This book will attract some hammering itself: It contains something to upset almost everyone. When not attacking the populist right, Pinker lays into leftist intellectuals ... Pinker’s book is full of vigor and vim, and it sets out to inspire a similar energy in its readers ... Enlightenment Now strikes me as an excellent book, lucidly written, timely, rich in data and eloquent in its championing of a rational humanism that is — it turns out — really quite cool.
Pinker is as interested in how to think as what to think. Worried about the big, global, existential threats — overpopulation, resource depletion, nuclear war and climate change? Pinker urges us first to change the way we think about them. They are not apocalypses in waiting but problems to be solved … The Enlightenment is a notoriously fuzzy concept — pretty much every historian has their own version — so it is no criticism of Pinker to say that his Enlightenment is a kitchen pantry for the modern ideas that interest him …. Pinker wants progress to be a law of nature, what he calls a ‘reality’ that numbers and charts can show. Yet he finally settles on surprisingly religious arguments about progress … Pinker’s gift is to challenge us not only to update the Enlightenment but to think beyond it.
Enlightenment Now is a bold, wonderfully expansive and occasionally irate defence of scientific rationality and liberal humanism, of the sort that took root in Europe between the mid-17th and late 18th century … The book is really a polemic, albeit one with a vast number of footnotes. With some deft intellectual moves, he manages to position ‘enlightenment’ and ‘science’ on the right side of every argument or conflict, while every horror of the past 200 years is put down to ignorance, irrationality or “counter-enlightenment” trends … The vice-like grip of Pinker’s reasoning derives from his curious relationship to intellectual history.