Apparently Reason, Enlightenment, Science, and Human Progress are controversial again.
(If the conversations I’ve been having on Twitter lately are anything to go by, ideas such as 1) absolute progress is a good thing, even if relative progress is slower than we might like, 2) that things are not all bad right now, in fact they have never been better for most people across the world, and 3) today is the best time in history to be playing the lottery of life, are dangerous ideas best not spoken – or tweeted out loud if you would like to be popular.)
Nonetheless, read this book. It is especially good as an alternative – less pessimistic – view on similar topics to those discussed in Yuval Harari’s “best of me” compendium, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. The two books are defiantly best served together.
But please, please read Enlightenment Now, from cover to cover before deciding that you do or do not like (or approve of) Steven Pinker’s appeal to reason in the 21st century.
Today, when we are at the cusp of so, so many really dangerous scientific and social ideas, we need to apply our minds to putting facts over feelings (even when the facts in question upset our feelings), and this book is as good a place as any I have come across to start doing exactly that (and make up your own mind along the way as to how well, or not, Pinker has done the same).
“Optimism (in the sense thatI have advocated) is the theory that all failures – all evils – are due to insufficient knowledge…” – David Deutsch