Comments (17)Add a Comment
Enlightenment Now contains statistical proof (with graphical evidence) that the world is better now than it was before. Though not naively optimistic, Pinker goes deeply into many topics to support this argument while unbiasedly looking at counter-arguments as well. However, the book is more about statistical evidence for world improvement, it's about the well-thought-out argument that we need to uphold Enlightenment values (Reason, Science, and Humanism) to carry out previously unthinkable world progress.
The physical book itself was bigger than I imagined, but I'm not surprised. Its pages are packed with meaning, no paragraph is a waste. Pinker clearly and effectively supports his arguments and goes deep into his topics. Though it's not an easy read - you'll have to take it slow if you want to extract value from each paragraph (which mostly every paragraph has). The big words and complex phrases will also slow the average person down, so just keep aware that this book can sometimes be slow and difficult to read, but versus being "difficult and boring," it's actually challenging and very enjoyable.
I only took half a star away because at times I felt like there was a bit of pandering about Trump's Presidential inadequacies which made it feel overrun. Pinker is also outspoken against religion, and he clearly expresses it in this book. But, please know that this book is very rewarding to read, I suggest everyone read this book, society NEEDS to know that our world is indeed getting better, not worse.
" People who lead happy but not necessarily meaningful lives have all their needs satisfied: they are healthy, have enough money, and feel good a lot of the time. People who lead meaningful lives may enjoy none of these boons. Happy people live in the present; those with meaningful lives have a narrative about their past and a plan for the future." "Parents get meaning from their children, but not necessarily do they derive happiness from them." "It's not that people with meaningful lives masochistically go looiking for trouble but that they pursue ambitious goals; 'Man plans and God laughs'." "Meaning is about expressing rather thatn satisfying the self: it is enhanced by activities that define the person and build a reputation."
Pinker’s ENLIGHTENMENT NOW should be required reading for every voter in America, particularly now when reason, science and world progress are under attack from the fringes of political movements and religious dogma. Pinker’s extensive researched and documented analysis of Trumpism and current forces attempting to drag the world back into more authoritarian, less progressive times is chilling, and lays out the importance of holding on to the movement and mindset that has brought us this far into a better, healthier, wealthier and far more prosperous and stable world.
Interesting read, which discussed many different subjects from a seemingly objective perspective. Pinker offers a lot of clearly laid out data to provide evidence for his claims, and often offers information from both sides of an argument.
A strong argument for humanism!
“Imagine There's No Heaven : How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World”
by Mitchell Stephens
St. Martin's Press (Feb. 25 2014, hc, 336 pages
ISBN-10: 1137002603, ISBN-13: 978-1137002600
Steven is a good writer but I think he's overly optimistic and like many academics is under the illusion that PC dogma are indisputable facts. The welfare state is unsustainable, people can't eat ideas and good will, collapse (of the west) is what I think is coming.
Would love to thank Mr. Pinker for writing this one! Wow. A must read for anyone interested understanding the state of the world through the lens of evidence!
Brilliantly deconstructs the contemporary nihilism that shrouds the safest, richest, healthiest, and most liberal period in human history. Pinker backs every claim with data, elevating his arguments above the noisy post-modern babble.
Puts our times in perspective. You'll be grateful for the quality of life science and humanism have made possible!
The author provides many interesting statistics. What concerns me is the hubris (technological magical thinking) - presuming that whatever problems arise now into the future will be readily resolvable by technical fixes if we just keep that technological faith!
To check the other reader's comment on economic growth under Obama out of curiosity, I went back to several years, and here we go: GDP growth in Jan 2015, 3.2%; July 2015, 2.7%; Jan 2016, 0.5%; July 2016, 2.8%.
Join me and get inspired by what Bill Gates calls his new “favorite book of all time.” Despite the onslaught of negative & extremist daily news, deliberately sensationalized to sell more ads, I’ve found deep philosophical hope in this book of the decade: "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress" (2018), by Steven Pinker. At the heart of the book is trustworthy peer-reviewed science in every chapter, showing how far our species has come from homicidal warring tribes in the past, to the present relatively-safe large countries with various systems of rule of law enforcing a civil and human rights, mostly better than ever before. Sure, humans have a lot of problems still to fix (such as voting down fact-free far-right populist demagogues, and ignoring the idealistically-impractical & anti-trade extreme left), but this book reminds us to see more clearly how far humans have progressed worldwide (in terms of lifespan, health, safety, pollution control, human rights, wealth, happiness, etc), in historical perspective, in the past 150 years, especially in the past generation. (I believe that international engagement via trade and participation in the evolving United Nations is critical for the future of human rights & civic progress. International peer pressure may help enforce more universal humanism and freedom balanced with civic responsibilities.)
I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I love everything else Pinker writes, but this one was a bit disappointing. I regret that I couldn't finish it, mostly because Pinker elevates Obama to godhood and constantly trashes Trump for using the "backward looking phrase" Make America Great Again. Trump so far has done a good job of doing it (In 8 years Obama never had more than 2% growth in GDP and claimed that we would never see it higher than that for the rest of eternity, Trump got it up to 3% in his first year.)
Being a new book it obeys the Kawasaki rule (all new books are rife with errors) where on page 45 he says:
"The statement x>y is different from the statement y=o"
I'm certain that he meant y=0 (zero) not y=o, but I can forgive that minor typo. What I can't forgive is his constant criticism of those of us on the Right.
It is important to know what science finds out is only true 55% of the times. This is because the model science uses is Mechanical. Living Organism, being uses the Mind, neglected, that is the reason. Unless science incorporates the diffusion of the processes of the human mind, the total picture, true story is difficult to fathom, though try we must. Only by failing, we learn to walk, upright ! Nature is relentlessly Compelling !