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Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  19,227 ratings  ·  2,300 reviews
If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by Viking
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Sanjay Mehrotra What are the top causes of poverty?
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Is the direction of causation clear in the correlation: more developed a country the less religious its people? Do we know if irreligiousness and development have a third confounding factor? Is it education?
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Bill Gates
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For years, I’ve been saying Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature was the best book I’d read in a decade. If I could recommend just one book for anyone to pick up, that was it. Pinker uses meticulous research to argue that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history. I’d never seen such a clear explanation of progress.

I’m going to stop talking up Better Angels so much, because Pinker has managed to top himself. His new book, Enlightenment Now, is even better.

David Wineberg
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
You’ve never had it so good, and Steven Pinker has the stats and charts (over 70!) to prove it. Wars are fewer and less severe, homicides are down, racism is in decline, terrorism is a fading fad, democracy rules, communicable diseases and poverty are on their way out. Life expectancy is up, and police are killing fewer people, both black and white. Even the poor have refrigerators. Inequality is a requisite sign of success. So appreciate the wonderful state of affairs you find yourself in. This ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Feb 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
When this book was not boring me it was irritating me.

All of the author’s anecdotes I had read elsewhere. Science is good. I don’t need convincing. Vaccines work. Poverty is bad and is getting better throughout the world. Everyone who wants to know this stuff already knows it.

Why equate Al Gore with Theodore Kaczynski (The Unabomber) as the author seems to do regarding the environment? Is Fox News really right when they said the poor can’t be poor because they have cell phones and air condition
Mario the lone bookwolf
Mar 03, 2020 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
This concoction and Roslings´ similar „Go on, everything is super.“ Factfulness were the reasons for me to leave the soft space of some humanities that are nothing more than appeasement, belittlement, and deception.

A mix of different quotes from the book and thoughts and impressions I had while consuming this fairytale. Some points might be redundant, sorry for that, but this is what happens when taking notes about a book that is nonsense:

1. He´s attacking the ones who aren´t grateful, says ev
Mar 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-to-read
Why I won't be reading this:
Emily May
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2018
Steven Pinker makes a strong argument for enlightenment principles and, essentially, not giving up on the world because Donald Trump is president. We are not, contrary to popular belief, going backwards, and have in fact made astounding progress in all measurable areas, such as wealth, health, safety, education and equality.

Faced with the numbers, it's hard to disagree, though I went into this fairly convinced already. We do not, by any measure, live in a great world, but we do live in a better
A few months ago, I heard Steven Pinker give a talk about this book. I must say that his speaking skill did not impress me. However, his writing skill is brilliant. This is a very important book--epic in scope, comprehensive, well thought-out and structured, incredibly well researched, and full of some very important messages.

The book begins with a student's question "Why should I live?" To which Pinker answers with a profound interpretation of the "meaning of life". I won't repeat his complete
Ross Blocher
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read Enlightenment Now. It seems odd to require a defense of reason, science, humanism and progress, but we suffer if we do not understand how far humanity has come by application of these principles. Steven Pinker has done us the favor of chronicling that progress, with data, in a compellingly written volume that challenges common assumptions. The news cycle and many prominent intellectuals would have us think that the world is becoming a darker, scarier place; yet the opposite ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
A paean to the status quo that can be summarized in four words: ‘don’t worry, be happy’. (Actually five words, as one is contracted). This book will no doubt earn the author a lanyard to every corporate boardroom and conservative think tank in the country.

His thesis is that Enlightenment principles must be defended – but not against mindless consumerism, not against the growing disparities of wealth, not against the disruption of earth systems. No, the Enlightenment must be defended against The
Alex MacMillan
In his newest book, (Neoliberalism) Now: The Case for (Positivism), Scien(tism), (Atheism), and (Globalization), Steven Pinker seeks to cash in on the Trump election by rushing out what is mostly a rehash of material from his previous book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. His method of reasoning and tone of argument seeks to preach to the choir rather than persuade the unaffiliated. Unlike his classic works, The Blank Slate and The Sense of Style, this book will not be something we return to de ...more
Maria Espadinha
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Progress Where Are Thou?

“Here's the shocking fact: The world has made fantastic progress on all indicators of human welfare. A second shocking fact: Virtually no one knows this.“

Bad news are always extremely loud. Just by reading those huge headlines we’ll instantly know how sick is the world we live in!

