Sunday, July 22, 2018
Steven Pinker - Enlightenment Now (Allen Lane, 2018) ****
We know Pinker, we love Pinker. "Enlightenment Now" is subtitled "The Case For Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress", and that's exactly what the book does. The good thing is that Pinker gives a very high level overview of the progress that's been made in the last centuries, thanks to the insights of the enlightenment philosophers, scientists and politicians who radically put evidence and democracy at the heart of society. This led to better science, better understanding, but also better justice and well-being to many.
This book is a kind of sequel to "The Better Angels of our Nature", in which he describes how society has become less violent over the millennia.
He tackles the big picture topics of wealth, equality, happiness, peace, safety, terrorism, democracy, equal rights, the environment, ... and he is right: based on all evidence, things are getting better, despite the growth of the population.
His appeal to reason and democracy are a deep cry from an entire intellectual community who sees populism on the rise across the world, with 'fake news' and 'alternative facts' increasingly dominating our news and social media.
As with so many books, this one will also be preaching to the converted. Its main advantage is that it give the converted a very strong overview of facts to support their arguments. Nothing new here, just very well presented and documented.
If I had his skills and knowledge, this is the book I would write.