The Enlightenment Is Working

So, the exact opposite of the Red Hats.

The article has absolutely nothing to do with being pro-Trump. In fact it criticizes him both for backing out of the Paris agreement and for antagonizing North Korea in part 2 of 2 (below). TL;DR - you didn't read the article.

I'm well aware of who Steven Pinker is. I literally took one of his classes.

And there is a 0.0% chance that posting history belongs to a Harvard grad.

And now for part 2, since only Mr. Harvard appears to be downvoting for now...

These developments have been gradual and uneven, with many backtracks and zigzags. But the happy developments of the last two centuries are the cumulative gifts of the brainchildren they spawned.

● Disease was decimated by vaccines, sanitation, antibiotics and other advances in medicine and public health, driven by the germ theory of disease and our understanding of evolution, physiology and genetics.

● Famine was stanched by crop rotation, synthetic fertilizer, the replacement of muscle by machinery and the selective breeding of vigorous hybrids.

● Poverty was slashed by education, markets, global trade and cheaper food and clothing, together with social programs that support the young, old, sick and unlucky.

● Violent crime was tamed by a replacement of the code of vendetta by the rule of law, by fairer judicial systems and, most recently, by data-driven policing.

● Everyday hazards were blunted by safety regulations and engineering, driven by an increasing valuation of human life. A similar combination of regulation and technology is ramping down pollution.

● Oppression and discrimination may persist in some places by brute force, but they start to corrode when educated, mobile and connected people exchange ideas and are forced to justify their practices.

● War is being marginalized by the spread of democracy (which inhibits leaders from turning their youth into cannon fodder), global commerce (which makes trade more profitable than plunder), peacekeeping forces (which separate belligerents and extinguish flare-ups) and competent governments (which outcompete insurgents for the allegiance of their citizens). Also driving war down are norms against conquest, enforced by the international community with shaming, sanctions and occasionally armed intervention.

The evidence for progress raises many questions.

Isn’t it good to be pessimistic, many activists ask—to rake the muck, afflict the comfortable, speak truth to power? The answer is no: It’s good to be accurate. We must be aware of suffering and injustice where they occur, but we must also be aware of how they can be reduced. Indiscriminate pessimism can lead to fatalism: to wondering why we should throw time and money at a hopeless cause. And it can lead to radicalism: to calls to smash the machine, drain the swamp or empower a charismatic tyrant.

Is progress inevitable? Of course not! Solutions create new problems, which must be solved in their turn. We can always be blindsided by nasty surprises, such as the two World Wars, the 1960s crime boom and the AIDS and opioid epidemics.

And the greatest global challenges remain unsolved. This does not mean they are unsolvable. In 2015 the world’s nations came to a historic agreement on climate change in Paris, and pathways to decarbonization, including carbon pricing and zero-emission technologies, have been laid out. Since the closing days of World War II, nuclear weapons have not been used in almost 73 years of saber-rattling (including standoffs with the half-mad despots Stalin and Mao), and the New Start treaty between the U.S. and Russia, capping nuclear arsenals, went into full effect just this week.

On these matters, the policies of President Donald Trump —denial of climate change, planned withdrawal from the Paris accord, provocation of North Korea, nuclear arms expansion—are alarming. But continued progress is in the interests of the rest of the world, and numerous states, countries, corporations, political actors and sectors of the military are pushing back against the intemperate plans of the administration.

How should we think about future progress? We must not sit back and wait for problems to solve themselves, nor pace the streets with a sandwich board proclaiming that the end of the world is nigh. The advances of the past are no guarantee that progress will continue; they are a reminder of what we have to lose. Progress is a gift of the ideals of the Enlightenment and will continue to the extent that we rededicate ourselves to those ideals.

Are the ideals of the Enlightenment too tepid to engage our animal spirits? Is the conquest of disease, famine, poverty, violence and ignorance … boring? Do people need to believe in magic, a father in the sky, a strong chief to protect the tribe, myths of heroic ancestors?

I don’t think so. Secular liberal democracies are the happiest and healthiest places on earth, and the favorite destinations of people who vote with their feet. And once you appreciate that the Enlightenment project of applying knowledge and sympathy to enhance human flourishing can succeed, it’s hard to imagine anything more heroic and glorious.

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