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Verlichting en Romantiek

Voorkant Pinker 'Enlightenment now - The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress' Steven PINKER
Enlightenment now - The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress
New York: Viking, 2018, 775 blzn.
ISBN-13: 978 06 9817 7888

(12) Preface

Pinker vindt het hedendaagse pessimisme aan de rechterkant en de linkerkant van het politieke spectrum verkeerd.

"They include pessimism about the way the world is heading, cynicism about the institutions of modernity, and an inability to conceive of a higher purpose in anything other than religion"(12)

Volgt een eindeloze reeks dankbetuigingen.

(18) Part I - Enlightenment

Over de idealen van de Verlichting. Die zijn actueler en belangrijker dan ooit, vindt Pinker.

"More than ever, the ideals of reason, science, humanism, and progress need a wholehearted defense. We take its gifts for granted ... (...) I have often been reminded of the need to restate the ideals of the Enlightenment (also called humanism, the open society, and cosmopolitan or classical liberalism)."(22-23)

Vandaar dit boek.

"Far from being an insipid consensus, these ideals are treated by today’s intellectuals with indifference, skepticism, and sometimes contempt. When properly appreciated, I will suggest, the ideals of the Enlightenment are in fact stirring, inspiring, noble—a reason to live."(27)

[Alleen door de intellectuelen? Wat suggestief. Wat dacht je van de massa's, de politici, en ga zo maar door?]

(28) Chapter 1 - Dare to understand!

Natuurlijk eerst de vraag: wat is Verlichting? Kant wordt genoemd, David Deutsch’s verdediging van de Verlichting The Beginning of Infinity wordt geciteerd (met zIjn optimisme dat ALLE problemen kunnen worden opgelost en vooruitgang altijd mogelijk is), en met de conclusie dat de vier belangrijke thema's hier gevormd worden door rationaliteit, wetenschap, humanisme en vooruitgang. Met rationaliteit als het allerbelangrijkste:

"If there’s anything the Enlightenment thinkers had in common, it was an insistence that we energetically apply the standard of reason to understanding our world, and not fall back on generators of delusion like faith, dogma, revelation, authority, charisma, mysticism, divination, visions, gut feelings, or the hermeneutic parsing of sacred texts."(30-31)

Rationaliteit is nodig juist omdat mensen zo vaak irrationeel handelen. De wetenschappelijke revolutie is daar een direct gevolg van.

"To the Enlightenment thinkers the escape from ignorance and superstition showed how mistaken our conventional wisdom could be, and how the methods of science—skepticism, fallibilism, open debate, and empirical testing—are a paradigm of how to achieve reliable knowledge."(34)

En die wetenschappelijke methoden konden ook gebruikt worden om de menselijke natuur te bestuderen en te begrijpen. Wat leidt naar het derde thema: humanisme.

"The thinkers of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment saw an urgent need for a secular foundation for morality, because they were haunted by a historical memory of centuries of religious carnage: the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, the European wars of religion. They laid that foundation in what we now call humanism, which privileges the well-being of individual men, women, and children over the glory of the tribe, race, nation, or religion."[mijn nadruk](36)

"A humanistic sensibility impelled the Enlightenment thinkers to condemn not just religious violence but also the secular cruelties of their age, including slavery, despotism, executions for frivolous offenses such as shoplifting and poaching, and sadistic punishments such as flogging, amputation, impalement, disembowelment, breaking on the wheel, and burning at the stake. The Enlightenment is sometimes called the Humanitarian Revolution, because it led to the abolition of barbaric practices that had been commonplace across civilizations for millennia"[mijn nadruk](38)

Die drie thema's samen maken vooruitgang mogelijk maar dan wel een vooruitgang geleid door humane motieven. Daartoe moeten bepaalde instituties worden ingezet en moet de overheid fundamenteel veranderen. Ook de economie moet daartoe veranderen in een 'doux commerce' waarbij iedereen baat heeft.

"It takes nothing away from the Enlightenment thinkers to identify some critical ideas about the human condition and the nature of progress that we know and they didn’t. Those ideas, I suggest, are entropy, evolution, and information."(46)

(47) Chapter 2 - Entro, evo, info

[Ik vraag me al meteen af of je die tweede wet van de thermodynamica zo gemakkelijk mag overzetten naar sytemen met mensen, want dat zal wel gaan gebeuren neem ik aan. En ja, dat blijkt te kloppen.]

"so when things change without a human agent directing the change, they are likely to change for the worse. The Law of Entropy is widely acknowledged in everyday life in sayings such as “Things fall apart,” “Rust never sleeps,” “Shit happens,” ..."(50)

[Dat is al meteen een waardeoordeel. Waarom zouden bijvoorbeeld processen in de natuur 'slechter' worden als mensen die niet zouden sturen? Ik zie dat niet. En wat is 'slechter' dan?]

"Why the awe for the Second Law? From an Olympian vantage point, it defines the fate of the universe and the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and knowledge to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order."(53)

[Mij lijkt dat 'entropie' hier als term bijna synoniem begint te worden met 'chaos', 'onordelijkheid'. Mensen doen er dan goed aan de chaos te bestrijden met ordening. Waarom hebben we voor zo'n stelling dat geleuter over entropie nodig?]

Verder is er in de evolutie van de levende natuur sprake van zelf-organisatie en functioneel design. En informatie reduceert entropie.

"Getting back to evolution, a brain wired by information in the genome to perform computations on information coming in from the senses could organize the animal’s behavior in a way that allowed it to capture energy and resist entropy."(63-64)

[Hersenen zijn in staat om orde te scheppen uit zintuiglijke indrukken. Dat staat er in feite. Wauw, dat wisten we nog niet. Waarom maakt Pinker dingen zo ingewikkeld door met natuurwetenschappelijke begrippen te werken die in feite enorm vaag worden wanneer ze binnen een heel andere context op mensen worden toegepast?]

"Energy channeled by knowledge is the elixir with which we stave off entropy, and advances in energy capture are advances in human destiny."(69)

[Met kennis kunnen we orde scheppen en meer kennis leidt daarom tot vooruitgang. Dat had er ook kunnen staan.]

"When the Industrial Revolution released a gusher of usable energy from coal, oil, and falling water, it launched a Great Escape from poverty, disease, hunger, illiteracy, and premature death, first in the West and increasingly in the rest of the world. And the next leap in human welfare—the end of extreme poverty and spread of abundance, with all its moral benefits—will depend on technological advances that provide energy at an acceptable economic and environmental cost to the entire world."(70)

[Er waren ook een paar nare bijwerkingen van die Industriële Revolutie, om even cynisch te worden, maar daar hebben 'we' het gewoon niet meer over. Niets wat we niet kunnen oplossen met nog meer wetenschap en techniek, vindt Pinker blijkbaar. Ik was er al bang voor.]

"So for all the flaws in human nature, it contains the seeds of its own improvement, as long as it comes up with norms and institutions that channel parochial interests into universal benefits. Among those norms are free speech, nonviolence, cooperation, cosmopolitanism, human rights, and an acknowledgment of human fallibility, and among the institutions are science, education, media, democratic government, international organizations, and markets. Not coincidentally, these were the major brainchildren of the Enlightenment."(82-83)

[Markten?]

(84) Chapter 3 - Counter-Enlightenments

"Do these ideals really need a defense? They absolutely do. Since the 1960s, trust in the institutions of modernity has sunk, and the second decade of the 21st century saw the rise of populist movements that blatantly repudiate the ideals of the Enlightenment. They are tribalist rather than cosmopolitan, authoritarian rather than democratic, contemptuous of experts rather than respectful of knowledge, and nostalgic for an idyllic past rather than hopeful for a better future. But these reactions are by no means confined to 21st-century political populism (a movement we will examine in chapters 20 and 23). Far from sprouting from the grass roots or channeling the anger of know-nothings, the disdain for reason, science, humanism, and progress has a long pedigree in elite intellectual and artistic culture."[mijn nadruk](84)

De Verlichting werd al snel gevolgd door een tegen-Verlichting. De Romantiek bijvoorbeeld Rousseau, Herder, Schelling. Maar dat denken is ook elders te vinden. In religie natuurlijk. Maar ook in nationalisme:

"A second counter-Enlightenment idea is that people are the expendable cells of a superorganism — a clan, tribe, ethnic group, religion, race, class, or nation—and that the supreme good is the glory of this collectivity rather than the well-being of the people who make it up."(89)

"But not so long ago the left was sympathetic to nationalism when it was fused with Marxist liberation movements. And many on the left encourage identity politicians and social justice warriors who downplay individual rights in favor of equalizing the standing of races, classes, and genders, which they see as being pitted in zero-sum competition."(90-91)

"The left tends to be sympathetic to yet another movement that subordinates human interests to a transcendent entity, the ecosystem. The romantic Green movement sees the human capture of energy not as a way of resisting entropy and enhancing human flourishing but as a heinous crime against nature ..."(92)

[Nou nou nou... Mij lijkt het toch iets ingewikkelder dan dat: misschien is het juist erg in het belang van mensen om de natuur belangrijker te maken dan mensen ... En in het algemeen: ik houd evenmin van het onderwerpen van individuele mensen aan collectieve systeneen en idealen, maar mij lijkt toch ook dat het belang van een individueel mens niet altijd de boventoon KAN voeren, vooral ook omdat individuele mensen vaak heel verschillende dingen willen.]

Ook doemdenkers die schrijven over het verval van de beschaving en zo hebben niets met Verlichtingsdenken. Waaronder ecopessimisten

"One form of declinism bemoans our Promethean dabbling with technology. By wresting fire from the gods, we have only given our species the means to end its own existence, if not by poisoning our environment then by loosing nuclear weapons, nanotechnology, cyberterror, bioterror, artificial intelligence, and other existential threats upon the world (chapter 19). And even if our technological civilization manages to escape outright annihilation, it is spiraling into a dystopia of violence and injustice: a brave new world of terrorism, drones, sweatshops, gangs, trafficking, refugees, inequality, cyberbullying, sexual assault, and hate crimes.
Another variety of declinism agonizes about the opposite problem — not that modernity has made life too harsh and dangerous, but that it has made it too pleasant and safe. According to these critics, health, peace, and prosperity are bourgeois diversions from what truly matters in life. In serving up these philistine pleasures, technological capitalism has only damned people to an atomized, conformist, consumerist, materialist, other-directed, rootless, routinized, soul-deadening wilderness. In this absurd existence, people suffer from alienation, angst, anomie, apathy, bad faith, ennui, malaise, and nausea; they are “hollow men eating their naked lunches in the wasteland while waiting for Godot.”"(94)

Een andere vorm is die van de Tweede Cultuur (naar Snow) waarin een groot wantrouwen tegenover wetenschap wordt gevoeld:

"Intellectual magazines regularly denounce “scientism,” the intrusion of science into the territory of the humanities such as politics and the arts"(98)

En waar is na 250 jaar Verlichting de Vooruitgang?

(101) Part II - Progress

(102) Progressophobia

"Intellectuals hate progress. Intellectuals who call themselves “progressive” really hate progress. It’s not that they hate the fruits of progress, mind you: most pundits, critics, and their bien-pensant readers use computers rather than quills and inkwells, and they prefer to have their surgery with anesthesia rather than without it. It’s the idea of progress that rankles the chattering class — the Enlightenment belief that by understanding the world we can improve the human condition."[mijn nadruk](102)

Zij denken dat kennis niet kan helpen om alle problemen op te lossen.

"Epithets aside, the idea that the world is better than it was and can get better still fell out of fashion among the clerisy long ago. In The Idea of Decline in Western History, Arthur Herman shows that prophets of doom are the all-stars of the liberal arts curriculum, including Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Edward Said, Cornel West, and a chorus of eco-pessimists."(104)

Een voetnoot noemt ook nog Joseph Campbell, Noam Chomsky, Joan Didion, E. L. Doctorow, Paul Goodman, Michael Harrington, Robert Heilbroner, Jonathan Kozol, Christopher Lasch, Norman Mailer, Thomas Pynchon, Kirkpatrick Sale, Jonathan Schell, Richard Sennett, Susan Sontag, Gore Vidal, and Garry Wills.

[Tjonge, wat wordt hier cynisch gegeneralizeerd, zeg. Ja, die mensen lieten zich allemaal leiden door het dagelijkse nieuws in de krant ...]

Pinker vindt dat het nieuws mensen meesleept in een pessimisme dat nergens op slaat. Hoe kun je tegenwicht bieden? Door te tellen.

