Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker [Book Summary – Review]

Do you think today is a lousy day? If you learn all the daily reports from the news channels, you might think the time we live in is just terrible. However, we cannot deny that the time we live in is much better than the times of the past.

While cruelty’s ratio, scarcity of food, and starvation are decreasing, we are experiencing the highest levels of longevity, general prosperity, and well-being.

Of course, we need to take care of the earth, but even in this regard, it can be seen that the pollution rates tend to decrease gradually, compared to the past half-century. So instead of being anxious and hopeless about the present, you can imagine a developing world where deadly illnesses are a thing about history plus scarcity and starvation are drastically reduced.

So how did all these positive developments come about? We owe a lot to the Enlightenment, which introduced the civilization, knowledge, and science necessary to free us from the dark middle ages and have a better future.

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Chapter 1 – The Enlightenment period, born in Europe in the eighteenth century, is the source of sophistication we are now experiencing.

If you have read something about European history, you probably know that there is a historical period called Enlightenment. This period, commonly known qua “the enlightenment times”, was a turning point in the past. It is an important period affecting the present development of the Western world.

The ideas of enlightenment that spread at the beginning of the age 18th became a solution to the pervasive situations of horror, delusions, and ignorance in society.

Before the Enlightenment Age, it was believed that the stormy weather was caused by spells of either shrewish or furious gods in the sky, that wicked beings lived in the seas and jungles, and human beings with large numbers were punished and massacred by the church for religious reasons. Now it was time to get rid of this cruel situation, so the four basic streams of Enlightenment started to spread: humanism, logic, science, and development.

Logic shows us thon indisputable things are found yonder inside the whole globe. Rather than what the holy scriptures or despotic patriarchs say, just one cause might explain what is most true. Slavery can be one of the best examples of this situation. Before the Enlightenment, slavery was considered an indispensable element within existence. However, qua Enlightenment ideas spread, logic weakened the application of this outdated understanding and enabled it to be abolished.

The importance given to science has increased the value of knowledge as it is related to universal human characteristics. First studies in cultural anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience led to the development of humanism, which showed a non-religious way for humans to communicate better and respect each other. In the past, the enthusiasm of religion was in charge of the massacres caused by a series of religious wars, which were initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period, plus a philosophical stance, that emphasizes the potential and agency of human beings, individually and socially, provided a moral basis for accepting that mass murder and cruel defeats were unacceptable.

Humanism also prepared the ground for sophistication, which has found its place in modern understanding. Sophistication saved people from dogmatism that pitted one group of people against others by not accepting the tribal understanding. According to this understanding, all people are of equal status. The fact that anybody came to be alive inside one distinct domain opposes the understanding that he or she will enjoy less rights.

Chapter 2 – While many people claim that the present situation has turned out to be worse than in the past, we are guided by the events of the Enlightenment period.

Although its significance was not sufficiently understood at the beginning of the age of 19th, it has a very important purpose to create cosmopolitan international commerce plus a joint interest system. So, what is it? The fact that a system is various plus twisted together means that it is immune to entropy/chaos.

Entropy is a term defined in the laws whereof a branch of physics that deals with heat, work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, radiation, and physical properties of matter, plus one enclosed grid is going to collapse sooner or later under the influence of external powers. If you construct a sandcastle by the sea and leave it there, the wind or waves, or animals or people will destroy your sandcastle.

That rule whereof thermodynamics applies to people living on earth and the whole universe, so several human beings are going to continue to insist that everything is getting worse. Another critic says that the light emitted during the Enlightenment period is now extinguished and we are now in vain. For them, it is sufficient to browse through the news channels to prove that logic is not superior and that the understanding of tribalism, corruption, conflict, and brutality continues.

But, a lot of gaps are found yonder for this point of view to fill. We’ll cover them in the following pages. But first, it must be said that a life form is not like an enclosed framework, plus therefore it is obvious that it can resist entropy. That is why the light of the Enlightenment period continues to reach today.

Thanks to the energy it receives from various sources, a life form might remain that permanence of the order instead of destroying it. Today, if we examine the data based on various graphs and concrete facts about the world’s situation in more than a hundred twelvemonths, it might be understood by us that we are still benefiting from energy and continuing development.

Almost everything that symbolizes a happy life, be it longevity, violation, and happiness levels, prosperity, or life, is gradually increasing and is not likely to stop anytime soon. Let’s examine a number of those ratios.

Chapter 3 – In the historical period, we know as Enlightenment, our expectation of life, well-being, and maintenance increased.

In half of the eighteenth century, when the Enlightenment period began, the overall lifespan of people living on earth became twenty-nine years. Such a short time unfortunately sucks. Even our ancestors who spent their lives as hunter-gatherers are thought to live an average of thirty-two and a half years!

