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Reviews for Enlightenment Now

by Steven Pinker

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Harvard psychology professor Pinker (The Sense of Style) defends progressive ideals against contemporary critics, pundits, cantankerous philosophers, and populist politicians to demonstrate how far humanity has come since the Enlightenment. These ideals, as well as progress, science, reason, and humanism, are explored through the lenses of evolutionary biology, physics, sociology, anthropology, and, of course, history. Pinker explores the fallacies that critics of progressive ideals employ and presents graphs and statistics to demonstrate that issues such as income inequality, terrorism, and racial intolerance are not at the crisis levels the hysterical media commonly suggests. He astutely captures the deceptive techniques of the naysayers whose opinions alter those of the wider public, describing "the social critic's standard formula for sowing panic: Here's an anecdote, therefore it's a trend, therefore it's a crisis." In the book's final section, Pinker explores how political discourse exploits cognitive biases, exacerbating polarization and partisanship, and how humanism is a preferable ideology to its main rivals, theism and nationalism. In an era of increasingly "dystopian rhetoric," Pinker's sober, lucid, and meticulously researched vision of human progress is heartening and important. Agent: David Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Mar.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Prolific writer, psychologist, and public-intellectual Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature, 2011) is a highly regarded, albeit sometimes controversial, observer of humanity. In his latest tome, which weighs in at more than 500 densely packed pages, he takes on the idea of progress, elegantly arguing that in various ways humanity has every reason to be optimistic over life in the twenty-first century. Reaching back and forth in time with ease (he name checks the Hebrew Bible and Chris Rock within 2 pages while writing of sustenance), Pinker tackles a wide range of topics as he presents substantial evidence (including his trademark graphs) to argue that life is far better for people now than it has ever been. Some of these comparisons fall a bit flat obviously, traffic safety was less assured in the era before crosswalks and traffic lights and his seemingly casual dismissal of ethics concerns surrounding the Tuskegee experiment is troubling to say the least, but Pinker certainly crafts a defense of progress that will provoke deep thinking and thoughtful discourse among his many fans.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2018 Booklist

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