"How many people are victims of violence as a proportion of the number of people alive? How many are sick, how many starving, how many poor, how many oppressed, how many illiterate, how many unhappy? And are those numbers going up or down? A quantitative mindset, despite its nerdy aura, is in fact the morally enlightened one, because it treats every human life as having equal value rather than privileging the people who are closest to us or most photogenic. And it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of suffering and thereby know which measures are most likely to reduce it."[mijn nadruk](112)

Maar veel mensen laten zich niet door de cijfers overtuigen. Dus er is meer aan de hand dan de invloed van al het negatieve nieuws. Het heeft ook iets te maken met de psychologische neiging om meer betgekenis te hechten aan de slechte dan aan de goede dingen.

"The psychological literature confirms that people dread losses more than they look forward to gains, that they dwell on setbacks more than they savor good fortune, and that they are more stung by criticism than they are heartened by praise."(125)

"At least since the time of the Hebrew prophets, who blended their social criticism with forewarnings of disaster, pessimism has been equated with moral seriousness."(126)

"What is progress? You might think that the question is so subjective and culturally relative as to be forever unanswerable. In fact, it’s one of the easier questions to answer. Most people agree that life is better than death. Health is better than sickness. Sustenance is better than hunger. Abundance is better than poverty. Peace is better than war. Safety is better than danger. Freedom is better than tyranny. Equal rights are better than bigotry and discrimination. Literacy is better than illiteracy. Knowledge is better than ignorance. Intelligence is better than dull-wittedness. Happiness is better than misery. Opportunities to enjoy family, friends, culture, and nature are better than drudgery and monotony. All these things can be measured. If they have increased over time, that is progress."[mijn nadruk](134)

"And here is a shocker: The world has made spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being. Here is a second shocker: Almost no one knows about it.
Information about human progress, though absent from major news outlets and intellectual forums, is easy enough to find. The data are not entombed in dry reports but are displayed in gorgeous Web sites, particularly Max Roser’s Our World in Data, Marian Tupy’s HumanProgress, and Hans Rosling’s Gapminder.(...) The case has been made in beautifully written books, some by Nobel laureates, which flaunt the news in their titles — Progress, The Progress Paradox, Infinite Progress, The Infinite Resource, The Rational Optimist, The Case for Rational Optimism, Utopia for Realists, Mass Flourishing, Abundance, The Improving State of the World, Getting Better, The End of Doom, The Moral Arc, The Big Ratchet, The Great Escape, The Great Surge, The Great Convergence."(135)

Noot 32

"Books on progress (in order of mention): Norberg 2016, Easterbrook 2003, Reese 2013, Naam 2013, Ridley 2010, Robinson 2009, Bregman 2017, Phelps 2013, Diamandis & Kotler 2012, Goklany 2007, Kenny 2011, Bailey 2015, Shermer 2015, DeFries 2014, Deaton 2013, Radelet 2015, Mahbubani 2013."(135)

(138) Chapter 5 - Life

"The struggle to stay alive is the primal urge of animate beings, and humans deploy their ingenuity and conscious resolve to stave off death as long as possible. ... A long life is the ultimate blessing."(138)

[Zo algemeen gesteld is dat feitelijk gewoon niet waar en het tweede zinnentje is simpelweg een waardeoordeel.]

De levensverwachting is wereldwijd enorm gestegen, ook in arme landen, aldus Pinker, en laat de statistiekjes zien. Er zijn wel dips in de grote lijnen, maar de problemen die daaraan ten grondslag lagen zoals AIDS zijn opgelost. De levenverwachting stijgt vooral door de afname van de zuigelingen- en kindersterfte, doordat moeders niet in het kraambed sterven.

(157) Chapter 6 - Health

"How do we explain the gift of life that has been granted to more and more of our species since the end of the 18th century? The timing offers a clue."(157)

[De Verlichting natuurlijk: het gebruik van de Rede, van wetenschap.]

"Handwashing, midwifery, mosquito control, and especially the protection of drinking water by public sewerage and chlorinated tap water would come to save billions of lives.(...) Antisepsis, anesthesia, and blood transfusions allowed surgery to cure rather than torture and mutilate, and antibiotics, antitoxins, and countless other medical advances further beat back the assault of pestilence."(158-159)

"As impressive as the conquest of infectious disease in Europe and America was, the ongoing progress among the global poor is even more astonishing. Part of the explanation lies in economic development (chapter 8), because a richer world is a healthier world. Part lies in the expanding circle of sympathy, which inspired global leaders such as Bill Gates, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton to make their legacy the health of the poor in distant continents rather than glittering buildings close to home. George W. Bush, for his part, has been praised by even his harshest critics for his policy on African AIDS relief, which saved millions of lives."[mijn nadruk](168)

[Wat voor economische ontwikkeling? Wat voor 'rijkere wereld'? De verwijzing naar 'global leaders' als Gates en zo doet het ergste vrezen. Alleen de term al. Hoe zijn ze rijk geworden? Is liefdadigheid door dat soort - Amerikaanse - rijke mensen de oplossing? Ik dacht het niet. Er zit geregeld een hoop chauvinisme in Pinkers verhaal. ]

(171) Chapter 7 - Sustenance

De voedingssituatie is verbeterd, er is minder hongersnood.

"Today we live in Cockaigne, and our problem is not too few calories but too many."(173)

"There is still hunger (including among the poor in developed countries), and there were famines in East Africa in 2011, the Sahel in 2012, and South Sudan in 2016, together with near-famines in Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen. But they did not kill on the scale of the catastrophes that were regular occurrences in earlier centuries."(184)

"Thanks to the Green Revolution, the world needs less than a third of the land it used to need to produce a given amount of food. Another way of stating the bounty is that between 1961 and 2009 the amount of land used to grow food increased by 12 percent, but the amount of food that was grown increased by 300 percent."(189)

"Like all advances, the Green Revolution came under attack as soon as it began. High-tech agriculture, the critics said, consumes fossil fuels and groundwater, uses herbicides and pesticides, disrupts traditional subsistence agriculture, is biologically unnatural, and generates profits for corporations. Given that it saved a billion lives and helped consign major famines to the dustbin of history, this seems to me like a reasonable price to pay. More important, the price need not be with us forever. The beauty of scientific progress is that it never locks us into a technology but can develop new ones with fewer problems than the old ones.
Genetic engineering can now accomplish in days what traditional farmers accomplished in millennia and Borlaug accomplished in his years of “mind-warping tedium.” Transgenic crops are being developed with high yields, lifesaving vitamins, tolerance of drought and salinity, resistance to disease, pests, and spoilage, and reduced need for land, fertilizer, and plowing. Hundreds of studies, every major health and science organization, and more than a hundred Nobel laureates have testified to their safety (unsurprisingly, since there is no such thing as a genetically unmodified crop). Yet traditional environmentalist groups, with what the ecology writer Stewart Brand has called their “customary indifference to starvation,” have prosecuted a fanatical crusade to keep transgenic crops from people—not just from whole-food gourmets in rich countries but from poor farmers in developing ones. Their opposition begins with a commitment to the sacred yet meaningless value of “naturalness,” which leads them to decry “genetic pollution” and “playing with nature” and to promote “real food” based on “ecological agriculture.” From there they capitalize on primitive intuitions of essentialism and contamination among the scientifically illiterate public."[mijn nadruk](190-192)

[Dat is wel een erg gemakkelijk standpunt over de veiligheid van genetische modificatie. Niets mag de technische vooruitgang in de weg staan, als het technisch (veilig) werkt moeten we het doen, meent Pinker. Maar is dat zo? Hebben milieugroepen echt ongelijk omdat 'meer dan honderd Nobelprijswinnaars genetische modificatie veilig vinden'? Dat is op zich een gezagsargument. Om wat voor mensen gaat het? Hebben ze verstand van zaken? Worden ze betaald door de industrie? ]

"Of the seventy million people who died in major 20th-century famines, 80 percent were victims of Communist regimes’ forced collectivization, punitive confiscation, and totalitarian central planning."(194)

[En dat is nog gemakkelijker. Nooit hebben dit soort auteurs het over de ellende die door Kapitalistische regimes is en wordt veroorzaakt. Geen lijstjes daarvan. Ik geloof Naomi Klein eerder dan Pinker.]

Chapter 8 - Wealth

"Among the brainchildren of the Enlightenment is the realization that wealth is created. It is created primarily by knowledge and cooperation: networks of people arrange matter into improbable but useful configurations and combine the fruits of their ingenuity and labor. The corollary, just as radical, is that we can figure out how to make more of it. The endurance of poverty and the transition to modern affluence can be shown in a simple but stunning graph."(191)

"The Gross World Product today has grown almost a hundredfold since the Industrial Revolution was in place in 1820, and almost two hundredfold from the start of the Enlightenment in the 18th century."(200)

"What launched the Great Escape? The most obvious cause was the application of science to the improvement of material life, leading to what the economic historian Joel Mokyr calls “the enlightened economy.” The machines and factories of the Industrial Revolution, the productive farms of the Agricultural Revolution, and the water pipes of the Public Health Revolution could deliver more clothes, tools, vehicles, books, furniture, calories, clean water, and other things that people want than the craftsmen and farmers of a century before."(204)

Dit alles ondersteund door instituten die de uitwisseling van goederen en diensten en ideeën in een open economie mogelijk maakten. Economische groei was overal het gevolg.

"... transactions were protected by the rule of law, property rights, enforceable contracts, and institutions like banks, corporations, and government agencies that run by fiduciary duties rather than personal connections. Now an enterprising person could introduce a new kind of product to the market, or undersell other merchants if he could provide a product at lower cost, or accept money now for something he would not deliver until later, or invest in equipment or land that might not return a profit for years."(206)

[Dit is in feite een verdediging van het kapitalisme en het vrije marktdenken en het recht op eigendom. Alles gebracht alsof er niet altijd al machtsverhoudingen, grootgrondbezitters en andere rijke mensen waren die meer kansen hadden op die 'vrije markt' dan de meeste anderen die alleen hun arbeidskracht konden verkopen. Is het kapitalisme wel echt de oorzaak van de welvaartsgroei? ]

We verkeren inmiddels in een staat van convergentie. De oorzaken daarvoor. Allereerst de teloorgang van communisme en staatssocialisme en maoïsme.

"The first is the decline of communism (together with intrusive socialism). For reasons we have seen, market economies can generate wealth prodigiously while totalitarian planned economies impose scarcity, stagnation, and often famine. Market economies, in addition to reaping the benefits of specialization and providing incentives for people to produce things that other people want, solve the problem of coordinating the efforts of hundreds of millions of people by using prices to propagate information about need and availability far and wide, a computational problem that no planner is brilliant enough to solve from a central bureau. A shift from collectivization, centralized control, government monopolies, and suffocating permit bureaucracies (what in India was called “the license raj”) to open economies took place on a number of fronts beginning in the 1980s."(223)

[Ook dit zijn van die generaliserende opvattingen die immuun zijn voor kritiek. En dan de argumentatie op p223: We kunnen het al zien vanuit de satelliet, want Zuid-Korea is verlicht, Noord-Korea ligt in het donker. Ja, dat zegt alles ... Dat veel van de socialistische landen die hij noemt vanaf het begin zijn tegengewerkt en geboycot door westerse landen en dan met name de VS, och nee, dat speelt natuurlijk geen rol. Dat de omslag naar kapitalisme in landen als Chili en Rusland tot enorme ellende heeft geleid - zie Naomi Klein - dat zien we natuurlijk helemaal verkeerd. Hoeveel is hier wetenschap en hoeveel geloof? En uiteraard wordt de armoede in de VS niet genoemd.]

Het helpt ook als de stagnatie door slechte leiders stopt.

"Mao imposed more than communism on China. He was a mercurial megalomaniac who foisted crackbrained schemes on the country, such as the Great Leap Forward (with its gargantuan communes, useless backyard smelters, and screwball agronomic practices) and the Cultural Revolution (which turned the younger generation into gangs of thugs who terrorized teachers, managers, and descendants of “rich peasants”). During the decades of stagnation from the 1970s to the early 1990s, many other developing countries were commandeered by psychopathic strongmen with ideological, religious, tribal, paranoid, or self-aggrandizing agendas rather than a mandate to enhance the well-being of their citizens."(225)

[Ja, en hetzelfde geldt voor allerlei westerse landen, zoals de UK - Thatcher - of de VS en vele andere. Want hoe democratisch zijn die 'democratieën' eigenlijk? ]

De derde oorzaak is het einde van de Koude Oorlog. De vierde is de globalisering van de economie.