However, it gets the life span of all people living on the globe to rise rapidly with the Enlightenment period.

According to the statistics, an of the biggest factors that increase the life expectancy of people is the prevention of child deaths. The death of newborns can now be prevented, while mothers who have just given birth manage to survive compared to a hundred years ago. Even if people’s age is fifty, sixty or seventy, people might be alive more compared to the past.

One person whose age was thirty in Britain in 1845 was likely to be alive an extra thirty twelvemonths, upon another person who was at eighty would have been expected to live only five more. By 2011, one person whose age was thirty could live 52 more years, while another person who was at eighty was hoped to live another nine years.

These developments in a lifetime all over the world are similar: In 1950, one child whose age was 10 living in Ethiopia is thought to live an extra thirty-four twelvemonths, and today one child whose age was 10 living there has further fifty-one twelvemonths to live.

Also, in parallel with this increase in life expectancy, people have a healthier life than in the past. This is due to the acquisition of information that ensures the complete or almost disappearance of illnesses like rubella, smallpox, polio, and measles.

During the eighteenth century plus the beginning of the nineteenth age, the world’s poorest and wealthiest were at the same risk of death from a minor infection. The death of Calvin Coolidge’s boy, who was the 13th United States minister is a good example of this. His son Calvin Jr. died of an infection at the age of 16 because of the water he got a blister in his body after a tennis game.

Now, the place of scholarship plus information is very important. People understood the importance whereof cleaning their thumbs and all fingers, attaching mosquito swatter to their windows, and disinfecting them by boiling their water.

Also, scarcity becomes almost entirely a historical phenomenon.

Before only one hundred and fifty twelvemonths, it would not be wrong to say that kids inside Sverige died of starvation during the long and harsh winter months. And just beforehand forty-five twelvemonths, thirty-five percent within people in the world didn’t have enough food. This rate was the lowest 13 percent seen in 2015 so far. The truth about 5 billion more people joining the world’s population at that time is the most impressive part of this.

The reason for these developments is the incredible progress in agriculture and especially in using minor realm plus fluid for growing extra nutritious crops.

Chapter 4 – Thanks to the Enlightenment, prosperity in the world increased and inequality declined.

Before the Enlightenment, poor people living under the rule of a state had to work very hard jobs with little or no pay. While poor people living in England were grinding bones for use as fertilizer, those living in Paris were used to cleanse the city’s canals by being chained to each other.

In 1820, almost the whole within the globe found great deprivation. It was also the year that the Enlightenment idea started to spread. From 1820 to 1900, national gains tripled.

A powerful state such as Britain made progress in the field of trade to improve its relations with other states, ignoring the contrasts arising from religious differences for common interests. Since this sophisticated and tolerant understanding was accepted by other nations, the huge amount of wealth gained began to increase in every state.

Revenue from 1900 to 1950 was again tripled. In the next 33 years, the national revenue was raised three times repeatedly. Today, while the Republic of Singapore plus South Korea grow faster, the earnings of countries like Southeast Asian countries, the Republic of Rwanda plus the Republic of El Salvador double each eighteen twelvemonths. Also, it takes 35 years for the national income of the other 40 countries to double.

This incredible development and wealth have brought with it inequality. However, over time, this inequality is resolved automatically. This is exactly what we experience now. This situation is known as a hypothesis conducted by Simon Kuznets who was a specialist in the economy in the 1950s and 1960s.

During the ’70s, the problem of inequality became a terrible issue when almost all states suddenly gained huge incomes. But in those years to date, inequality has been like that hypothesis conducted by Simon Kuznets: information obtained proves that income inequality is gradually decreasing. This reduction is also directly proportional to poverty.

Another theory that might be seen by us inside practice is that a country that increases its income rapidly will succeed in funding social institutions that provide aid to poor people. At the beginning of the 20th century, that budget allocated by European countries to programs that support the poor was only one point five percent. Today, the amount allocated to support poor people has increased to 22 percent.

Chapter 5 – As the tendency towards brutality gradually decreased with the Enlightenment, we are experiencing the most comfortable times so far today.

Of course, it is impossible to think of anything positive about the war in Syria. According to optimistic estimates, the count of people who died in 2016 was 250,000. However, when analyzed with an impartial eye, it can be seen that the tendency towards violence is much less than it was in the past.

You may believe that there are masses of refugees that have never been seen before because of wars today. However, in 1971, not too far from today, 10 million people left their country and became refugees due to the Battle of Bangladesh Liberation. Due to the re-determination of the borders of India in 1947, the number of human beings who became refugees was fourteen million. We also know that the number of individuals who had to leave their country during the Second World War was sixty million.