On the other hand, good news are usually silent. So silent that a good new is — most of the times — a no new.
That’s why this book was born — to be the voice of those silent news!

Surprise, Surpri
Jillian Doherty
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ever since Bill Gates tweeted his endorsement for Pinker's Better Angels, fans have rushed to support his writing of big ideas by big thinkers!

Enlightenment Now illustrates Pinker's practical yet tangible style, but is freshly positive as well. His explosive understanding toward social science and political empathy will appeal to all big thinkers and affirmative readers alike.
I sincerely regret ever thinking anything positive about this man. I already had that figured out when I read my second book by him long ago, but if you'd like a careful appraisal of this latest one try this:
Charles J
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
As with Steven Pinker’s earlier "The Better Angels of Our Nature," of which this is really an expansion and elucidation, I was frustrated by this book. On the one hand, Pinker is an able thinker and clear writer, free of much of the ideological cant and distortions of vision that today accompany most writing about society (for society is what this book is about), and he is mostly not afraid to follow his reasoning to its conclusions. His data on human progress is voluminous, persuasive, and extr ...more
Morgan Blackledge
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you had to chose a time to be alive, and (here’s the catch) you couldn’t pick what race, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or nationality you were. You’d be flat wrong if you chose any other time than right fuckin’ now!


Steven Pinker would like to convince you otherwise.

According to Pinker. Humans (on average) have never had it so good. And he’s got 500(+) pages and 75(+) graphs and charts that illustrate exactly that.

And quite convincingly so.

My favorite part is.

This book is a sequel to Steven Pinker's other book "The Better Angels of our nature". The "The Better Angels of our nature" is a detailed comparison of violence in history. And how it reduced. The reasons for reduction and existence of these violences was covered.
But "Enlightenment now" Covers other topics such as health, wealth, knowledge and many more.
These two books have changed my mind about many of my core beliefs such as anarchism, nuclear energy, and endless other topics.

Otis Chandler
An eye-opening book. I picked this up because I saw the authors TED talk, and then Bill Gates called it the best book he's read in a decade (his review is worth reading)

The book starts with a premise that many people generally have an impression that the world is full of of serious crises.

"Magazine covers warn us of coming anarchies, plagues, epidemics, collapses, and so many “crises” (farm, health, retirement, welfare, energy, deficit) that copywriters have had to escalate to the redundant “se
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Enlightening indeed! Very uplifting reading, especially for pessimists like me. He clearly points out the effect of distorted/exaggerated news, the negative bias of people, dirty politics and the lack of reason behind all the sky-is -falling attitude that seems to dominate communities.

I have learned so many good facts from this book that helped me view things differently such as the global Cosmopolitanism, 8x increase in number of countries ruled by democracy within the last 50 years, the increa
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
I really enjoy Pinker's books. I think I have read all of them. I enjoyed this one as well despite some of my political differences with Pinker. I laud his hailing of the enlightenment. I am with him this maligned movement should get more respect than it does. I am a big believer in modernity. I agree science and reason even when done by flawed bipeds like ourselves is the best guide in our mental toolbox. Pinker recognizes that our modern politics is tribal and this clouds our judgment turning ...more
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Steven Pinker argues, things are good—in fact, the best they’ve ever been. People today lead longer, safer, healthier, wealthier, and indeed happier lives than at any point in recorded history, and they do so thanks to the new enlightenment. He berates those who focus on what is wrong with the world’s current condition and criticize politics as pessimists "Progressophobia" who only help to incite regressive reactionaries. Instead, he glorifies the dominant neoliberal, technocratic and capitalist ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Pinker’s latest is getting a lot of press, of course.

Here are a few links:

His own synopsis at the Wall Street Journal: The Enlightenment Is Working (paywall; try Googling wsj The Enlightenment Is Working and clicking through from Google, maybe into “private browsing mode”. Works sometimes.)

Ezra Klein of Vox is a pretty good interviewer, and he hooked up with Pinker at his podcast. I really liked that they both name-dropped Dan Kahan's work at his Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law Sc
Feb 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
OK, Boomer!
“Evolutionary thinkers who insist on a moralizing orientation when considering a complex biocultural phenomenon such as religion are not meaningfully advancing their field. But Pinker makes matters worse by compounding ideological bias with historical ignorance.” ~Modernity & Cultural Decline.
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As in The Better Angels of our Nature, Steven Pinker shows us why we have to look beyond the news cycle and our own biases to examine the forces that have continuously improved conditions for the bulk of humanity. And Pinker provides the data to back his arguments up. There's no doubt that Pinker will be accused of being a Pollyanna, but he acknowledges that mankind has hard work ahead - including dealing with global climate change. His argument is simply that if we stand a chance at confronting ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
review to come
Edward Sudall
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
There are more slaves than there ever has been therefore the world is worse than it ever has been. That is my parodic example of oversimple and overgeneral Pinker-logic.