"Notwithstanding the horror that the word elicits in many parts of the political spectrum, globalization, development analysts agree, has been a bonanza for the poor."(227)

[Dat waag ik te betwijfelen. Er is echt niet voor niets van alle kanten kritiek op de economische globalizering. En dan die verhalen over de industrialisering: mensen willen zo graag die fabrieken in ... Ja, omdat ze van hun land verjaagd werden bijvoorbeeld. En wat gebeurt er met die rijstvelden die mensen niet meer willen bewerken omdat ze in de fabrieken meer kunnen verdienen? Het gevolg is dat er rijst geïmporteerd moet worden en dat die mensen afhankelijk worden van andere landen en hun geld aan dure import moeten uitgeven en nog net zo arm zijn als tevoren. Dit zijn allemaal verhalen met enorme waardeoordelen op de achtergrond.]

De laatste en belangrijkste oorzaak van de Grote Convergentie wordt gevormd door wetenschap en technologie.

"Though it’s easy to sneer at national income as a shallow and materialistic measure, it correlates with every indicator of human flourishing, as we will repeatedly see in the chapters to come. Most obviously, GDP per capita correlates with longevity, health, and nutrition. Less obviously, it correlates with higher ethical values like peace, freedom, human rights, and tolerance."(235)

(238) Chapter 9 - Inequality

Over de economische ongelijkheid, de 1%, etc. Is het echt zo erg als de linksen zeggen? De Gini-coëfficient wordt besproken (0 is 'iedereen heeft evenveel', 1 is 'een persoon heeft alles, de anderen niets').

"I need a chapter on the topic because so many people have been swept up in the dystopian rhetoric and see inequality as a sign that modernity has failed to improve the human condition. As we will see, this is wrong, and for many reasons."(241)

Er bestaat geen relatie tussen gelijkheid en welzijn.

"The point is made with greater nuance by the philosopher Harry Frankfurt in his 2015 book On Inequality. Frankfurt argues that inequality itself is not morally objectionable; what is objectionable is poverty. If a person lives a long, healthy, pleasurable, and stimulating life, then how much money the Joneses earn, how big their house is, and how many cars they drive are morally irrelevant. Frankfurt writes, “From the point of view of morality, it is not important everyone should have the same. What is morally important is that each should have enough.""(242)

[Daar ben ik het totaal niet mee eens. Dan abstraheer je van de mogelijkheden en kansen die rijke mensen in een samenleving hebben. Of zouden de mensen die net genoeg hebben in de VS ook naar dure universiteiten gaan of president worden? Ik denk het niet. Er bestaat op allerlei manieren een relatie tussen rijk of arm en de moraal. Wat zouden mensen die met hard werken 'genoeg' bij elkaar weten te schrapen denken van mensen die zonder te werken rijk zijn of baantjes hebben waarmee ze het vijftigvoudige verdienen alleen maar omdat ze de baas zijn? Ja, dat is vast goed voor de intermenselijke verhoudingen. Uiteraard wordt elke kritiek op de ongelijke welvaartsverdeling weggepraat. Ongelijkheid heeft niets te maken met een gevoel van welzijn. Yeah, right. Verder zie je hier voortdurend dezelfde denkfout optreden: er wordt de hele tijd gewezen naar 'feiten'. Maar wat 'is' zegt lang niet alles over hoe het zou moeten zijn (de waarden en normen).]

"But even if people are happier when they and their countries get richer, might they become more miserable if others around them are still richer than they are — that is, as economic inequality increases? In their well-known book The Spirit Level, the epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett claim that countries with greater income inequality also have higher rates of homicide, imprisonment, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, physical and mental illness, social distrust, obesity, and substance abuse. The economic inequality causes the ills, they argue: unequal societies make people feel that they are pitted in a winner-take-all competition for dominance, and the stress makes them sick and self-destructive.
The Spirit Level theory has been called “the left’s new theory of everything,” and it is as problematic as any other theory that leaps from a tangle of correlations to a single-cause explanation"(247)

"Economic inequality, then, is not itself a dimension of human well-being, and it should not be confused with unfairness or with poverty. Let’s now turn from the moral significance of inequality to the question of why it has changed over time."(251)

"Some degree of inequality is universal across societies, as is an awareness of inequality. (...)
What happens when a society starts to generate substantial wealth? An increase in absolute inequality (the difference between the richest and poorest) is almost a mathematical necessity. In the absence of an Income Distribution Authority that parcels out identical shares, some people are bound to take greater advantage of the new opportunities than others, whether by luck, skill, or effort, and they will reap disproportionate rewards."(253)

[Opvallend afwezig in dat rijtje: de machtspositie of de ongelijkheid die er al is zodat bepaalde milieus meer kansen hebben op de groei van rijkdom ook al doen ze geen enkele moeite, bezitten ze geen enkele vaardigheid en is het geen kwestie van geluk. ]

"The international and global Gini curves show that despite the anxiety about rising inequality within Western countries, inequality in the world is declining. That’s a circuitous way to state the progress, though: what’s significant about the decline in inequality is that it’s a decline in poverty."(258)

"Those who condemn modern capitalist societies for callousness toward the poor are probably unaware of how little the pre-capitalist societies of the past spent on poor relief."(263)

[Dus ... omdat het vroeger slechter was kan het nu niet slecht zijn? Dat is ook weer zo'n drogredenering.]

"Let’s complete our tour of the history of inequality by turning to the final segment in figure 9-3, the rise of inequality in wealthy nations that began around 1980."(271)

"Readers commit the same fallacy when they read that “the top one percent in 2008” had incomes that were 50 percent higher than “the top one percent in 1988” and conclude that a bunch of rich people got half again richer. People move in and out of income brackets, shuffling the order, so we’re not necessarily talking about the same individuals. The same is true for “the bottom fifth” and every other statistical bin."(277)

[Nee, niet noodzakelijk, maar in de praktijk over het algemeen wel. Of worden al die rijke families ineens arm? Dat is zeer onwaarschijnlijk.]

De utieindelijke conclusies bij dit hoofdstuk:

"Income inequality, in sum, is not a counterexample to human progress, and we are not living in a dystopia of falling incomes that has reversed the centuries-long rise in prosperity. Nor does it call for smashing the robots, raising the drawbridge, switching to socialism, or bringing back the 50s. Let me sum up my complicated story on a complicated topic.
Inequality is not the same as poverty, and it is not a fundamental dimension of human flourishing. In comparisons of well-being across countries, it pales in importance next to overall wealth. An increase in inequality is not necessarily bad: as societies escape from universal poverty, they are bound to become more unequal, and the uneven surge may be repeated when a society discovers new sources of wealth. Nor is a decrease in inequality always good: the most effective levelers of economic disparities are epidemics, massive wars, violent revolutions, and state collapse.
For all that, the long-term trend in history since the Enlightenment is for everyone’s fortunes to rise. In addition to generating massive amounts of wealth, modern societies have devoted an increasing proportion of that wealth to benefiting the less well-off.
As globalization and technology have lifted billions out of poverty and created a global middle class, international and global inequality have decreased, at the same time that they enrich elites whose analytical, creative, or financial impact has global reach. The fortunes of the lower classes in developed countries have not improved nearly as much, but they have improved, often because their members rise into the upper classes. The improvements are enhanced by social spending, and by the falling cost and rising quality of the things people want. In some ways the world has become less equal, but in more ways the world’s people have become better off."(293-295)

(296) Chapter 10 - The environment

Vooruitgang alom, vindt Pinker.

"But is progress sustainable? A common response to the good news about our health, wealth, and sustenance is that it cannot continue. As we infest the world with our teeming numbers, guzzle the earth’s bounty heedless of its finitude, and foul our nests with pollution and waste, we are hastening an environmental day of reckoning. If overpopulation, resource depletion, and pollution don’t finish us off, then climate change will."(296)

[Die hele manier van dingen formuleren kondigt dus nu al aan dat hij vindt dat het allemaal wel meevalt. Want: ook deze problemen zijn oplosbaar.]

"The key idea is that environmental problems, like other problems, are solvable, given the right knowledge."(296)

"Ironically, many voices in the traditional environmental movement refuse to acknowledge that progress, or even that human progress is a worthy aspiration. In this chapter I will present a newer conception of environmentalism which shares the goal of protecting the air and water, species, and ecosystems but is grounded in Enlightenment optimism rather than Romantic declinism."[mijn nadruk](297)

[Het is maar wat je onder 'human progress' verstaat. Maar goed. Pinker heeft iets tegen de milieubeweging daar waar ze de schuld van de milieu-ellende toeschrijven aan de Verlichtingsidealen, namelijk de ontwikkeling en toepassing van wetenschap en technologie. ]

"Unless we repent our sins by degrowth, deindustrialization, and a rejection of the false gods of science, technology, and progress, humanity will face a ghastly reckoning in an environmental Judgment Day.
As with many apocalyptic movements, greenism is laced with misanthropy, including an indifference to starvation, an indulgence in ghoulish fantasies of a depopulated planet, and Nazi-like comparisons of human beings to vermin, pathogens, and cancer"[mijn nadruk](299)

"Recently an alternative approach to environmental protection has been championed by John Asafu-Adjaye, Jesse Ausubel, Andrew Balmford, Stewart Brand, Ruth DeFries, Nancy Knowlton, Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger, and others. It has been called Ecomodernism, Ecopragmatism, Earth Optimism, and the Blue-Green or Turquoise movement, though we can also think of it as Enlightenment Environmentalism or Humanistic Environmentalism.
Ecomodernism begins with the realization that some degree of pollution is an inescapable consequence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics."[mijn nadruk](300)

[Het geromantiseer van de natuur en de natuurtoestand heeft inderdaad nooit iemand geholpen. Maar het herhalen van de onzin van de entropie helpt ook niemand. Leven in harmonie met de natuur is niet mogelijk, zegt Pinker, mensen zullen altijd de natuur verstoren. Het is maar hoe je dat opvat. Het gaat natuurlijk om de mate waarin, om de 'footprint' die mensen achterlaten. Kunnen wetenschap en technologie helpen om die zo klein mogelijk te maken? Daar gaat het eigenlijk om. Op zich misschien wel. Maar die zijn ingebed in maaschappelijke eigendoms- en machtsverhoudingen, en het zou er wel weer eens op uit kunnen draaien dat alleen de rijken en machtigen straks baat zullen hebben van resultaten van wetenschappelijk onderzoek en technische toepassing ervan.]

"A second realization of the ecomodernist movement is that industrialization has been good for humanity. It has fed billions, doubled life spans, slashed extreme poverty, and, by replacing muscle with machinery, made it easier to end slavery, emancipate women, and educate children (chapters 7, 15, and 17). It has allowed people to read at night, live where they want, stay warm in winter, see the world, and multiply human contact. Any costs in pollution and habitat loss have to be weighed against these gifts."[mijn nadruk](302)

[Dat is het door elkaar halen van feiten en waarden. Ook al die 'feiten' kloppen, dan nog kun je vragen stellen als: is het goed dat miljarden mensen door de voedingsindustrie gevoed worden? is het goed dat mensen twee keer zo lang leven? is het goed dat machines het werk van mensen overnemen? en zo verder. Dingen beweren is één ding, dingen goed vinden een ander ding. ]

"The third premise is that the tradeoff that pits human well-being against environmental damage can be renegotiated by technology. How to enjoy more calories, lumens, BTUs, bits, and miles with less pollution and land is itself a technological problem, and one that the world is increasingly solving."[mijn nadruk](303)

[Techniek als de oplossing voor alles. Pinker wil almaar benadrukken dat we de problemen al aan het oplossen zijn. Economische groei leidt vanzelf tot de behoefte aan een schoon milieu, zegt hij. Ja, dat zien we in de USA onder Trump nadrukkelijk gebeuren. Niet dus. ]

"Ecopessimists commonly dismiss this entire way of thinking as the “faith that technology will save us.” In fact it is a skepticism that the status quo will doom us—that knowledge will be frozen in its current state and people will robotically persist in their current behavior regardless of circumstances. Indeed, a naïve faith in stasis has repeatedly led to prophecies of environmental doomsdays that never happened."(305)

Elementen uit dat denken zijn: het geloof in de bevolkingsbom ('population bomb') (volgens Pinker niet waar, omdat er minder kinderen genomen worden als de bevolking rijker en slimmer wordt); het geloof dat de aarde uitgeput wordt en op een gegeven moment geen bronnen ('resources') meer kan leveren (Pinker zegt dat alle voorspellingen op dat vlek niet uitgekomen zijn).

