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Man and God: Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now

By David Hale - posted Thursday, 30 July 2020

The book also counters many of the Gospel and secular truths that many people hold.  Income inequality for example is not that bad. Just because someone has much more money than you, not an issue.

If you have enough money, that is what matters, and as the wealth pie is not fixed, the income increasing at the top does not mean less money at the bottom. And if you are at the bottom, you are better off than someone at the bottom in another time. A dollar today buys things that were of lesser quality in the past or did not even exist.

Pinker counters environmentalists that oppose GM and nuclear power.


Pointing out that environmentalists must reckon with environmentalist caused poverty. As GM crops give poor farmers the ability to grow more crops and resistant crops, opposing that can mean poverty.

In keeping with one of the themes of the book, Pinker also criticises environmentalists for not being optimistic enough. The constant focus on peak oil, or peak coal or peak land or peak food and worse case scenarios. Never giving credit to the fact humans find ways to preserve resources, to find or make new ones, to fix things and to avoid worse cases.

Religion is not completely dismissed by Pinker. It is credited with helping to combat excessive materialism and encourage charity giving.

This does not mean it fair wells overall in the book.

Pinker notes that religion has been wrong about many things. Focusing too much on saving souls rather than lives here and now.  Believing that prayer works better than say technology and medicine to solve our problems.   Blaming suffering on fate, and thus there being a supernatural reason behind it.

It has always been problematic to imply that bad things happen to people because it is fated or there is some higher purpose behind it. Yet, believing there is some purpose to suffering has lessened some people’s suffering. Finding a way to make sense of what is going on, beyond you have a scientific described disease.  


It is ironic that much of the good things that Pinker notes have occurred because of Enlightenment could have been brought on by religion. At times, religion did play a role in these good things.

The opposition to slavery, care for the sick, addressing poverty, an expanded circle of sympathy, and peacemaking are all built into religious teachings, and long before the Enlightenment. Yet not unfortunately built into many of the followers of religion.       

The book does give us a chance to think of the progress that has been made.

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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.

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

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