One of the authors that I have taken to like a duck to water has been Steven Pinker. He has a style of writing where he breaks down complex issues and erects a data and evidence based structure to address the parts before knitting it back up. That makes for an exhilarating experience to read and ponder.
The latest book that he has come up with is “Enlightenment Now- A case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress”. The essential thesis is that we are much better off due to these enlightenment values irrespective of what the doom’s day prophets of the mainstream media would have us believe.
The table of contents of the book reveals the intellectual courage of Pinker to take on a expansive swath of topics with a range of impact that is almost unprecedented. You could have had a book written on each of these topics ( and many exist); but still none of the topics feel shortchanged for detail and hurried. The style of the author is that he very carefully lists all arguments that any detractor could make and addresses each one of them in great detail. This gets tiring in a (very) few places, but overall it makes the points bullet proof. Another evidence for the importance of the metaphorical Brakes in the vehicle of civilization.
- DARE TO UNDERSTAND
- THE ENVIRONMENT
- EQUAL RIGHTS
- EXISTENTIAL THREATS
- THE FUTURE OF PROGRESS
- REASON SCIENCE AND HUMANISM
The essential take away from this is that problems are solvable. That requires that we look at the data to inform our opinions rather than preconceived notions. That does not mean that they will solve themselves, but it does mean that we can solve them if we sustain the benevolent forces of modernity that have allowed us to solve problems so far, including societal prosperity, wisely regulated markets, international governance, and investments in science and technology. That’s a solid message to keep in mind in these times of doom’s day prophets.