"Not only have the disasters prophesied by 1970s greenism failed to take place, but improvements that it deemed impossible have taken place. As the world has gotten richer and crested the environmental curve, nature has begun to rebound."(315)

"These diverging curves refute both the orthodox Green claim that only degrowth can curb pollution and the orthodox right-wing claim that environmental protection must sabotage economic growth and people’s standard of living."(315)

"The time-lagged decline of deforestation in the tropics is one sign that environmental protection is spreading from developed countries to the rest of the world. The world’s progress can be tracked in a report card called the Environmental Performance Index, a composite of indicators of the quality of air, water, forests, fisheries, farms, and natural habitats. Out of 180 countries that have been tracked for a decade or more, all but two show an improvement.26 The wealthier the country, on average, the cleaner its environment: the Nordic countries were cleanest; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and several sub-Saharan African countries, the most compromised."[mijn nadruk](319)

[Ik word een beetje moe van dat voortdurende optimisme van Pinker ( jongens, maak je geen zorgen, het gaat de goede kant uit ...' - waarom denkt hij dat het die kant uit gaat? door mensen die protesteerden misschien wel). Al de voorbeelden die Pinker geeft zijn op zijn zachtst gezegd twijfelachtig. Inde USA ging het de goede kant op met emissies, maar toen kwam Trump. Ontbossing is niet aan het verminderen: de Amazone wordt wel degelijk kleiner en kleiner, in Indonesië zijn grote problemen met het in brand steken van bos, er is nog steeds geen ommekeer in dat opzicht. En zo verder. Het is allemaal niet zo fraai als Pinker schrijft. ]

"Like all demonstrations of progress, reports on the improving state of the environment are often met with a combination of anger and illogic. The fact that many measures of environmental quality are improving does not mean that everything is OK, that the environment got better by itself, or that we can just sit back and relax. For the cleaner environment we enjoy today we must thank the arguments, activism, legislation, regulations, treaties, and technological ingenuity of the people who sought to improve it in the past. We’ll need more of each to sustain the progress we’ve made, prevent reversals (particularly under the Trump presidency), and extend it to the wicked problems that still face us, such as the health of the oceans and, as we shall see, atmospheric greenhouse gases.
But for many reasons, it’s time to retire the morality play in which modern humans are a vile race of despoilers and plunderers who will hasten the apocalypse unless they undo the Industrial Revolution, renounce technology, and return to an ascetic harmony with nature. Instead, we can treat environmental protection as a problem to be solved: how can people live safe, comfortable, and stimulating lives with the least possible pollution and loss of natural habitats? Far from licensing complacency, our progress so far at solving this problem emboldens us to strive for more. It also points to the forces that pushed this progress along."[mijn nadruk](327)

[Precies. De aanpak die Pinker voor zich ziet: ]

"One key is to decouple productivity from resources: to get more human benefit from less matter and energy. This puts a premium on density."(328)

"All these processes are helped along by another friend of the Earth, dematerialization. Progress in technology allows us to do more with less."(328)

"These remarkable trends required no coercion, legislation, or moralization; they spontaneously unfolded as people made choices about how to live their lives. The trends certainly don’t show that environmental legislation is dispensable — by all accounts, environmental protection agencies, mandated energy standards, endangered species protection, and national and international clean air and water acts have had enormously beneficial effects. But they suggest that the tide of modernity does not sweep humanity headlong toward ever more unsustainable use of resources. Something in the nature of technology, particularly information technology, works to decouple human flourishing from the exploitation of physical stuff.
Just as we must not accept the narrative that humanity inexorably despoils every part of the environment, we must not accept the narrative that every part of the environment will rebound under our current practices. An enlightened environmentalism must face the facts, hopeful or alarming, and one set of facts is unquestionably alarming: the effect of greenhouse gases on the earth’s climate.
"[mijn nadruk](332)

[Over dat laatste laat hij geen twijfel bestaan. En hij heeft geen sympathie voor de rechtse beweging in de VS die de klimaatverandering ontkennen. Maar ook niet voor mensen als Naomi Klein die er veel vergaander conclusies uit trekken dan hij zelf doet: anti-kapitalistische. ]

"Another response to climate change, from the far left, seems designed to vindicate the conspiracy theories of the far right. According to the “climate justice” movement popularized by the journalist Naomi Klein in her 2014 bestseller This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, we should not treat the threat of climate change as a challenge to prevent climate change. No, we should treat it as an opportunity to abolish free markets, restructure the global economy, and remake our political system."(338)

[Waaruit maar weer blijkt dat Pinker een aanhanger is van het kapitalisme, vrije markten, en zo verder. Hij ziet weinig context. Klein ontkent helemaal niet het belang van wetenschappelijk onderzoek, zelfs niet in dat ene citaat dat hij van haar geeft. Wat Klein ziet is dat onderzoek voor allerlei tegenstrijdige standpunten ingezet wordt en dat de onderliggende waarden veel belangrijker zijn. Ik denk dat ze dat ook van dit boek zal zeggen. Ik heb zelf de hele tijd het gevoel dat Pinker zijn normatieve keuzes onderbouwt met onderzoeken en cijfers die toch niemand kan controleren. Op een of andere manier zijn die cijfers minder overtuigend door de achterliggende normatieve keuzes. Je kunt met cijfers en statistieken elk standpunt onderbouwen. Ik vind Pinker nogal naïef. Hij begrijpt bijvoorbeeld ook niet dat al die kleine opofferingen van mensen qua normatieve houding belangrijk zijn, ook al hebben ze niet zo veel effect in het terugbrengen van CO2-niveaus en ook al moeten er grotere ingrepen gedaan worden. Het betekent bijvoorbeeld misschien iets in de stemmen die ze uitbrengen op politici, om maar iets te nomen.]

"Much of the public chatter about mitigating climate change involves voluntary sacrifices like recycling, reducing food miles, unplugging chargers, and so on. (I myself have posed for posters in several of these campaigns led by Harvard students.) But however virtuous these displays may feel, they are a distraction from the gargantuan challenge facing us."(343)

[Een afleiding? Nee, ze hebben er alles mee te maken.]

"But while humans do have public sentiments, it’s unwise to let the fate of the planet hinge on the hope that billions of people will simultaneously volunteer to act against their interests. Most important, the sacrifice needed to bring carbon emissions down by half and then to zero is far greater than forgoing jewelry: it would require forgoing electricity, heating, cement, steel, paper, travel, and affordable food and clothing."(344)

[Ik vind dat heel denigrerend klinken. Niemand denkt dat dat de oplossing is van het probleem. Maar alles helpt. Goed, hoe wil Pinker het probleem dan aanpakken? Met economische groei. Hij zal wel vinden dat alle problemen die dat met zich meebrengt allemaal oplosbaar zijn met wetenschap en technologie. Ik zelf geloof meer in de mensen die de economische groei niet als de oorzaak zien van al het moois in der wereld.]

"Economic progress is an imperative in rich and poor countries alike precisely because it will be needed to adapt to the climate change that does occur. Thanks in good part to prosperity, humanity has been getting healthier (chapters 5 and 6), better fed (chapter 7), more peaceful (chapter 11), and better protected from natural hazards and disasters (chapter 12). These advances have made humanity more resilient to natural and human-made threats: disease outbreaks don’t become pandemics, crop failures in one region are alleviated by surpluses in another, local skirmishes are defused before they erupt into war, populations are better protected against storms, floods, and droughts. Part of our response to climate change must be to ensure that these gains in resilience continue to outpace the threats that a warming planet will throw at it. Every year that developing countries get richer, they will have more resources for building seawalls and reservoirs, improving public health services, and moving people away from rising seas. For that reason they must not be kept in energy poverty—but neither does it make sense for them to raise incomes with massive coal burning that will overwhelm everyone later with weather disasters."[mijn nadruk](346-347)

"How, then, should we deal with climate change? Deal with it we must.(...)
The enlightened response to climate change is to figure out how to get the most energy with the least emission of greenhouse gases. There is, to be sure, a tragic view of modernity in which this is impossible: industrial society, powered by flaming carbon, contains the fuel of its own destruction. But the tragic view is incorrect. Ausubel notes that the modern world has been progressively decarbonizing."(348)

"... decarbonization needs to be helped along with pushes from policy and technology, an idea called deep decarbonization.
It begins with carbon pricing: charging people and companies for the damage they do when they dump their carbon into the atmosphere, either as a tax on carbon or as a national cap with tradeable credits. Economists across the political spectrum endorse carbon pricing because it combines the unique advantages of governments and markets."[mijn nadruk](354)

"A second key to deep decarbonization brings up an inconvenient truth for the traditional Green movement: nuclear power is the world’s most abundant and scalable carbon-free energy source."[mijn nadruk](356)

"Nuclear energy is available around the clock, and it can be plugged into power grids that provide concentrated energy where it is needed. It has a lower carbon footprint than solar, hydro, and biomass, and it’s safer than them, too."(358)

[Dat 'safer' is natuurlijk een plaagstootje. Ik ben er niet zo in thuis, maar Pinkers idee van 'safer' lijkt me toch wat eenzijdig. Ik lees alleen van alles over de voordelen van kernenergie. Maar wat met het afval? En zijn er geen andere problemen aan? Ik kan me toch niet voorstellen dat al die landen hun kernreactoren sluiten alleen maar omdat de Groenen daar op aan dringen. Om dat zo gemakkelijk 'technofobie' te noemen ...]

"Whoever does it, and whichever fuel they use, the success of deep decarbonization will hinge on technological progress. Why assume that the know-how of 2018 is the best the world can do?"(366)

[Ik denk niet dat iemand daar van uit gaat. Technologie zal zich ontwikkelen, maar of daarmee alle problemen opgelost kunnen worden is gewoon de vraag. Kan daarmee de opslag van CO2 geregeld worden? Klimaat engineering worden mogelijk gemaakt? Pinker is voortdurend optimistisch, maar vergeet ook voortdurend de context te beschrijven waarbinnen die technologische innovaties moeten ontstaan en toegepast. Hij vertrouwt op de bestaande economie, op het idee groei, op de bestaande machtsverhoudingen, terwijl al die dingen voor een groot deel medeverantwoordelijk zijn voor de opwarming van de aarde. Industrie heeft de ellende veroorzaakt, met meer industrie gaan we die ellende weer wegwerken, zo ongeveer. ]

"Will any of this happen? The obstacles are unnerving; they include the world’s growing thirst for energy, the convenience of fossil fuels with their vast infrastructure, the denial of the problem by energy corporations and the political right, the hostility to technological solutions from traditional Greens and the climate justice left, and the tragedy of the carbon commons. For all that, preventing climate change is an idea whose time has come."(370)

(380) Chapter 11 - Peace

De cijfers tonen aan dat het wereldwijde geweld afneemt, heeft Pinker in een eerder boek al verdedigd. Er zijn nauwelijks meer oorlogen.

[Opvallend hoe weinig hij oorlogen met de VS noemt, ik hoor niets over de Vietnamoorlog, niets over Irak, niets over de deelname van de VS aan de oorlog in Syrië. Let op hoe Pinker dat doet:]

"During World War II, tens of millions of civilians were slaughtered by Hitler, Stalin, and imperial Japan, and in deliberate bombings of civilian areas by all sides (twice with nuclear weapons) ..."(390)

[De NAAM Verenigde Staten of zijn president Rooseveldt wordt niet genoemd, andere namen wel. Er staat dus niet dat honderduizenden Japanners 'were slaughtered] by the USA / Rooseveldt' of zoiets. Ik vind dat nogal kenmerkend voor Pinker. Weinig kritiek op het meest oorlogzuchtige land ter wereld, het is een teken aan de wand.

"And indeed we find that the turn away from war consists in more than just a reduction in wars and war deaths; it also may be seen in nations’ preparations for war. The prevalence of conscription, the size of armed forces, and the level of global military spending as a percentage of GDP have all decreased in recent decades. Most important, there have been changes in the minds of men (and women)."(394)

[De onderbouwing met bronnen is zwak. Ik geloof er niets van: er worden steeds meer wapens gemaakt en gekocht, er woeden steeds meer ideologische oorlogen.]

"Sure enough, trade as a proportion of GDP shot up in the postwar era, and quantitative analyses have confirmed that trading countries are less likely to go to war, holding all else constant."(395)

[Dankzij de vrije markten en de wereldhandel minder oorlogen, zegt Pinker. Maar die waren er ook al voor de twee wereldoorlogen en de koude oorlog. En de grote rol die het idee van de democratie hier zou spelen waag ik ook te betwijfelen. En dat het nu illegaal is heeft er desondanks toe geleid dat Rusland de Krim annexeerde, zegt Pinker ook zelf. Dat de mentaliteit veranderd is speelt ook een grote rol, zegt Pinker. ]

"At least since the folk-song-and-Woodstock ’60s, the idea that peace is inherently worthy has become second nature to Westerners.(...) But not so long ago it was war that was considered worthy. War was glorious, thrilling, spiritual, manly, noble, heroic, altruistic — a cleansing purgative for the effeminacy, selfishness, consumerism, and hedonism of decadent bourgeois society. (...)
Human life has become more precious, while glory, honor, preeminence, manliness, heroism, and other symptoms of excess testosterone have been downgraded."(400-403)

"Over the long run, a world in which all parties refrain from war is better for everyone. Inventions such as trade, democracy, economic development, peacekeeping forces, and international law and norms are tools that help build that world."(405)

(406) Chapter 12 - Safety

Er komen minder ongelukken en zo voor door bepaalde technische maatregelen als de vangrail. Het aantal moorden is afgenomen door het civilisatieproces.

