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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 1 week, 2 days ago
    Thank you for posting this review. I loved Pinker's Better Angels of Our Nature. Based on your review, it sounds like I will enjoy Enlightenment Now.

    I am not that surprised that Pinker only mentions Rand once and mischaracterizes her when he does. Rand is widely misunderstood. It's possible that I also misunderstood her since I came away from the three books I read with a message nearly opposite to her vocal fans. It sounds like Pinker didn't read Rand's books or was overly influenced by her fans.

    It's funny that Pinker said Rand tried to conceal the influence of Nietzsche although she dedicated Fountain to him.

    You say the book is well researched with figures and that he gets alarmists about the problem of global warming. It would be good for someone to try to work out a probability distribution function of the long-term costs of human activities thought to cause global warming. Then we could quantify the risks and the amount Pinker thinks we should spend today to mitigate them and discuss the quantities rather than whether it's alarmist. I generally agree with how you describe Pinker's view: Global warming is a very serious problem; we should be developing nuclear or anything else to stop it.
    I don't know if it's PInker's view, but I say we need more quantization; I want to know the actual estimated risks in dollars to the best of our knowledge.

    I can't evaluate his concerns about President Trump without reading the book, but I do think the fact that he lost the popular vote by only 2-3 million votes is a warning sign about the influence of post modernism. I'm not sure if post-modernism is the right word, but I mean the view that facts don't really matter because they're always seen through human paradigms and human paradigms are about power structures. I am still undecided if this is an actual philosophical idea or just the result of the "deplorable" element having more of a voice.

    "Most readers—but not devotees of Ayn Rand—will grasp for the first time—with a sense of historic, almost metaphysical, gratitude—that man’s mind, in exalting reason as its supreme guide and human flourishing as its sacred value, is the Prometheus bearing these gifts to mankind in defiance of the anger of the gods."

    I love this part and the rest of the review. I exalt in the amazing achievements of humankind and the individuals who build them.
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  • Posted by PowerBall 1 week, 3 days ago
    Dr. Pinker, though an excellent neurologist/psychologist, has difficulty understanding human nature. That is, he wrote once something to the effect: ",,,according to our best estimate of human nature." To which I replied: "Your best estimate of human nature is badly flawed, Dr. Pinker."
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  • Posted by 1 week, 3 days ago
    An excerpt from the review:

    His method is resolutely empirical (although philosophical reasoning and historical analysis get some play, too). As a best-selling author and celebrity scientist, he had access to plenty of help. The many dozens of graphs in this book—timelines from left to right and always rising to indicate mounting success—are an exhaustive demonstration that on almost every conceivable axis of human flourishing, modernity has triumphed. We are the beneficiaries, so blessed we scarcely can comprehend it all (a problem the book tackles, of course). It desperately needed to be said.

    Fortunately, the quantifications are engaging, with the allure of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” because Pinker tells the stories well and supplies plenty of metaphors to zap life into the numbers. The constant theme is that nations identified with the Enlightenment (Great Britain, Western Europe, and later America) benefited first; within those nations the wealthy benefited first; and today—to an extent readers rarely will have fully realized—the benefits often are approaching the universal. But—again, the numbers will surprise you—they have gone global to a truly remarkable extent, including in places you might not expect.
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