Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now, The case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”

At location (L 935) Pinker tells of a dozen or so objections to the numerics from “Our Better Angels”. Of course he dissects and demolishes each of them. That was fun to follow. He ends with a set of human biases that afflict most of us. He explains their origins too.

L 1224; I had not been aware of the substantial increases in African life expectancy.

L 1732; Pinker quotes Voltaire describing peaceful commerce in London between diverse types more often at war. Voltaire finds this seems new and praiseworthy. The date was about 1750.

L 1851: I was wondering what Pinker would say about capitalism. We see here he likes it and he gives much good evidence why. Several concrete comparisons with communism are given which are already familiar.

L:1981: Inequality; Pinker argues well on this subject. So far he had not noted the motivation towards wealth creation advantage for inequality.

L 2341:

Good to see this list. I suspect it is somewhat longer.

L 2939: Pinker introduces the carbon tax and says “Having billions of people decide how best to conserve, given their values and the information conveyed by prices, is bound to be more efficient and humane than having government analysts try to divine the optimal mixture from their desks.” Yes, all of that, but in addition all those illogical special rules that try to control CO2 emissions in narrow areas can go away and too people do not need to even keep in mind that higher prices due to the carbon tax are for “the Earth” unless that makes them feel better.

L 3156: Pinker worries about the fate of carbon tax in the case inhomogeneous governance. I suggest that the revenue is enough to tempt any corrupt government.

Pinker largely avoids politics until half way thru the chapter on “Yhe Future of Progress”. He identifies Trump as a potential obstacle. He identifies Trump’s Washington’s ‘swamp’ aa those with enlightenment values. I largely agree and count myself a member thereof.

L 6899: Part III of the book is political and much influenced by the Trump specter. I find this unpleasant reading even as I agree with almost all he has to say. I suspect it is what caused the book to be written: to clarify the logic against Trump and his kin.

L 7058: Pinker, following Dan Kahan “beliefs become symbols of cultural allegiance” and then goes on to provide such a belief: “We need to dramatically reduce inequalities between the rich and poor, white and people of color, and men and women”. Other choices involve other political perspectives but to me these seem like plans to agree on and not beliefs.

L 8509: I like this section on consciousness.

L 8908: Starting here Pinker describes several philosophical thrusts counter to the enlightenment. He is kind to none of them and pillories them well. I had not heard of some of them.

L 9105: The last eight paragraphs summarize the book somewhat poetically. I think they are justified by the book. You might read them first.