"Violent crime is a solvable problem."(416)

[Voor Pinker is alles een 'solvable problem'. Dat is in feite de boodschap van dit boek. ]

"Stay close to the symptoms — the neighborhoods and individuals responsible for the biggest wedges of violence — and chip away at the incentives and opportunities that drive them.
It begins with law enforcement. As Thomas Hobbes argued during the Age of Reason, zones of anarchy are always violent. It’s not because everyone wants to prey on everyone else, but because in the absence of a government the threat of violence can be self-inflating. If even a few potential predators lurk in the region or could show up on short notice, people must adopt an aggressive posture to deter them. This deterrent is credible if only they advertise their resolve by retaliating against any affront and avenging any depredation, regardless of the cost. This “Hobbesian trap,” as it is sometimes called, can easily set off cycles of feuding and vendetta: you have to be at least as violent as your adversaries lest you become their doormat. The largest category of homicide, and the one that varies the most across times and places, consists of confrontations between loosely acquainted young men over turf, reputation, or revenge. A disinterested third party with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force — that is, a state with a police force and judiciary — can nip this cycle in the bud. Not only does it disincentivize aggressors by the threat of punishment, but it reassures everyone else that the aggressors are disincentivized and thereby relieves them of the need for belligerent self-defense."[mijn nadruk](420)

[Alle 'law enforcement' heeft niet gemaakt dat de oorzaken van geweld en misdaad verdwenen, bijvoorbeeld armoede, racisme, sexisme en zo verder die maken dat mensen geen kans krijgen. Hoe denkt hij dat die arme buurten ontstaan waar de misdaad welig tiert? En hoe denkt hij die corruptie bij de 'law enforcers' te bestrijden die 'law enforcement' zo inefficiënt maakt? En hoe krijg je die faire en gematigde aanpak en die 'humane' gevangenissen waarvan over het algemeen weinig te merken is? ]

"Also provably effective is cognitive behavioral therapy. This has nothing to do with psychoanalyzing an offender’s childhood conflicts or propping his eyelids open while he retches to violent film clips like in A Clockwork Orange. It is a set of protocols designed to override the habits of thought and behavior that lead to criminal acts. Troublemakers are impulsive: they seize on sudden opportunities to steal or vandalize, and lash out at people who cross them, heedless of the long-term consequences.35 These temptations can be counteracted with therapies that teach strategies of self-control."[mijn nadruk](423)

[Wel psychologie, geen maatschappelijke aanpassingen dus. Aan symptoombestrijding doen en de oorzaken laten bestaan.]

"Whether or not their impetuousness has been brought under control, potential miscreants can stay out of trouble simply because opportunities for instant gratification have been removed from their environments. When cars are harder to steal, houses are harder to burgle, goods are harder to pilfer and fence, pedestrians carry more credit cards than cash, and dark alleys are lit and video-monitored, would-be criminals don’t seek another outlet for their larcenous urges. The temptation passes, and a crime is not committed."[mijn nadruk](425)

[Wel de inzet van technologie, geen maatschappelijke aanpassingen dus. Ik lees nog niets over kansen op een basisinkomen, op goede opvoeding en fantastisch onderwijs, op zinvol werk ook al ben je zwart. Het gegeven dat het aantal doden door verkeers- en andere ongelukken door de jaren is afgenomen door allerlei technische maatregelen te nemen en die verplicht te stellen is niet te vergelijken met het terugbrengen van geweld door mensen in kansarme milieus. ]

"And the biggest salvation is to come. Within a decade of this writing, most new cars will be driven by computers rather than by slow-witted and scatterbrained humans. When robotic cars are ubiquitous, they could save more than a million lives a year, becoming one of the greatest gifts to human life since the invention of antibiotics."[mijn nadruk](435)

[Pinker gelooft heilig in technische oplossingen. Geen gezond wantrouwen van zijn kant waar het om technologie gaat.]

"The first safety measures and insurance policies in the 18th and 19th centuries protected property, not people. As injuries and deaths started to increase unignorably during the Industrial Revolution, they were written off as “the price of progress,” according to a nonhumanistic definition of “progress” that was not reckoned in human welfare. A railroad superintendent, justifying his refusal to put a roof over a loading platform, explained that “men are cheaper than shingles. . . . There’s a dozen waiting when one drops out.” The inhuman pace of industrial production has been immortalized in cultural icons such as Charlie Chaplin on the assembly line in Modern Times and Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory in I Love Lucy.
Workplaces began to change in the late 19th century as the first labor unions organized, journalists took up the cause, and government agencies started to collect data quantifying the human toll."[mijn nadruk](449)

[En tot hoeveel doden en gehandicapten en zo verder zal dat kapitalisme geleid hebben, mijnheer Pinker? En wat zou er gebeurd zijn als er geen vakbonden waren die onmenselijke werkonstandigheden in bedrijven aan de kaak stellen? Wat nu met die gemakkelijke kritiek op socialisme en communisme van voorheen?]

"And of course a richer world can rescue and treat its injured and quickly rebuild."(453)

[Ook dat komt de hele tijd terug: als er maar sprake is van economische groei en toenemende welvaart dan komt alles goed, volgens Pinker. ]

(460) Chapter 13 - Terrorism

Het aantal doden en zo door terorisme valt in het niet bij de in het vorige hoofdstuk gegeven cijfers. Het bestaan ervan zet onterecht een negatieve toon.

"Indeed, the rise of terrorism in public awareness is not a sign of how dangerous the world has become but the opposite. The political scientist Robert Jervis observes that the placement of terrorism at the top of the list of threats “in part stems from a security environment that is remarkably benign.”"(475)

"As states try to carry out the impossible mandate of protecting their citizens from all political violence everywhere and all the time, they are tempted to respond with theater of their own. The most damaging effect of terrorism is countries’ overreaction to it, the case in point being the American-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq following 9/11.
Instead, countries could deal with terrorism by deploying their greatest advantage: knowledge and analysis, not least knowledge of the numbers."(477)

"Ideologies that justify violence against innocents, such as militant religions, nationalism, and Marxism, can be countered with better systems of value and belief (chapter 23)."(478)

[Let op die opsomming, die suggestief is. Militante religies, niet religie op zich. Nationalisme, niet racisme en seksisme en zo. Marxisme, niet liberalisme en kapitalisme die al eindeloos lang mensen kapot maken. Dat is een van de argumentatietrucs die Pinker steeds weer uit haalt. Hij is stiekem heel selectief in zijn weergave in het voordeel van de VS, kapitalisme, wetenschap, etc.]

(480) Chapter 14 - Democracy

"One can think of democracy as a form of government that threads the needle, exerting just enough force to prevent people from preying on each other without preying on the people itself. A good democratic government allows people to pursue their lives in safety, protected from the violence of anarchy, and in freedom, protected from the violence of tyranny. For that reason alone, democracy is a major contributor to human flourishing. But it’s not the only reason: democracies also have higher rates of economic growth, fewer wars and genocides, healthier and better-educated citizens, and virtually no famines. If the world has become more democratic over time, that is progress. In fact the world has become more democratic, though not in a steadily rising tide."[mijn nadruk](482)

[In het vervolg - waar Fukuyama genoemd wordt en het gegeven dat democratieën weer afglijden naar dictaturen - niets over de situatie in de VS waar het grote geld regeert, niets over de rol van de VS in het onderuit halen van democratieën zoals in Chili en over het opleggen van 'democratie' als het stiekem opleggen van een kapitalistisch economisch model met neoliberale ideeën over de samenleving. Selectieve waarneming. Nou, hoe staat het met de democratie? ]

"As always, the only way to know which way the world is going is to quantify."(486)

[Wat stomweg niet waar is ... ]

"The awe [voor democratie bij allerlei theoretici -GdG] is reinforced by a civics-class idealization of democracy in which an informed populace deliberates about the common good and carefully selects leaders who carry out their preference.
By that standard, the number of democracies in the world is zero in the past, zero in the present, and almost certainly zero in the future. Political scientists are repeatedly astonished by the shallowness and incoherence of people’s political beliefs, and by the tenuous connection of their preferences to their votes and to the behavior of their representatives."[mijn nadruk](492)

[Pinker snapt blijkbaar niet het verschil tussen hoe het is en hoe het moet zijn. We kunnen vanuit die norm dus zeggen dat het over het algemeen slecht gesteld is met de democratie en dat er kwalitatief nog een heleboel moet veranderen. Wat ook illustreert dat cijfertjes lang niet altijd het belangrijkste zeggen. ]

"So despite the widespread belief that elections are the quintessence of democracy, they are only one of the mechanisms by which a government is held responsible to those it governs, and not always a constructive one."(494)

[Poetins Rusland wordt als voorbeeld gegeven van manieren waarop die verkiezingen beïnvloed en gestuurd worden. Dat hetzelfde gebeurt in de VS horen we weer niet. ]

"The freedom to complain rests on an assurance that the government won’t punish or silence the complainer. The front line in democratization, then, is constraining the government from abusing its monopoly on force to brutalize its uppity citizens."(499)

"The top five countries that still execute people in significant numbers form an unlikely club: China and Iran (more than a thousand apiece annually), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. As in other areas of human flourishing (such as crime, war, health, longevity, accidents, and education), the United States is a laggard among wealthy democracies.(...) The reason the United States is a death-penalty outlier is that it is, in one sense, too democratic."(506)

"But the United States, for better or worse, is closer to having government by the people for the people. Other than for a few federal crimes like terrorism and treason, the death penalty is decided upon by individual states, voted on by legislators who are close to their constituents, and in many states sought and approved by prosecutors and judges who have to stand for reelection. Southern states have a longstanding culture of honor, with its ethos of justified retaliation, and not surprisingly, American executions are concentrated in a handful of Southern states, mainly Texas, Georgia, and Missouri—indeed, in a handful of counties in those states."[mijn nadruk](508)

[Dat het volk die invloed heeft zegt niet zo veel over het 'democratische gehalte'van de VS. ]

(515) Chapter 15 - Equal rights

Er is ook vooruitgang te bespeuren wat betreft de rechten van vrouwen, mensen met kleur, mensen met een andere seksuele geaardheid.

"But it’s in the nature of progress that it erases its tracks, and its champions fixate on the remaining injustices and forget how far we have come. An axiom of progressive opinion, especially in universities, is that we continue to live in a deeply racist, sexist, and homophobic society—which would imply that progressivism is a waste of time, having accomplished nothing after decades of struggle."(517)

[Uiteraard wordt dat ook in dit hoofstuk de benadering. ]

"No form of progress is inevitable, but the historical erosion of racism, sexism, and homophobia are more than a change in fashion. As we will see, it seems to be pushed along by the tide of modernity. In a cosmopolitan society, people rub shoulders, do business, and find themselves in the same boat with other kinds of people, and that tends to make them more sympathetic to one another. Also, as people are forced to justify the way they treat other people, rather than dominating them out of instinctive, religious, or historical inertia, any justification for prejudicial treatment will crumble under scrutiny.26 Racial segregation, male-only suffrage, and the criminalization of homosexuality are literally indefensible: people tried to defend them in their times, and they lost the argument."(530)

"The well-being of children is yet another case in which lurid headlines terrify news readers even as they have less to be terrified about. Media reports of school shootings, abductions, bullying, cyberbullying, sexting, date rape, and sexual and physical abuse make it seem as if children are living in increasingly perilous times. The data say otherwise."(547)

(557) Chapter 16 - Knowledge

De invloed van onderwijs is immens.

"Today, education is compulsory in most countries, and it is recognized as a fundamental human right by the 170 members of the United Nations that signed the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights."(558)

"The first countries that made the Great Escape from universal poverty in the 19th century, and the countries that have grown the fastest ever since, are the countries that educated their children most intensely (...) Studies that assess education at Time 1 and wealth at Time 2, holding all else constant, suggest that investing in education really does make countries richer. At least it does if the education is secular and rationalistic.(560)"

Meer onderwijs is echt een Verlichtingsideaal:

"But some of the causal pathways vindicate the values of the Enlightenment. So much changes when you get an education! You unlearn dangerous superstitions, such as that leaders rule by divine right, or that people who don’t look like you are less than human. You learn that there are other cultures that are as tied to their ways of life as you are to yours, and for no better or worse reason. You learn that charismatic saviors have led their countries to disaster. You learn that your own convictions, no matter how heartfelt or popular, may be mistaken. You learn that there are better and worse ways to live, and that other people and other cultures may know things that you don’t. Not least, you learn that there are ways of resolving conflicts without violence. All these epiphanies militate against knuckling under the rule of an autocrat or joining a crusade to subdue and kill your neighbors. Of course, none of this wisdom is guaranteed, particularly when authorities promulgate their own dogmas, alternative facts, and conspiracy theories — and, in a backhanded compliment to the power of knowledge, stifle the people and ideas that might discredit them.
Studies of the effects of education confirm that educated people really are more enlightened. They are less racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, and authoritarian. They place a higher value on imagination, independence, and free speech. They are more likely to vote, volunteer, express political views, and belong to civic associations such as unions, political parties, and religious and community organizations. They are also likelier to trust their fellow citizens—a prime ingredient of the precious elixir called social capital which gives people the confidence to contract, invest, and obey the law without fearing that they are chumps who will be shafted by everyone else."(561-563)

"While global rates of literacy and basic education are converging to their natural ceiling, the number of years of schooling, extending into tertiary and postgraduate education in colleges and universities, continues to grow in every country."(566)

Ook vrouwen en minderheden hebben meer toegang tot onderwijs dan voorheen. In het algemeen nemen ook slimheid (als IQ-scores) toe.

"People with high scores on intelligence tests get better jobs, perform better in their jobs, enjoy better health and longer lives, are less likely to get into trouble with the law, and have a greater number of noteworthy accomplishments like starting companies, earning patents, and creating respected works of art—all holding socioeconomic status constant. (The myth, still popular among leftist intellectuals, that IQ doesn’t exist or cannot be reliably measured was refuted decades ago.)"(579)

[Zo jammer, die voortdurende cynische verwijten naar links. Ik denk niet dat iemand daar ooit gezegd heeft dat IQ niet bestaat, IQ is een constructie en bestaat niet los van wat mensen er in willen zien is daar waarschijnlijk het idee en dat is heel wat anders. Ik heb hier opok geen opmerkingen gezien over de machtsverhoudingen in de samenleving die maken dat bepaalde groepen beter onderwijs krijgen en daarmee betere kansen omdat ze privéonderwijs of een elite-universiteit kunnen betalen - zoals dat in de VS en de UK en op een andere manier in Frankrijk bestaat.]

(588) Chapter 17 - Quality of life

"Though only the callous would deny that the conquests of disease, hunger, and illiteracy are stupendous achievements, one can still wonder whether continuous improvements in the kinds of things that economists measure should count as genuine progress. Once basic needs are satisfied, doesn’t additional affluence just encourage people to indulge in shallow consumerism? And weren’t increases in health and literacy trumpeted by the Five-Year Planners in the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, all of which were rather grim places to live? People can be healthy, solvent, and literate and still not lead rich and meaningful lives.
Some of these reservations have already been answered. We’ve seen that totalitarianism, the main impediment to the good life in communist so-called utopias, has been receding. We’ve also seen that a major dimension of flourishing that is not captured by the standard metrics—the rights of women, children, and minorities—is on a steady rise. This chapter is about a broader cultural pessimism: the worry that all that extra healthy life span and income may not have increased human flourishing after all if they just consign people to a rat race of frenzied careerism, hollow consumption, mindless entertainment, and soul-deadening anomie."[mijn nadruk](588-589)

[De vragen zijn goed, want normatief. Maar waarom weer die verwijzingen naar het communisme? Zullen we het eens over de ellende tijdens de Grote Depressie van 1929 hebben? En ik kan nog wel meer 'grim places to live' bedenken in het globale neoliberale kapitalisme. Pinker is zonder zelfkritiek.]

"In this chapter I’ll show how modernity is increasingly allowing people to exercise these capabilities, too — that life is getting better even beyond the standard economists’ metrics like longevity and wealth. (...) an expansive cafeteria of opportunities to enjoy the aesthetic, intellectual, social, cultural, and natural delights of the world, regardless of which ones people put on their trays, is the ultimate form of progress."(591)

[En hup, meteen gooit hij weer met cijfertjes. Mensen hebben meer vrije tijd, kunnen met pensioen, gepensioneerden zijn rijker, en zo verder en kunnen dus deelnemen aan samenleving en cultuur. Ja, maar (hoe) doen ze dat? ]

"Thanks to the labor movement, legislation, and increased worker productivity, another once-crazy pipe dream has become a reality: paid vacations."(596)

[Ironisch dat hij er af en toe op wijst dat de arbeidersbeweging bepaalde zaken voor elkaar heeft gespeeld die mensen de ruimte gaven om zich verder te ontwikkelen. Almaar schelden op socialisme en communisme en de 'linksen' terwijl de huidige samenleving ontzettend veel te danken heeft aan die mensen die zich verzetten tegen de ellende die kapitalisten teweeg brachten. en probeerde de samenleving anders in te richten.]

"Time is not the only life-enriching resource granted to us by technology. Another is light. Light is so empowering that it serves as the metaphor of choice for a superior intellectual and spiritual state: enlightenment. In the natural world we are plunged into darkness for half of our existence, but human-made light allows us to take back the night for reading, moving about, seeing people’s faces, and otherwise engaging with our surroundings."(600)

"What are people doing with that extra time and money? Are they truly enriching their lives, or are they just buying more golf clubs and designer handbags? Though it’s presumptuous to pass judgment on how people choose to spend their days, we can focus on the pursuits that almost everyone would agree are constituents of a good life: connecting with loved ones and friends, experiencing the richness of the natural and cultural worlds, and having access to the fruits of intellectual and artistic creativity."[mijn nadruk](604)

[Ja, daar ging de vraag over. Maar helaas: lekker vaag weer. Wat wordt concreet bedoeld? En weer volgen de cijfers en de statistiekjes.]

"Last but not least, access to the finest products of the human mind has been fabulously broadened and democratized. It’s hard for us to reconstruct the gnawing boredom of the isolated rural households of yesteryear. In the late 19th century there was not only no Internet but no radio, television, movies, or musical recordings, and for the majority of households not even a book or newspaper. For entertainment, men would go to the saloon to drink. (...) A country-dweller today can choose from among hundreds of television channels and half a billion Web sites, embracing every newspaper and magazine in the world (including their archives going back more than a century), every great work of literature that is out of copyright, an encyclopedia more than seventy times the size of Britannica with about the same level of accuracy, and every classic work of art and music."[mijn nadruk](614)

[Dat is nogal een waardeoordeel. Ook al heb je 1000 tv-kanalen en websites en social media ter beschikking, als de inhoud zo erg is als we vandaag overal kunnen waarnemen waar is dan de kwalitatieve vooruitgang? ]

(618) Chapter 18 - Happiness

"But are we any happier? If we have a shred of cosmic gratitude, we ought to be. An American in 2015, compared with his or her counterpart a half-century earlier, will live nine years longer, have had three more years of education, earn an additional $33,000 a year per family member (only a third of which, rather than half, will go to necessities), and have an additional eight hours a week of leisure. He or she can spend that leisure time reading on the Web, listening to music on a smartphone, streaming movies on high-definition TV, Skyping with friends and relatives, or dining on Thai food instead of Spam fritters."(618)

[Gaan we weer. Alsof geluk alleen maar bepaald wordt door kwantitatieve factoren. Bovendien is onderzoek naar zoiets als geluk notoir moeilijk, juist om die reden: ook al zeggen mensen in onderzoeken dat ze (niet) gelukkig zijn, zijn ze het dan ook echt (niet)? Wat zijn de maatstaven die mensen hanteren?]

"People seem to bitch, moan, whine, carp, and kvetch as much as ever, and the proportion of Americans who tell pollsters that they are happy has remained steady for decades."(618)

"If, in this sense, things never get better, one can wonder whether all that economic, medical, and technological so-called progress was worth it. Many argue that it was not. We have been spiritually impoverished, they say, by the rise of individualism, materialism, consumerism, and decadent wealth, and by the erosion of traditional communities with their hearty social bonds and their sense of meaning and purpose bestowed by religion. That is why, one often reads, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicide have been soaring, and why Sweden, that secular paradise, has a famously high rate of suicide."[mijn nadruk](622)

[Dat hoeft allemaal niet met religie te maken te hebben. De kern van de zaak is homogeniteit, kleinschaligheid, dat iedereen elkaar kan volgen, en zo verder. Heldere waarden en normen.]

"If all those extra years of life and health, all that additional knowledge and leisure and breadth of experience, all those advances in peace and safety and democracy and rights, have really left us no happier but just lonelier and more suicidal, it would be history’s greatest joke on humanity. But before we start walking around with a donkey with pots clanging on the sides, we had better take a closer look at the facts about human happiness."(623)

"In this sense we can say that people who live long, healthy, and stimulating lives are truly better off even if they have a morose temperament or are in a bad mood or are spoiled idiots and fail to count their blessings. One rationale for this apparent paternalism is that life, health, and freedom are prerequisites to everything else, including the very act of pondering what is worthwhile in life, and so they are worthy by their very nature."(625)

"Among these intrinsic goods is freedom or autonomy: the availability of options to lead a good life (positive freedom) and the absence of coercion that prevents a person from choosing among them (negative freedom). (...) Positive freedom is related to the economist’s notion of utility (what people want; what they spend their wealth on), and negative freedom to the political scientist’s notions of democracy and human rights. As I mentioned, freedom (together with life and reason) is a prerequisite to the very act of evaluating what is good in life."[mijn nadruk](625)

"What about happiness itself? How can a scientist measure something as subjective as subjective well-being? The best way to find out how happy people are is to ask them. Who could be a better judge?"(627)

[De buurman? Hun ouders? Hun man of vrouw? Hun kinderen? ]

"And this brings us to the final dimension of a good life, meaning and purpose. This is the quality that, together with happiness, goes into Aristotle’s ideal of eudaemonia or “good spirit."(629)

"We are happier, in general, when we are healthy, comfortable, safe, provisioned, socially connected, sexual, and loved."(632)

Geluk en economische welvaart hangen samen.

"... happiness increased between 1973 and 2009 in tandem with the country’s rise in GDP per capita. A confirmation for the world as a whole comes from the World Values Survey, which found that in forty-five out of fifty-two countries, happiness increased between 1981 and 2007. The trends over time close the books on the Easterlin paradox: we now know that richer people within a country are happier, that richer countries are happier, and that people get happier as their countries get richer (which means that people get happier over time)."(639)

"To hear the observers of the modern world tell it, Westerners have been getting lonelier. In 1950 David Riesman (together with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney) wrote the sociological classic The Lonely Crowd. In 1966 the Beatles wondered where all the lonely people come from, and where they all belong. In a 2000 bestseller the political scientist Robert Putnam noted that Americans were increasingly Bowling Alone. And in 2010 the psychiatrists Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz wrote of The Lonely American (subtitle: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century). For a member of gregarious Homo sapiens, social isolation is a form of torture, and the stress of loneliness a major risk to health and life. So it would be another joke on modernity if our newfound connectivity has left us lonelier than ever."(648)

"To anyone who believes there is such a thing as human nature, it seems unlikely, and the data show it is false: there is no loneliness epidemic."(649)

[Ja, 'the data', daar draait het om ... Maar hoe betrouwbaar zijn 'the data'? Waar komen ze vandaan? ]

"Together with “the kids today,” the perennial target of cultural pessimists is technology. In 2015 the sociologist Keith Hampton and his coauthors introduced a report on the psychological effects of social media"[mijn nadruk](652)

"Nor, according to the new surveys, have adults become isolated because of social media. Users of social media have more close friends, express more trust in people, feel more supported, and are more politically involved."(653)

"Modern life, then, has not crushed our minds and bodies, turned us into atomized machines suffering from toxic levels of emptiness and isolation, or set us drifting apart without human contact or emotion. How did this hysterical misconception arise? Partly it came out of the social critic’s standard formula for sowing panic: Here’s an anecdote, therefore it’s a trend, therefore it’s a crisis. But partly it came from genuine changes in how people interact. People see each other less in traditional venues like clubs, churches, unions, fraternal organizations, and dinner parties, and more in informal gatherings and via digital media."[mijn nadruk](654)

[Het is niet slechter, het is anders, is Pinkers boodschap. Let op alle vage termen in de conclusie. Let ook op de sneren naar sociale critici. Maar het is uiteindelijk niet objectief, het is normatief. En andere onderzoeken laten zien dat er wél sprake is van toenemende eenzaamheid, contactarmoede, en zo meer.]

