Crawford and Epstein on “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”

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.


The Illusion of Determinism: Why Free Will is Real and Causal

Dr. Edwin Locke has just released a new book defending volition, called “The Illusion of Determinism: Why Free Will is Real and Causal.”

According to Dr. Locke, “Determinism is the doctrine that everything we think, feel, believe, and do is caused by factors outside our control—that we have no choice regarding our character, our thoughts, our actions, our lives. There have been many forms of determinism but the one that is most popular today is based on neuroscience, with the enthusiastic support of many psychologists, philosophers, and physical scientists (e.g., physicists). This version argues that we are controlled by our physical brains with the brain being which are set in motion by environmental factors. The debate continues because many people disagree with determinism and assert that they have, in some form, free will. Determinists insist that such a belief represents “folk psychology,” an illusion held by people who are ignorant of what science has allegedly proved.”

“Determinists typically believe that:

  • Consciousness is the same thing as brain activity (as opposed to requiring a brain)
  • The conscious mind, though real, plays no significant role in human life
  • The human mind is not significantly different from that of the lower animals such as chimpanzees
  • All causes are material (or mechanical)
  • Goal-directed action applies equally to people and machines
  • The concept of a self or the self as a causal agent has no intelligible meaning
  • Key neuroscience experiments have proven that the intention to act appears after the brain has already decided what to do
  • Determinism is not only compatible with objective knowledge but is also the only guarantee of objective knowledge, because it is based on scientific truth
  • Determinism has to be either proved or disproved based on philosophical and/or scientific arguments
  • Free will, at best, is a necessary illusion

“On the other side of the coin, various free will advocates typically believe that:

  • Elementary particles which make up our brain act at random, thus refuting causal necessity
  • Free will and determinism are compatible
  • Religion validates free will

In The Illusion of Determinism: Why Free Will is Real and Causal, Dr. Locke shows that all of the above beliefs are mistaken, and that free will is, as many have claimed, self-evident, even though most people have not validated it or correctly identified what it consists of—what it is, and what it isn’t.”


Order the book on Amazon

BOOKS: A Dearth of Eagles by Andrew Bernstein

The NEW ROMANTICIST has just published an excerpt from Andrew Bernstein’s latest novel A Dearth of Eagles.

According to the author:

A Dearth of Eagles is a fast-paced fictional work tells the story of Bulgarian freedom fighters during Communism’s final years, of their valiant attempts to smuggle dissidents to freedom in the West, and of their desperate battles with the Durjavna Sigurnost, the Bulgarian secret police who seek to kill them. It tells also of a parallel conflict, of one of the freedom fighters—a member of the tiny band, an émigré, a writer living in New York City—who engages in the story’s fiercest struggle, seeking to publish serious stories about these dauntless men in a Western literary culture that rejects heroism for anti-heroism.

Just Released: The Merchant of Mars: A Novella by Ron Pisaturo

Just Released: The Merchant of Mars: A Novella by Ron Pisaturo

The head of NASA convinces the President that space exploration should be done by private industry, and the United States government declares, “The first person to land on Mars, live there a year, and return alive owns the whole Red Planet.” Capitalists compete to win the greatest race in history. Environmentalists plot to make them all fail.

That is the premise of Ron Pisaturo’s novella, The Merchant of Mars, now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle ebook. That premise draws on a political idea by Objectivist philosopher Harry Binswanger.

Author Pisaturo says about his story:

The story’s heroes are greedy capitalists who want to exploit Mars, and the villains are environmentalist progressives who want to ‘save’ the planet—Mars, that is. The story illustrates that there is virtually no limit to what capitalists can achieve when the government recognizes and protects property rights.

The pro-capitalist perspective of the story flows naturally from deeper elements. The good guys drive the action. They don’t merely react to the diabolical plans of an evil mastermind. It is the heroes who are the masterminds, the ones with gigantic plans, the ones who build great and powerful machines; and it is the villains who react by trying to destroy those machines.

The heroes are not grim loners who reluctantly become heroes only after their loved ones have been killed by the arch-villain and his all-powerful organization. The heroes don’t wait for bad things to happen. They make good things happen. The heroes are already-successful and happy individuals who risk everything—their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor—to achieve something beyond the dreams of others. Their conflicts are great because they have a lot to lose and a lot to gain, and they and their loved ones face all-or-nothing, life-and-death choices throughout their journey.

It’s not easy to build a business. Many people in today’s society think that only society as a whole can do it. This story shows individuals doing it. They have to raise money, make payroll, meet deadlines, mortgage their personal property, lay off employees, fight regulations and government-subsidized competitors, turn down government subsidies that come with strings, drive competitors they admire and love out of business, or lose everything.

The novella can be read in one sitting.

UPDATE: You can read an excerpt at The New Romanticist.

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