Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
Since our emergence as a species, we (humans) have faced a great many challenges. We may not be entirely rational creatures, but we are clever, and we are capable of rational thought from time to time, and because of this, humanity has progressed. Our collective ingenuity has been remarkably successful in solving a great many problems, and there is every reason to expect that we will continue to do so.
As with Steven Pinker’s earlier book The Better Angels of our Nature, this one documents human progress. Our lives are far better (on average) than those of our ancestors. Sadly, many people don’t realize this and fail to appreciate how the change in thinking we call the Enlightenment allowed us to successfully combat disease, famine, and poverty.
Sometimes the author’s anger and frustration bleed through in his writing, but I can’t blame him. I often feel the same at how selectively unappreciative people can be for the benefits provided by modern life and of the Enlightened principles that so greatly helped us achieve it. We are safer, smarter, wiser, healthier, better fed, and lead longer lives. War, crime, disease, hunger, and many other ills, some natural and some self-inflicted, are continually in decline. Our ancestors struggled hard to get us to this point. They bravely questioned tradition and prevailing superstitions to understand the world as it really is. In many ways, they succeeded, and they made our lives better. The least we can do is recognize their achievements.