In the Age of Enlightenment, it was understood that dealing with problems was a basic rule for settling and correcting conflicts between people and states. By the age of 21th, dealing with problems was mostly successful. An intergovernmental organization, that aims to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, established in 1945, and an international document, that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings, signed by the United Nations General Assembly. Created by very diverse societies, involving Aldous Leonard Huxley, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, plus the Islamic alims, that manifesto is probably an of the best humane and compatible with Enlightenment doctrines ever written.

Since its establishment, that institution became the first point of reference for the correction of international problems as an institution that leads to the establishment of wholesome universal relationships and the easy conclusion of trade and trade agreements between states.

So, in the 70 years since its foundation, wars have decreased considerably compared to the past. And it declined significantly after the end of a series within intestine battles, including those in Sri Lanka, Chad, Angola, and Peru in 2009.

Thanks to the rising incomes of the world’s states, the possibility of opposing groups to initiate a revolt and to encourage the people to participate in this revolt against the state has decreased. Since the treasures of the states are full, the health and education services that governments have to offer to the public become better, and as the number of dissatisfied people decreases, the likelihood of revolt becomes less.

The data obtained on violence today proves this positive situation. As states get richer, the decrease in crime rates is visible.

Chapter 6 – With the Enlightenment, there are important developments such as equal rights, democracy, and more comfortable life.

We cannot say that the 1970s were the best times of democracy. It was claimed by Willy Brandt was a German politician and statesman who was a leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany that democracy was “an interesting form of government without continuity”. But, Brandt was wrong about this. Upon closer examination, democracy as an Enlightenment doctrine that took its place in every nation was spreading with incredible speed.

Democracy is largely the best shape within administration found by Enlightenment thinkers who aimed to prevent violence that has prevailed in the globe dated from the advent of Christianity. Nations hated persecutions, slavery, human victims, plus community killing of incompatible people.

The other worst-case that nations want to get rid of is regime changes that once caused brutal revolutions and violence at the People’s Republic of China plus the United Mexican States.

From this point of view, it can be said that one solution that saves human beings from both despotism and tyranny is a form of government in which the people either have the authority to choose their governing legislators, or the authority to decide on legislation. And it has been confirmed that democracy is the only useful shape within the administration for faster economic development, fewer human deaths, plus preferable training service.

While there were 12 democratic administrations pending that a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and the economy, which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe regimes that prevailed in the 1920s, by 2015 this number reached 103. This situation is pretty good.

The transition to democracy was a blessing of the Enlightenment, and segregationist plus behaviors whereof sex-oriented have declined considerably, as it made states more tolerant.

To sum up, segregationist plus behaviors whereof sex-oriented are not understandings that can be supported. It is impossible to have a reasonable or appropriate defense within them, as they are not worth examining. In this globalized world, where many people encounter more travel, people become more involved with sophisticated understandings and backward thinking can be easily eliminated by questioning.

In this way, there is less about ethnical plus any discrimination against any individual on the basis of their skin color, or racial or ethnic origin in the books of sophisticated civilizations. During the ’50s, half of the states that supported all forms of discrimination had such rules, however, via 2003, the articles on this issue decreased to less than one out of five. Plus, today, outside within a city-state surrounded by Rome, Italy, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, girls might exercise their voting rights anywhere, just like men.

Chapter 7 – Dangers to the environment and existence can be overcome with a constructive mindset instead of negativity and boredom.

News channels say things that worry you every day. However, provided that much research was done by you and find the cause of the actual issue, you’ll realize that you have no reason to worry too much. The best example of this is terrorism. The existence within the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria plus different institutions of enemy combatants is of course terrible, but how logical is it for Americans to think about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria becoming the greatest danger to the US existence? In fact, according to a survey conducted in 2016, most Americans thought that.

However, the likelihood of an American being murdered via either thunderbolt or one small bee sting is greater than the likelihood of being killed by terrorists. According to data from around the world, people are one hundred and twenty-five times extra probable for death inside one crash compared to being killed by an enemy combatant.

Human beings are cared by the media that present threats to their existence in a frightening way. The news n always goes to extremes when they present people with all the news about life safety.

We are aware that we have perused studies whereof intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals, which involves consciousness and emotionality which are full of Terminator-like fiction, and that we are reading articles that claim to be true that with an artificial intelligence program, humans will begin to be killed by robots. Even important names such as Stephen William Hawking plus Elon Reeve Musk made worrying comments about artificial intelligence.

