Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Man and God: Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now

By David Hale - posted Thursday, 30 July 2020


Enlightenment Now, is a book by Steven Pinker, that makes the same argument page after page {perhaps too many pages}. Things are getting better from a reduction in violence to workplace accidents to an increase in life expectancy and education.

The book argues what has made that happen, the Enlightenment and especially science.

It is not just Steven Pinker who is optimistic, his dad Harry was too, noted at the start of the book, and that is saying something.

Advertisement

Harry Pinker was born in 1928, just before the worst financial crisis in the 20th century. Lived through two World Wars, Korea, invention of nuclear bombs, 9/11, and the Global Financial Crisis. And all the other bad things the news likes to focus on, as per an argument in the book.

Yet, Harry remained an optimist. As Harry Pinker also lived to see the end of the Great Depression, the end of the World Wars, a vaccine against polio, no nuclear annihilation and the recovery after the GFC.

There is no real issue with thd progress mentioned in the book.

Yes, life expectancy has improved across many places. Yes, smallpox has been eradicated. Yes, crop yields across some places have improved. Yes, workplace accidents compared to the 19th and early 20th century is much less. Yes, being poor 100 years ago was generally worse than it is now.

I could not help feeling that the argument for progress became too repetitive. As Pinker noted, however, he was mindful that people dismissed his previous argument of a fall in violence in a previous book. So, he has come back stronger.

There does seem to be a dismissal though of individual suffering in the book. It is not that Pinker does not reference personal suffering, but he constantly goes back to how good things are in the aggregate.

Advertisement

A kind of moot point, when someone is suffering to note that 100 years ago, there may have been more suffering.

The progress argument can be somewhat undermined if your definition of success is not progress, but the end of diseases {at least all preventable and curable ones}, all poverty and violence. If that is the definition, then we are nowhere near achieving those goals.

The book, however, is much more than just about progress.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

11 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

David Hale is an Anglican University Lay Chaplain, staff worker for the Australian Student Christian Movement and a member of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by David Hale

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 11 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy