Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophesies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In 75 jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.
Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature—tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking—which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.
With intellectual depth and literary flair, Pinker makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.
"Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read... also highly persuasive." —Michael Lemonick, Time
A brilliant inquiry into the origins of human nature.
"Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read. . .also highly persuasive." —Time
Now updated with a new afterword
One of the world's leading experts on language and the mind explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. With characteristic wit, lucidity, and insight, Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits-a doctrine held by many intellectuals during the past century-denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of politics, violence, parenting, and the arts. Injecting calm and rationality into debates that are notorious for ax-grinding and mud-slinging, Pinker shows the importance of an honest acknowledgment of human nature based on science and common sense.
Every year the eminent psychology professor updates the 100 graphs that appeared in his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature, showing that every form of violence is in decline. Here are his latest findings.