Enlightenment Now


Pinker is too smart. His new book sounds pretty amazing. He rattles off philosophy and history like he’s talking about a baseball game. He makes the case for science, reason and humanism with such ease. In this dialog Spencer tries to make a case that Christianity was the key ingredient that made the enlightenment revolution happen. He mentions Needham’s work in China and other times science started then ended. Pinker notes Christianity had been around for 1200 years before its influence finally worked, but he’s also quite gracious about the difficulty of showing causality

Pinker says we are living in the best of times. Really??

In many ways Yes Really.

But you know what they say: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

and of course, we’ve also lit the fuse to many big time problem bombs, that could individually, and will for sure collectively bring it all to a hideously ugly end. That won’t be any fun. It could have been postponed for many generations, but ME FIRST and utter ruthlessness always seems to win in the end - and always at a huge cost.

Yes really? Ask an iraqi, syrian, Afghani, libyians, mexicans etc. Ask the working poor and those with unservicable student loans. Ask those that cant afford health care or the homeless. Ask the pacific islanders experienceing rising sea levels.


Ask them all about thess best of times

Ask them all about thess best of times
Obviously it's comparative. "best" compared to what? that's the question. We have millions of more people working on making things better than we ever have before. Sorry if it's not good enough for yet Player. As a percentage of the total population, far more people have their health cared for than ever before. Nowhere does Pinker say things are now fine and there is no need to continue improving. Even what you suggest, asking the people who are in need, is being done. Which is the entire point. Unlike not too long ago when the children being sacrificed were not ask if they were okay with.


Implicit in Pinker’s political model is the belief that progress can only arise from the brand of centrist politics espoused by many in the mainstream Democratic Party. He perpetuates a false dichotomy of “right versus left” based on a twentieth-century version of politics that has been irrelevant for more than a generation. “The left,” he writes, “has missed the boat in its contempt for the market and its romance with Marxism.” He contrasts “industrial capitalism,” on the one hand, which has rescued humanity from universal poverty, with communism, which has “brought the world terror-famines, purges, gulags, genocides, Chernobyl, megadeath revolutionary wars, and North Korea–style poverty before collapsing everywhere else of its own internal contradictions.”

Okay, so, I haven’t read Pinker, and I don’t have a degree in statistics so I can’t evaluate the data to the degree I would like to. So, I’m in a position of either obtaining that degree or relying on the testimony of experts. I have some speeches on how that works somewhere. Part of it is evaluating the language of the people who are more qualified than me and speaking in the negative. So, to the article.

“What conqueror has ever pronounced as his goal something other than self-defense and the protection of life and limb?”

I’m not going to create that list. This is not a rhetorical question. This is ignoring history.

“Apparently Pinker believes that the media cover the world on a non-discriminatory basis.”

He didn’t say that. This is twisting the words that the article quoted. That’s pretty weak when he can’t even quote mine the guy enough to create something that looks bad.

Then, within the litany of crimes against humanity, he shows that people in power have found ways to appear peaceful will still keeping slavery in place. This makes the case for progress. It’s harder to get away with covert abuse and murder. The case for their being more peace is partially made by showing that you have to do war covertly. I can’t get control over the nuclear button, but I can make it harder for others to do so through my vote, my protests, and by promoting education.

He spends quite a bit of time talking about Cold War and low-level war efforts against China and the Soviet Union, as if these are increases in violence. He doesn’t consider that suppressing these violent governments decreases violence. You can’t simply count military actions and say there is more or less peace. If he has some plan for eliminating all war, I’d like to hear it, but there are bad people in the world. I don’t like being in the position of defending our military, but not everyone in our military commits the crimes he lists. I’ve tried the path of complete pacifism and I found it wanting.

Why is it wrong to attack Pinker without accurately quoting him but absolutely fine to do so to Jonathan Wells?
The article did quote him. That was my point. It quoted him talking about people with cell phones, then blasted him for saying he misrepresented news media.

What’s wrong is your comprehension skills. I’ve made several statements that you could respond to regarding Wells, but you don’t, you keep demanding a time stamp on a video. You don’t get to make those demands. My refusing to do that does not give you the right to say I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Well, yeah, you can make demands. Won’t do you any good.

Pinker IS smart. But I have never fully trusted him because he was into Chomsky’s pseudo-science ideas in linguistic for awhile. And if you read him closely, I believe you can often discern, how he words things just so, such that he is not saying anything inaccurately, but what he is saying seems to be supporting his more fascinating assertions, but which may not be supporting it in actuality. He is one of those pop science kind of guys who carefully builds his own reputation and sells books. Which is okay to an extent IF he can at least occasionally present some valid research with fascinating analysis. And he IS smart.

Lausten said,

What conqueror has ever pronounced as his goal something other than self-defense and the protection of life and limb?”

Julius Ceasar; “Veni, Vidi, Vici” ( I came, I saw, I conquered)…:slight_smile:




Pinker deserves praise for his outstanding book “The Blank Slate”. I remember reading it more than a decade ago and how it flicked a switch in my mind and made me want to know more about everything he discussed in there.

His next book “Better Angels” was said to be a disappointment by some interesting reviewers so I didn’t read that, and this new book sounds kind of like a companion to it. Good for him, but I can’t get too excited.

It’s crazy — but unsurprising — how much backlash from leftists he’s getting over “Enlightenment Now”. Ironically, he talked about that very thing in “The Blank Slate”.

As for the idea that we live in the best possible world, that is pretty far fetched for most people but for a guy like Pinker it probably is the best possible world. A childless, atomized, boomer academic like himself is almost unbelievably fortunate, and is more or less on top of the world.

It won’t last much longer, though. It probably won’t even be remembered 100 years from now.




Seems like Blank Slate was one that had an interesting look at some group of deaf kids/people who appeared to have (for the most part, at least) independently developed their own new language (using signing). I think he made the assertion thus that the propensity for humans to develop language is biologically inherent. He also admits that the particular language that develops is pretty much 100% a matter of the environment in which the human develops early on. Further, I believe he asserts that all human behaviors are a product of inherent and/or environmentally learned factors. Some behaviors are almost all inherently based and some or almost all learned or some combination.

If I am remembering correctly, that is. I think I am.

If I am remembering correctly, that is. I think I am.
That's a big "LIKE"

So, I decided to read everything on the book sale site that was available for free on “Enlightenment Now”. This included the Preface, a List of Figures, which was a listing of all the categories of data they were after and a list of the many places from which data was gotten. I read a sample of comments about the book. Anyway, I think I got a good sense of what the book is about.

In postulating, it seems to me that Pinker probably had the philosophy that the book promotes, well prior to writing and doing research for the book. I am guessing that the research was probably gathered with the anticipation that it would support the ideas that Pinker wishes to promote. Thus my hopes are not high that this book is expected to have all out regard as a particularly “scientific” work.

That being said, on a political, philosophical, humanistic level, it sounds like a book whose points I would very much be behind. Now, I consider myself to be on the political left.

So I wonder, Oneguy, when you say " It’s crazy — but unsurprising — how much backlash from leftists he’s (Pinker’s) getting over “Enlightenment Now”. " I wonder how ppl on the left (like me) could have such a different take as I do. I hope this doesn’t mean I need to actually read the book.

Oh yeah, I read the Contents section also.