Wasn't it Albert Einstein that once said "not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

Actually, it was the Sociologist William Bruce Cameron. (But Einstein's celebrity authority, is like Pinker's: if he says it, it becomes more believed). The full quote is:
"It would be nice if all of
Ryan Boissonneault
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Francis Bacon once said that “some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” This is one of the few.

The main thesis of the book is that the enlightenment values of reason, science, and humanism have led to scientific and moral progress and that the embrace of these values will continue the trend. This, as opposed to counter-enlightenment values (religious faith, nationalism, tribalism, relativism, declinism), is the recipe for the maximizati
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Prof. Pinker points out early in this book that people have a tendency to marshal evidence that confirms their convictions whilst dismissing evidence that contradicts them. I’m as guilty of that as most people, and on the evidence of this book, my own convictions are similar to the author’s. Prof. Pinker’s book largely provides me with reinforcement for my pre-existing opinions and on that basis it’s not surprising I rate it highly.

A large part of the book is taken up with the author arguing th
Nov 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-review
Complete and utter embarrassment to enlightenment thought. I will follow up with an in-depth review some time in the future. But never have I seen a book that managed to get almost everything wrong in the way it interprets the data they present, not to mention that the data is cherry-picked to hell and back. Not only is the data cherry-picked, but also Steven Pinker's definition of "enlightenment thought" is cherry-picked. And alas the various authors and philosophies Pinker quotes to justify hi ...more
Jonathan Yu
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I see a lot of hostile commentary on this book. My opinion is that they didn’t read it as they hash the same issues that the author addresses.

This book is flawed. It’s sorta long and it lags at the end but I still say it’s 5 stars because of the mindset it instills in you. They want you to sit down and solve problems - not wait for things on faith and not always be wanting to tear the structure down. The structure is working and the doomsday doomers (which I find myself gravitating too at times
Michael Sebastian
Jan 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Steven Pinker's book, Enlightment Now, has a pretty basic premise. Things have gotten better as a whole for humanity in the past century, especially compared to the conditions in which most people lived not that long ago. For some reason though, Pinker not only needs to make the case that life has gotten better, but, because most things are better, everything must be great. A good chunk of this book is spent chastising people that are trying to make the world better for not being "grateful" enou ...more
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Steven Arthur Pinker is a prominent Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author of popular science. Pinker is known for his wide-ranging explorations of human nature and its relevance to language, history, morality, politics, and everyday life. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Repu ...more

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As we wrap up our 2018 Reading Challenge, we decided to ask our Goodreads coworkers a simple yet tough question: What were the...
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“One student asks: Why should I live?

Steven Pinker answers: In the very act of asking that question, you are seeking reasons for your convictions, and so you are committed to reason as the means to discover and justify what is important to you. And there are so many reasons to live! As a sentient being, you have the potential to flourish. You can refine your faculty of reason itself by learning and debating. You can seek explanations of the natural world through science, and insight into the human condition through the arts and humanities. You can make the most of your capacity for pleasure and satisfaction, which allowed your ancestors to thrive and thereby allowed you to exist. You can appreciate the beauty and richness of the natural and cultural world. As the heir to billions of years of life perpetuating itself, you can perpetuate life in turn. You have been endowed with a sense of sympathy—the ability to like, love, respect, help, and show kindness—and you can enjoy the gift of mutual benevolence with friends, family, and colleagues. And because reason tells you that none of this is particular to you, you have the responsibility to provide to others what you expect for yourself. You can foster the welfare of other sentient beings by enhancing life, health, knowledge, freedom, abundance, safety, beauty, and peace. History shows that when we sympathize with others and apply our ingenuity to improving the human condition, we can make progress in doing so, and you can help to continue that progress.”
“Left-wing and right-wing political ideologies have themselves become secular religions, providing people with a community of like-minded brethren, a catechism of sacred beliefs, a well-populated demonology, and a beatific confidence in the righteousness of their cause.” 29 likes
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