However, it is unreasonable to think that artificial intelligence is a real danger to humans as it can either tool along or strike somebody in the Go board game. Thanks to the further development of technology, the possibility of advanced failure control has increased. We now have the technology to monitor and neutralize if anything means danger.

People smart enough to make a very successful AI program also have solutions for immediate response to any danger.

Chapter 8 – Pay attention to politics and institutions that slander science and logic.

The truth is that science aims to use knowledge to learn more information. It is not intended to challenge the doctrines of religion or beliefs of yours. And science is not the cause of racism, sexism, or genocide, as many people claim.

You may think it silly, but the ignorance and misperceptions of human beings putting to the touch for achieving their goals have been threatening the history of science. Because scholars become within those principles of Illumination times, it is vital to resolve this confusion and truth.

Science served as the battery for the success of Hitler’s Nazi goals, according to a widely known claim, although Hitler was an enemy of science, reason, advancement, and so an enemy of Enlightenment.

Still, some people believe that science was the cause of the great genocide known as the Holocaust according to the Aryan belief discovered via Arthur de Gobineau, defended via Wagner, plus practiced Wagner via Adolf Hitler. In respect of this Aryan belief, the historical race concept which emerged in the late 19th century to describe people of Indo-European heritage as a racial grouping was superior before it mixed with other races. This thought was the opposite from a theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin and others, that argued that all human beings have the same basic motives plus what is not more perfect than any other is race.

While the notion of breeding the human race, suggested via Francis Galton, who was an English Victorian specialist in statistical area, plus sage, is known for its incentive to breed intelligent people, people blame those who are intent on improving the generation for the crimes committed by Hitler. Eugenics does not aim to “sterilize people who are not enough”, contrary to the claims of some people that are not even closely related to science.

Criticism of science today is similar to efforts to reduce the importance of a very just problem like a change in global or regional climate patterns.

One of the most vital responsibilities that humanity has to do is to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2050 and eliminate these emissions by 2100. If we do not fulfill this responsibility, we may face the risk of global warming with 2 degrees Celsius added to the temperature. Global warming will pave the way for melting ice masses, rising sea levels due to melting glaciers, and all kinds of other disasters. This is unlike the Chinese threat posed by Donald Trump. This is true proof of scientific data.

Chapter 9 – Contrary to the views under the influence of populism, the Enlightenment is still a light to development.

It is said that Donald Trump, whom the writer thinks of as an enemy of Enlightenment, won that chairmanship in the United States. But we can relax a little with the thought that the public has lost substantial support and is the American President with any of the minimum confirmation rates ever.

That it has a control mechanism for inhibiting authoritative regimes from causing too much damage is another benefit within a form of government in which the people either have the authority to choose their governing legislators, or the authority to decide on legislation. And we’ve witnessed that fairness grid limiting his actions.

Although there are some movements in Europe against the principles within that Illumination, some indicators, proving that these attempts are not continuous, are found yonder

Some parties that supported nationalist, tribal, un-tolerated views across Europe were only able to do whereof thirteen percentage within that poll and eventually lost an inasmuch as a lot of judicator chairs upon which they had won. Even if they have a say in the governments of the Republic of Poland plus Hungary, those with unsophisticated views are generally older and do not create hope for the future.

Although the poll of The UK’s departure from the European Union was quite troubled, just twenty-nine percent of university graduates voted to exit the European Union. Even if the groups who want to leave the European Union in 2016 protest that they do not accept the tolerance of the world towards different nations, the world will continue to maintain this feature of enlightenment.

Unlike older people, younger generations of countries around the world adopt more tolerant, more developmental, plus lower ecclesiastic views and attitudes. WIN-Gallup International Global Pietism plus Irreligion Index found that the proportion of people who describe themselves as being religionist greatly reduced between the years from 2005 to 2012 in the traditional religious societies like Russia, Turkey, and Poland.  Therefore, as the generations continue, the people who shape their thoughts according to science, humanism, logic, and reason will continue to increase. Although religious teachings are not opposed to Enlightenment principles, when people link their views to a human interpretation of religious inscriptions, their development paths can be blocked.

Despite the pessimism of the media that produces doomsday scenarios with criticism of oppositional people, reason and science have been dominating for the last century. And there is no indication that this development will suddenly stop and disappear. To be honest, those thoughts and views of the younger generations are more suited to Enlightenment principles than their ancestors who brought them to their present positions.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker Book Review

Today, people still suffer from poverty, violence, war, and when we compare them with what happened in the past, we can see that they are happening to a much lesser extent. Dated from Enlightenment’s times, which was founded inside the 18th century, we have been experiencing developments aimed at preventing war, poverty, and diseases. When fallacy, intolerance, and support of war were blocked, the world has become more reliable and enlightened than it was in the past.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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