Enlightenment Wars: Some Reflections on ‘Enlightenment Now,’ One Year Later
That Steven Pinker piece is rich in references, long, and thoughtful. You will certainly find some things in it to which you object.
For example, I think this sentence, “But no one would suggest that the state of the environment has improved in the past 250 years anyway — on the contrary, many of the improvements for humanity came at the expense of the planet,” is gibberish. A sop, as Pinker says later, to “the relentless fatalism of orthodox environmental journalism and activism.”
In fact, all “improvements for humanity came at the expense of the planet,” so Pinker has given us an understated tautology.
At least since the failure of Eden Bank and Trust, none of the progress he documents would have been possible without drawing on the Bank of Gaia. Shall we define high environmental quality as “red in tooth and claw,” with human lives “nasty, brutish and short?” While extreme environmentalists may count humanity as a cancer*, what other environmental metric should sane humans use than human well-being?
It isn’t either/or. Caring about human well-being means we need to care about the environment, and wealthier societies are far better able to do this. We are the only species who are even capable of thinking about how our activities affect other life, but we’re likely to do little of that while starving, or suffering from deadly, preventable diseases.
Pinker more or less acknowledges this disconnect starting a paragraph later, but it doesn’t excuse that sentence.
I also think Pinker is subject to living too near the edges of the Trump Derangement Syndrome cabal, but his points about Trump all have some core validity.
Enough quibbling. A recommended read, which begins:
You wouldn’t think that a defense of reason, science, and humanism would be particularly controversial in an era in which those ideals would seem to need all the help they can get.
I guess! After this weekend’s events on the DC Mall, and the ongoing vitriolic hatred propelled by rushing to preconceived judgment.
The Enlightenment bequeathed us many things. Among them, transistors. Leading, unfortunately, to Twitter. It’s the hair trigger of a polity in which 15 year olds receive near instant death threats for simply standing still, smiling nervously in the face of a practiced adult ‘bully for profit,’** while being vilely insulted by adult Black supremacists whose probability of being slaves would be far higher (as would everyone’s) without the Enlightenment.
Pinker describes the central Enlightenment idea these collectivists want to destroy:
“Practices that blatantly violate human freedom and dignity, like slavery, serfdom, imperialism, and caste systems, are to be condemned; all other norms and customs are incommensurable across cultures and may not be judged as superior or inferior.”
It’s Enlightenment values that proscribe and yet protect pre-Enlightenment tribal hatreds. Victims of grievance ideology can’t merely ignore the progress Pinker documents, they have to paint it as evil.
*See also, The Simon Abundance Index: A New Way to Measure Availability of Resources
“[E]very additional human being born on our planet seems to be making resources proportionately more plentiful for the rest of us.”
**No link to a GoFundMe campaign being run on his behalf, but the goal is $50,000. Of which $380 has been pledged. The beg:
On Friday, January 18th, 2019, Native American Vietnam War Veteran Nathan Phillips was mocked and harassed by a group of young men in “Make America Great Again” hats on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The disrespect and intimidation displayed by these young men were heartbreaking to me and many others across the country. Given the atrocious actions the U.S. has taken against Native American communities since colonization started in the Americas, this incident was a reflection of how much of that same ignorance and bigotry is still present in our society.
I know that this is a very small gesture relative to the harm that was caused by this specific incident and the many decades of history leading up to this. However, I hope that this GoFundMe campaign can make even a small difference for Mr. Phillips and his community.
Funds raised by this campaign will go directly to Mr. Phillips to use as he sees fit to aid himself and/or his community.
Nor any link to some far left site called Inquisitr:
“Now, the internet has responded by raising thousands of dollars to support Phillips and a non-profit organization he leads called Native Youth Alliance. The response was meant to put a positive spin on an ugly incident that has gained viral attention and to help the Native American activist, who was caught in the middle of the incident.”
Those are but two examples of fundraising off Nathan Phillips’ bullying.