wars and strife.
If only we could “endure to the end”.
With life experience I began to see succeeding generations complain of the same fates, of how bad things were and how bad the future would be. But in reality, it wasn’t that bad - in fact, it was quite good. Better than I had imagined.
All one has to do is read a bit of history to realize that we live in a golden age. An age of discovery, wonder, affluence, education.
In this book Stephen Pinker reiterates this point with a verbosity of logic and reason. Making an argument of how good the here and now is and of how it can and will get better as long as humankind continues with the skills brought about by the great reformation. The skills of Reason, Science, and Humanism.
“For it requires only the convictions that life is better than death, health is better than sickness, abundance is better than want, freedom is better than coercion, happiness is better than suffering, and knowledge is better than superstition and ignorance.”
Research based optimism
One cannot quibble with data, facts, evidence and research. Dr. Pinker presents these in this important book about how we are indeed living in enlightened times, despite the tragic and terrifying school shootings, etc. Though there are a couple times when this book is a difficult read, the scholarly approach of this book is imperative. One cannot help but feel uplifted about how humanity is progressing. The various media paint a mostly pessimistic view of our race by focusing on the negative. Dr. Pinker helps us see past the negativity. The research based charts and graphs are pretty amazing. We are not going to hell in a hand basket.