"Everything is amazing. Are we really so unhappy? Mostly we are not. Developed countries are actually pretty happy, a majority of all countries have gotten happier, and as long as countries get richer they should get happier still. The dire warnings about plagues of loneliness, suicide, depression, and anxiety don’t survive fact-checking. And though every generation has worried that the next one is in trouble, as younger generations go the Millennials seem to be in pretty good shape, happier and mentally healthier than their helicoptering parents."(671)

(685) Chapter 19 - Existential threats

[Gaat door met dat eeuwige optimistische 'alles is juist beter geworden'.]

"For half a century the four horsemen of the modern apocalypse have been overpopulation, resource shortages, pollution, and nuclear war. They have recently been joined by a cavalry of more exotic knights: nanobots that will engulf us, robots that will enslave us, artificial intelligence that will turn us into raw materials, and Bulgarian teenagers who will brew a genocidal virus or take down the Internet from their bedrooms. The sentinels for the familiar horsemen tended to be romantics and Luddites. But those who warn of the higher-tech dangers are often scientists and technologists who have deployed their ingenuity to identify ever more ways in which the world will soon end."[mijn nadruk](686)

Al die paniek over mogelijke catastrofes is gevaarlijk, aldus Pinker. Het kan de catastrofes juist oproepen.

"Sowing fear about hypothetical disasters, far from safeguarding the future of humanity, can endanger it."(689)

"Technology, then, is not the reason that our species must someday face the Grim Reaper. Indeed, technology is our best hope for cheating death, at least for a while."(698)

"As we saw with climate change, people may be likelier to acknowledge a problem when they have reason to think it is solvable than when they are terrified into numbness and helplessness."(740)

(767) Chapter 20 - The future of progress

Begint met een samenvatting van wat er allemaal verbeterd is. Conclusie:

"The Enlightenment is working: for two and a half centuries, people have used knowledge to enhance human flourishing. Scientists have exposed the workings of matter, life, and mind. Inventors have harnessed the laws of nature to defy entropy, and entrepreneurs have made their innovations affordable. Lawmakers have made people better off by discouraging acts that are individually beneficial but collectively harmful. Diplomats have done the same with nations. Scholars have perpetuated the treasury of knowledge and augmented the power of reason. Artists have expanded the circle of sympathy. Activists have pressured the powerful to overturn repressive measures, and their fellow citizens to change repressive norms. All these efforts have been channeled into institutions that have allowed us to circumvent the flaws of human nature and empower our better angels.
At the same time . . ."(774)

Volgt een opsomming van alle mogelijke ellende.

"The facts in the last three paragraphs, of course, are the same as the ones in the first eight; I’ve simply read the numbers from the bad rather than the good end of the scales or subtracted the hopeful percentages from 100. My point in presenting the state of the world in these two ways is not to show that I can focus on the space in the glass as well as on the beverage. It’s to reiterate that progress is not utopia, and that there is room—indeed, an imperative—for us to strive to continue that progress. If we can sustain the trends in the first eight paragraphs by deploying knowledge to enhance flourishing, the numbers in the last three paragraphs should shrink. Whether they will ever get to zero is a problem we can worry about when we get closer. Even if some do, we will surely discover more harms to rectify and new ways to enrich human experience. The Enlightenment is an ongoing process of discovery and betterment."(777)

"How reasonable is the hope for continuing progress? That’s the question I’ll consider in this last chapter in the Progress section, before switching in the remainder of the book to the ideals that are necessary to realize the hope."(778)

"Whatever its causes, economic stagnation is at the root of many other problems and poses a significant challenge for 21st-century policymakers. Does that mean that progress was nice while it lasted, but now it’s over? Unlikely! For one thing, growth that is slower than it was during the postwar glory days is still growth—indeed, exponential growth."(787)

"Unlike practitioners of the dismal science, technology watchers are adamant that we are entering an age of abundance.15 Bill Gates has compared the forecast of technological stagnation to the (apocryphal) prediction in 1913 that war was obsolete. “Imagine a world of nine billion people,” write the tech entrepreneur Peter Diamandis and the journalist Steven Kotler, “with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, and nonpolluting, ubiquitous energy.” Their vision comes not from fantasies out of The Jetsons but from technologies that are already working, or are very close."(789)

[En natuurlijk worden al die technieken gratis en voor niets aan alle andere mensen en volkeren ter wereld uitgedeeld ... Zucht. Is Pinker nu echt zo naïef? ]

"A very different threat to human progress is a political movement that seeks to undermine its Enlightenment foundations. The second decade of the 21st century has seen the rise of a counter-Enlightenment movement called populism, more accurately, authoritarian populism. Populism calls for the direct sovereignty of a country’s “people” (usually an ethnic group, sometimes a class), embodied in a strong leader who directly channels their authentic virtue and experience.
Authoritarian populism can be seen as a pushback of elements of human nature—tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, zero-sum thinking—against the Enlightenment institutions that were designed to circumvent them. By focusing on the tribe rather than the individual, it has no place for the protection of minority rights or the promotion of human welfare worldwide. By failing to acknowledge that hard-won knowledge is the key to societal improvement, it denigrates “elites” and “experts” and downplays the marketplace of ideas, including freedom of speech, diversity of opinion, and the fact-checking of self-serving claims. By valorizing a strong leader, populism overlooks the limitations in human nature, and disdains the rule-governed institutions and constitutional checks that constrain the power of flawed human actors.
Populism comes in left-wing and right-wing varieties"(798)

[Zoiets zeggen en het dan verder alleen over rechts populisne hebben ... Het illustreert Pinkers hekel aan linkse intellectuelen en zo. Maar ... Eindelijk eens zinvolle kritiek, op het populisme van rechts en ook op Trump. dit is een fraaie samenvatting van wat er allemaal fout is aan Trump. Maar Pinker vindt uitendelijk toch dat Trumps presidentschap de vooruitgang niet zal bedreigen die in gang is gezet sinds de Verlichting.]

"Among the exit poll questions that probed general attitudes, the most consistent predictor of Trump support was pessimism. Sixty-nine percent of Trump supporters felt that the direction of the country was “seriously off track,” and they were similarly jaundiced about the workings of the federal government and the lives of the next generation of Americans."[mijn nadruk](815)

[En dat pessimisme schrijft Pinker toe aan de invloed van de (linkse?) sociaal-kritische media en intellectuelen. ]

"Populist voters are older, more religious, more rural, less educated, and more likely to be male and members of the ethnic majority. They embrace authoritarian values, place themselves on the right of the political spectrum, and dislike immigration and global and national governance."(815)

"I believe that the media and intelligentsia were complicit in populists’ depiction of modern Western nations as so unjust and dysfunctional that nothing short of a radical lurch could improve them.(...) The problem with dystopian rhetoric is that if people believe that the country is a flaming dumpster, they will be receptive to the perennial appeal of demagogues: “What do you have to lose?” If the media and intellectuals instead put events into statistical and historical context, they could help answer that question. (...)
A liberal democracy is a precious achievement. Until the messiah comes, it will always have problems, but it’s better to solve those problems than to start a conflagration and hope that something better arises from the ashes and bones. By failing to take note of the gifts of modernity, social critics poison voters against responsible custodians and incremental reformers who can consolidate the tremendous progress we have enjoyed and strengthen the conditions that will bring us more."(824)

(828) Part III - Reason, science, and humanism

"This part of the book wraps up my defense of the ideas of the Enlightenment. Part I outlined those ideas; part II showed they work. Now it’s time to defend them against some surprising enemies—not just angry populists and religious fundamentalists, but factions of mainstream intellectual culture."(829)

(832) Chapter 21 - Reason

"The left, too, has missed the boat in its contempt for the market and its romance with Marxism. Industrial capitalism launched the Great Escape from universal poverty in the 19th century and is rescuing the rest of humankind in a Great Convergence in the 21st. Over the same time span, communism brought the world terror-famines, purges, gulags, genocides, Chernobyl, megadeath revolutionary wars, and North Korea–style poverty before collapsing everywhere else of its own internal contradictions. Yet in a recent survey 18 percent of social science professors identified themselves as Marxist, and the words capitalist and free market still stick in the throats of most intellectuals.38 Partly this is because their brains autocorrect these terms to unbridled, unregulated, unfettered, or untrammeled free markets, perpetuating a false dichotomy: a free market can coexist with regulations on safety, labor, and the environment, just as a free country can coexist with criminal laws. And a free market can coexist with high levels of spending on health, education, and welfare (chapter 9)—indeed, some of the countries with the greatest amount of social spending also have the greatest amount of economic freedom.
To be fair to the left, the libertarian right has embraced the same false dichotomy and seems all too willing to play the left’s straw man.40 Right-wing libertarians (in their 21st-century Republican Party version) have converted the observation that too much regulation can be harmful (by over-empowering bureaucrats, costing more to society than it delivers in benefits, or protecting incumbents against competition rather than consumers against harm) into the dogma that less regulation is always better than more regulation. They have converted the observation that too much social spending can be harmful (by creating perverse incentives against work and undermining the norms and institutions of civil society) into the dogma that any amount of social spending is too much."(866)

"Universities ought to be the arena in which political prejudice is set aside and open-minded investigation reveals the way the world works. But just when we need this disinterested forum the most, academia has become more politicized as well — not more polarized, but more left-wing. Colleges have always been more liberal than the American population, but the skew has been increasing."(886)

"In The Blank Slate (updated in 2016) I showed how leftist politics had distorted the study of human nature, including sex, violence, gender, childrearing, personality, and intelligence. In a recent manifesto, Tetlock, together with the psychologists José Duarte, Jarret Crawford, Charlotta Stern, Jonathan Haidt, and Lee Jussim, documented the leftward swing of social psychology and showed how it has compromised the quality of research."(888)

(918) Chapter 22 - Science

"These awe-inspiring achievements [van de wetenschap - GdG] put the lie to any moaning that we live in an age of decline, disenchantment, meaninglessness, shallowness, or the absurd. Yet today the beauty and power of science are not just unappreciated but bitterly resented. The disdain for science may be found in surprising quarters: not just among religious fundamentalists and know-nothing politicians, but among many of our most adored intellectuals and in our most august institutions of higher learning."[mijn nadruk](922)

[Ik neem aan dat hier herhaald gaat worden wat hij in The Blank Slate betoogt. Voorliefde voor natuurwetenschappen, groot wantrouwen tegenover sociale wetenschappen, een grote hekel aan linkse intellectuelen die er op hameren dat de samenleving van grote invloed is, dat veel kennis alleen maar constructie is.]

Dat rechtse politici het wantrouwen tegenover wetenschap voeden om hun bullshit te kunnen blijven verkopen ligt voor de hand. Maar ook linse politici en intellectuelen doen er aan mee:

"It was the left that stoked panics about overpopulation, nuclear power, and genetically modified organisms. Research on intelligence, sexuality, violence, parenting, and prejudice have been distorted by tactics ranging from the choice of items in questionnaires to the intimidation of researchers who fail to ratify the politically correct orthodoxy."(925)

[Pinker onderscheidt dus tussen een goed soort wetenschap, die van hem, en een slecht soort wetenschap. Hij neemt normatieve standpunten in. De maatstaven voor wat hier goed en slecht is heeft hij tot dusver niet duielijk gemaakt. Je zou kunnen zeggen: heel goed dat linkse wetenschappers wijzen op de gevaren van overbevolking, kernenergie en genetische modificatie en de problemen hier niet weg willen praten zoals Pinker de hele tijd doet. Het is ook raar om te doen alsof reductionisme en sciëntisme niet bestaan of dat natuurwetenschappelijke onderzoeksmethoden geschikt zijn om alles te bestuderen.]

"Science cannot be blamed for genocide and war, and does not threaten the moral and spiritual health of our nation. On the contrary, science is indispensable in all areas of human concern, including politics, the arts, and the search for meaning, purpose, and morality."[mijn nadruk](929)

[Dat niveau ... Natuurlijk kun je wetenschap niets verwijten, wetenschap is een ding een activiteit. Maar wetenschappers kun je wél van alles verwijten, bijvoorbeeld dat ze op basis van ondoordachte waarden en normen verkeerde keuzes maken in hun onderzoek en zich voor het karretje laten spannen van politici die hun onderzoek gebruiken voor het maken van atoombommen, het hacken van jan en alleman, het ontwerpen van wapens, of van bedrijven die slechte medicijnen maken om meer geld te verdienen en zo verder en zo meer. Pinker doet net alsof wetenschap NIET bedreven word binnen bepaalde machtsverhoudingen, binnen een bepaalde economische context.]

