Steve Pinker’s new book

This 528-page book will be released on Feb. 27, 2018, but you can order it now.

The subtitle tells the tale, but you can read a bit more about it on Steve’s website or Amazon, which give the same summary:

The follow-up to Pinker’s groundbreaking The Better Angels of Our Nature presents the big picture of human progress: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual 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 jaw-dropping 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 against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.

Some of its contents are probably previewed in Pinker’s 2013 piece in The New Republic, “Science is not your enemy“. This is a natural sequel to his last book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, where he made a persuasive case that, over the last two centuries, humans were progressing morally, violence was abating, and we aren’t going to go backwards (well, we may be in a slight interlude). In this one he defends the notion of progress, tells us what is now impeding it, and how to overcome those impediments. This may be one of his best books yet, though the last one (and The Blank Slate) are hard to top.

I’ll be reading it for sure.

 

30 Comments

  1. KD33
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    This is the book I was hoping someone would write. And there’s no one better than Pinker to write it. Looking forward to it.

  2. Karen Fierman
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Awesome Eclipse video:

  3. Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    This may be one of his best books yet, though the last one (and The Blank Slate) are hard to top.

    I normally wait for the paperback because I just don’t have space for hardbacks these days but now I have a Kindle I won’t have to wait.

    Still prefer his books on linguistics to The Blank State or Better Angels though. The Language Instinct and The Stuff of Thought are not just my favourite science books, they are among my favourite books of any kind.

    • Posted August 24, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Same for me, though The Stuff of Thought and How the Mind Works are blurring together in my mind, so I declare How the Stuff of Thought Works as one of my favorite science books.

  4. Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Foreword by John Gray after Nassim Taleb refused the gig. NT was too busy trolling Mary Beard at the time.

    Looks like this might be a Xmas present for one or two.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      I thought Gray was anti-Enlightenment?

      • Posted August 23, 2017 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Chuffin’ Ada, SoA, I keep doing this. Sorry, mate. I thought the satire was obvious. My future as a comic writer is not assured.

        Maybe I should start using exclamation marks: or, God forbid, emojis.

        • Posted August 23, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

          StA, not SoA. Soz, again.

          • Posted August 23, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

            On Gray, I read The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths, I think it was, as a Xmas present. I couldn’t finish it. It gave me a new respect for Jerry’s ability to take seriously some thinkers and zero in on a representative key quote with which to critique their ideas.

            Gray, as far as I recall, never stated his key proposition. It was like wandering around a maze with no centre. I kept wishing he would state his hypothesis, produce structured evidence for it, resist the purposeless anecdotal prattle, consider honestly other explanations and conclude with some indication of how confident he was in that assertion.

            A dreadful meandering jelly of a book.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted August 24, 2017 at 4:53 am | Permalink

              A dreadful meandering jelly of a book.

              So, who did you give your copy to – with malice aforethought?

              • Posted August 24, 2017 at 5:09 am | Permalink

                Oxfam. (I think). My brother bought it for me as a present.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted August 24, 2017 at 5:12 am | Permalink

                You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. What did you return the favour with? A year’s subscription to … “Chicken Breeding Times” or something equally glutinous?

              • Posted August 24, 2017 at 5:36 am | Permalink

                I don’t have a problem reading books by people with whom I’m likely to disagree (given the big Guardian articles I’ve read of his and the stereotypically ungenerous snaps at Dawkins). I just want them to write engagingly. I ended up skipping his ‘fascinating’ variations on his theme, dribbling into unresolved aimlessness. No more! It’s Oxfam for you.

  5. Stephen Barnard
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure that PZ Myers won’t like it.

  6. Craw
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    What’s the over/under on when people carrying the book can be punched?

  7. pablo
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m not optimistic about the preservation of Enlightenment values in the West. For twenty years we’ve watched post-modernists dismantle the Humanities in the universities, and now they’re coming for the sciences. I fear that within 20 years elite universities will be teaching that the Principia is a rape manual, that Special Relativity is a sexed equation, and that African wizards can send lightning after people.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      I’ll second that. We’re reaching a tipping point, particularly in this country. I witness others becoming more willingly stoopid by the hour. Critical & skeptical thinking is no longer a virtue. Historical data has little relevance for way too many people.

      As the Orange-Haired Orangutan would say, SAD!

      The yahoos at last night’s Phoenix rally testify to the veracity of my assertions. Those idiots are hangin’ out on every street corner, blocking humanities path forward.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

        Please specify which “this” is “this country”.

  8. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Re: Cosmic force vs. Enlightenment reason-

    Immanuel Kant would probably say that reason IS a cosmic force 🙂 ,but I suspect Pinker would regard that as an obscurantist mystification.

    Either way, welcome SP to the league of the horsemen.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Some of its contents are probably previewed in Pinker’s 2013 piece in The New Republic, “Science is not your enemy“.

    Don’t surprised, then, to find Leon Wieseltier unable to resist the urge to spew out his own damn book in rebuttal.

  10. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    we may be in a slight interlude

    If I follow the data, that interlude was not unique (sad to say) and is abating. Though we will have to get long term used to a new type of terrorism in Europe.

  11. Posted August 23, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    “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”
    All the while keeping an eye open and scanning the horizon.
    A certain amount of caution is required there are dangers ahead, AI for one, idle populations from technological advances for another, possible food production and security, etc.
    We are moving forward (IMO) albeit in a very halting zig zag trajectory with a few ‘hairy’ banana peel moments.
    I will be reading this book.

  12. nicky
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m just less optimistic than Steve Pinker. In the West reason and enlightenment appear to have done well, but in a great part of the rest of the world it has not. Islam has, over the last few decades, become much more regressive, assertive and powerful. The Islamic world has not just become more regressive, it is expanding, especially into Europe, the birthplace of the Enlightenment.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps so, but what we see in the Islamic world could just be reaction to the successful incursion of enlightenment values into Muslim culture. In the 1970 Iran was highly westernized in terms of women’s dress, for example. The pendulum may swing back toward modernity once enough people realize they actually don’t prefer living in the 7th century.

      • nicky
        Posted August 24, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        It is indeed very possible that it is a reaction to successful (or not so successful in case) incursion of Enlightenment values into Muslim culture.
        However, I’m not confident there will be a swing of the pendulum any time soon.

  13. Rupinder Sayal
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Yay!! Can’t wait to devour it!
    Steven Pinker is one of my new favorites.

  14. Posted August 24, 2017 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    This sounds promising, will give it a read

  15. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 24, 2017 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    will be released on Feb. 27, 2018,

    Six months away?
    I know the publishing industry needs lead time between pen hitting paper and book hitting display stands, but that seems a bit excessive. A couple of months pre-announcement seems much nearer the norm.
    At least one person on this site is going to be disappointed if they order copies for Samhainturnaliawalimas.

  16. Posted August 24, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    As will I. I have read all of his books, even the one on irregular verbs.

  17. Posted August 24, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Looks promising. I have a lot of Pinker’s stuff and have critically used a few for a few projects.

    I wonder if he will work in some of those who claim that the Enlightenment is a good thing but has room for improvements. (For example, about excessive individualism in ethics.)


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