Enlightenment Now

The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

paperback, 576 pages

Published Jan. 15, 2019 by Penguin Books.

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3 stars (2 reviews)

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist 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 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 …

5 editions


1 star

Steven Pinker absolutely demolishes his imaginary adversaries in a series of long and repetitive discourses against the most inane straw man arguments - obviously preaching to the choir because creationists, ecoterrorists and whatever else radicals he takes for enemies will not be reading this book anyway.

I'm impressed by how despite we agree on most viewpoints the experience of reading this book is completely overshadowed by the confrontational style. Even more surprising that I liked his book on writing (The Sense of Style)! The problem is not dry or repetitive prose, but the absurd positions he's making out of the other side of the debate. It feels like being stuck on a nerd's shower monologue the day after some bully roasted him for being too optimistic.

Very disappointing because there are long sections dedicated to irrelevant positions like people defending that we should go back to living in forests; while …

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4 stars