Jason Crawford has written an positive summary of Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress over at his blog Roots of Progress:
Enlightenment Now is just what the world needs right now. It is a defense of the ideas and values that have created the modern world, and a defense of that world itself. I don’t agree with every word of it, but I agree with its theme and essence. The weakest aspect of the book, to me, is its morality. “Humanism” is a great start, because it sets the right standard: human life and everything that helps people thrive and prosper. But Pinker largely ignores issues of individualism vs. collectivism, and egoism vs. altruism, that I see as core to the ideological struggles of the modern world. And closely related, Pinker falls short of painting a truly inspiring, motivating picture, a heroic ideal to strive for. He himself indicates this in the final pages of the book, when he writes: “The case for Enlightenment Now is not just a matter of debunking fallacies or disseminating data. It may be cast as a stirring narrative, and I hope that people with more artistic flair and rhetorical power than I can tell it better and spread it farther.” I hope they do, as well. But overall, this is a great book, full of profound truths, meticulously researched, lucidly argued, and entertainingly written. Everyone who cares about the big issues of human life, society, politics and culture should read it. [Enlightenment Now: A summary]
Another problem with Pinker’s book, according to energy expert Alex Epstein — author of the Moral Case For Fossil Fuels, is his analysis of climate and energy. Writes Epstein:
I am generally very excited about Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Unfortunately, the book’s treatment of climate and energy is deeply problematic. A few nights ago I recorded a 20 minute analysis of the climate section of the book. You don’t need a copy of the book to follow along since the text of the book is in the video. I hope you find my analysis useful. I think the principles involved apply to many smart people who get this issue wrong. Bonus: At the end of the video I defend “the Koch Brothers” from Pinker’s smearing. I haven’t spoken much about them publicly so I was glad to get the opportunity. [What’s wrong with Steven Pinker’s analysis of climate and energy | Center for Industrial Progress]
Epstein’s particular analysis and Crawford’s overall review are both important reading on this vital topic.