"... a call for everyone to think more scientifically must not be confused with a call to hand decision-making over to scientists. Many scientists are naïfs when it comes to policy and law ... "(932)

[Dat denk ik ook. En ook als het gaat om hun eigen waarden en normen, hun eigen keuzes, hun eigen voorkeuren, hun eigen vooroordelen. Maar dat is ook precies waarom ze zich zo gemakkelijk voor het karretje laten spannen van allerlei groeperingen. Pinker zal verderop zelf komen met voorbeelden als het sociaal darwinisme en de eugenetica, maar dat lag allemaal niet 'aan de wetenschap'. ]

"All the [wetenschappelijke - GdG] methods are pressed into the service of two ideals, and it is these ideals that advocates of science want to export to the rest of intellectual life.
The first is that the world is intelligible. The phenomena we experience may be explained by principles that are deeper than the phenomena themselves.(...) The principles making up an explanation may in turn be explained by still deeper principles, and so on."(936-937)

"Demonizers of scientism often confuse intelligibility with a sin called reductionism, the analysis of a complex system into simpler elements, or, according to the accusation, nothing but simpler elements. In fact, to explain a complex happening in terms of deeper principles is not to discard its richness."[mijn nadruk](937)

[Voor iemand die zo pleit voor een open debat is Pinker behoorlijk verblind door zijn eigen gelijk: sciëntisme en reductionisme worden weggepraat. Alsof al die mensen die wijzen op de gevaren van wetenschapsbeoefening allemaal uit hun nek lullen. Het hele taalgebruik in zo'n zin als hierboven is alleen maar denigrerend. Pinker kan de aangekaarte problemen simpelweg niet serieus nemen en probeert degenen die ze benoemen belachelijk te maken. Echt een heel wetenschappelijke houding ... nee dus.]

"The second ideal is that we must allow the world to tell us whether our ideas about it are correct. The traditional causes of belief—faith, revelation, dogma, authority, charisma, conventional wisdom, hermeneutic parsing of texts, the glow of subjective certainty—are generators of error, and should be dismissed as sources of knowledge. Instead our beliefs about empirical propositions should be calibrated by their fit to the world."[mijn nadruk](939)

"Intellectual magazines that are ostensibly dedicated to ideas confine themselves to politics and the arts, with scant attention to new ideas emerging from science, with the exception of politicized issues like climate change (and regular attacks on scientism). Still worse is the treatment of science in the liberal arts curricula of many universities. Students can graduate with a trifling exposure to science, and what they do learn is often designed to poison them against it."(945)

"Many scholars in “science studies” devote their careers to recondite analyses of how the whole institution is just a pretext for oppression."(946)

[Hij doelt op de kritiek dat wetenschap en wetenschappers er sekstische en racistische uitgangspunten op na houden.]

"More insidious than the ferreting out of ever more cryptic forms of racism and sexism is a demonization campaign that impugns science (together with reason and other Enlightenment values) for crimes that are as old as civilization, including racism, slavery, conquest, and genocide. This was a major theme of the influential Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, the quasi-Marxist movement originated by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who proclaimed that “the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant.” It also figures in the works of postmodernist theorists such as Michel Foucault, who argued that the Holocaust was the inevitable culmination of a “bio-politics” that began with the Enlightenment, when science and rational governance exerted increasing power over people’s lives. In a similar vein, the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman blamed the Holocaust on the Enlightenment ideal to “remake the society, force it to conform to an overall, scientifically conceived plan.” In this twisted narrative, the Nazis themselves are let off the hook (“It’s modernity’s fault!”). So is the Nazis’ rabidly counter-Enlightenment ideology, which despised the degenerate liberal bourgeois worship of reason and progress and embraced an organic, pagan vitality which drove the struggle between races. Though Critical Theory and postmodernism avoid “scientistic” methods such as quantification and systematic chronology, the facts suggest they have the history backwards. Genocide and autocracy were ubiquitous in premodern times, and they decreased, not increased, as science and liberal Enlightenment values became increasingly influential after World War II.
To be sure, science has often been pressed into the support of deplorable political movements. It is essential, of course, to understand this history, and legitimate to pass judgment on scientists for their roles in it, just like any historical figures. Yet the qualities that we prize in humanities scholars—context, nuance, historical depth—often leave them when the opportunity arises to prosecute a campaign against their academic rivals. Science is commonly blamed for intellectual movements that had a pseudoscientific patina, though the historical roots of those movements ran deep and wide."(949-950)

[Ik ben het met die kritiek deels wel eens - met name met die al te gemakkelijke stelling dat er geen waarheid is, of dat het nazisme het gevolg is van Verlichtingsidealen -, maar ook hier loopt Pinker weg voor de problemen die die stromingen wel degelijk signaleren, en opnieuw op een manier die ruikt naar stemmingmakerij. Geef hun argumenten over de ideologsche basis van wetenschap weer en weerleg ze, zou ik zeggen. Maar nee, Pinker blijft weer hangen in abstracties en een grote hoeveelheid woorden. We mogen allemaal alleen maar positief zijn over wetenschap, we mogen onderzoekers geen strobreed in de weg leggen. In het vervolg blijkt opnieuw dat Pinker geen problemen ziet en idereen die ze wel ziet demoniseert.]

"I’ve mentioned the limited role of science in these movements not to absolve the scientists (many of whom were indeed active or complicit) but because the movements deserve a deeper and more contextualized understanding than their current role as anti-science propaganda. Misunderstandings of Darwin gave these movements a boost, but they sprang from the religious, artistic, intellectual, and political beliefs of their eras: Romanticism, cultural pessimism, progress as dialectical struggle or mystical unfolding, and authoritarian high modernism. If we think these ideas are not just unfashionable but mistaken, it is because of the better historical and scientific understanding we enjoy today."[mijn nadruk](958)

"Ultimately the greatest payoff of instilling an appreciation of science is for everyone to think more scientifically."(965)

[Ja, maar de vraag is natuurlijk wat 'wetenschappelijk denken' dan is. Volgt weer een pleidooi voor kwantitatief onderzoek met ontzettend flauwe en respectloze opmerkingen als de volgende: ]

"What would happen over the long run if a standard college curriculum devoted less attention to the writings of Karl Marx and Frantz Fanon and more to quantitative analyses of political violence?"(972)

[Of anders wel met oppervlakkige beweringen en al te gemakkelijke oorzaak-gevolg-relaties als de volgende:]

"Diagnoses of the malaise of the humanities rightly point to anti-intellectual trends in our culture and to the commercialization of universities. But an honest appraisal would have to acknowledge that some of the damage is self-inflicted. The humanities have yet to recover from the disaster of postmodernism, with its defiant obscurantism, self-refuting relativism, and suffocating political correctness. Many of its luminaries—Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, the Critical Theorists—are morose cultural pessimists who declare that modernity is odious, all statements are paradoxical, works of art are tools of oppression, liberal democracy is the same as fascism, and Western civilization is circling the drain."[mijn nadruk](974)

[De mens- en maatschappijwetenschappen kunnen wat leren van de natuurwetenschappelijke aanpak vindt Pinker. ]

(984) Chapter 23 - Humanism

Een uitgebreid citaat om duidelijk te maken hoe Pinker humanisme ziet.

"The goal of maximizing human flourishing—life, health, happiness, freedom, knowledge, love, richness of experience—may be called humanism. (...) It is humanism that identifies what we should try to achieve with our knowledge. It provides the ought that supplements the is. It distinguishes true progress from mere mastery.
There is a growing movement called Humanism, which promotes a non-supernatural basis for meaning and ethics: good without God.1 Its aims have been stated in a trio of manifestoes starting in 1933. The Humanist Manifesto III, from 2003, affirms:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. . . . We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. . . .

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We . . . animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. . . .

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists . . . strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. . . .

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. . . "(985-987)

"Humanism may seem bland and unexceptionable—who could be against human flourishing? But in fact it is a distinctive moral commitment, one that does not come naturally to the human mind. As we shall see, it is vehemently opposed not just by many religious and political factions but, amazingly, by eminent artists, academics, and intellectuals. If humanism, like the other Enlightenment ideals, is to retain its hold on people’s minds, it must be explained and defended in the language and ideas of the current era."(989)

[Nou ... Pinker haalt er in de pagina's die volgen weer van alles bij, maar heeft eigenlijk niet zo veel toe te voegen aan de eerder geciteerde principes. Ik geef nog een aantal aardige citaten.]

"History confirms that when diverse cultures have to find common ground, they converge toward humanism."(1005)

"In 1947 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) asked several dozen of the world’s intellectuals (including Jacques Maritain, Mohandas Gandhi, Aldous Huxley, Harold Laski, Quincy Wright, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, together with eminent Confucian and Muslim scholars) which rights should be included in the UN’s universal declaration. The lists were surprisingly similar."(1006)

"It’s not just that there is almost certainly no God to dictate and enforce moral precepts. It’s that even if there were a God, his divine decrees, as conveyed to us through religion, cannot be the source of morality."(1032)

"Whatever the reasons, the history and geography of secularization belie the fear that in the absence of religion, societies are doomed to anomie, nihilism, and a “total eclipse of all values.”86 Secularization has proceeded in parallel with all the historical progress documented in part II. Many irreligious societies like Canada, Denmark, and New Zealand are among the nicest places to live in the history of our kind (with high levels of every measurable good thing in life), while many of the world’s most religious societies are hellholes."(1060)

"After laying out the logic of humanism, I noted that it stood in stark contrast to two other systems of belief. We have just looked at theistic morality. Let me turn to the second enemy of humanism, the ideology behind resurgent authoritarianism, nationalism, populism, reactionary thinking, even fascism. As with theistic morality, the ideology claims intellectual merit, affinity with human nature, and historical inevitability. All three claims, we shall see, are mistaken."(1073)

[De kritiek op Nietzsche die volgt is werkelijk ontzettend scheef. Sterkler nog: alle kritiek op religie en zo die hiervoor aan de orde kwam heeft ontzettend veel te danken aan Nietzsche en zijn relativeringen van 'de waarheid'. Het verhaal is zoals gewoonlijk weer te simpel voor woorden en wat Pinker er vervolgens aan vastkoppelt is al helemaal schematisch, oppervlakkig en aanvechtbaar: ]

"As Mussolini made clear, Nietzsche was an inspiration to relativists everywhere. Disdaining the commitment to truth-seeking among scientists and Enlightenment thinkers, Nietzsche asserted that “there are no facts, only interpretations,” and that “truth is a kind of error without which a certain species of life could not live.” ... For that and other reasons, he was a key influence on Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault, and a godfather to all the intellectual movements of the 20th century that were hostile to science and objectivity, including Existentialism, Critical Theory, Poststructuralism, Deconstructionism, and Postmodernism.
Nietzsche, to give him credit, was a lively stylist, and one might excuse the fandom of artists and intellectuals if it consisted of an appreciation of his literary panache and an ironic reading of his portrayal of a mindset that they themselves rejected. Unfortunately, the mindset has sat all too well with all too many of them. A surprising number of 20th-century intellectuals and artists have gushed over totalitarian dictators, a syndrome that the intellectual historian Mark Lilla calls tyrannophilia. Some tyrannophiles were Marxists, working on the time-honored principle “He may be an SOB, but he’s our SOB.” But many were Nietzschean. The most notorious were Martin Heidegger and the legal philosopher Carl Schmitt, who were gung-ho Nazis and Hitler acolytes. Indeed, no autocrat of the 20th century lacked champions among the clerisy, including Mussolini (Ezra Pound, Shaw, Yeats, Lewis), Lenin (Shaw, H. G. Wells), Stalin (Shaw, Sartre, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Brecht, W. E. B. Du Bois, Pablo Picasso, Lillian Hellman), Mao (Sartre, Foucault, Du Bois, Louis Althusser, Steven Rose, Richard Lewontin), the Ayatollah Khomeini (Foucault), and Castro (Sartre, Graham Greene, Günter Grass, Norman Mailer, Harold Pinter, and, as we saw in chapter 21, Susan Sontag). At various times Western intellectuals have also sung the praises of Ho Chi Minh, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Kim Il-sung, Pol Pot, Julius Nyerere, Omar Torrijos, Slobodan Milošević, and Hugo Chávez.
Why should intellectuals and artists, of all people, kiss up to murderous dictators? One might think that intellectuals would be the first to deconstruct the pretexts of power, and artists to expand the scope of human compassion. (Thankfully, many have done just that.) One explanation, offered by the economist Thomas Sowell and the sociologist Paul Hollander, is professional narcissism."[mijn nadruk](1080-1083)

[En zo kan ik ook een lijst maken van intellectuelen en wetenschappers die andere dictatoren en politici - zoals Trump; verderop noemt hij ook zelf Trump als een voorbeeld - gesteund hebben terwijl ze de meest walgelijke inhumane standpunten innamen. Met dit soort koppelingen en lijstjes komen we niet verder. En is daar vast meer aan de hand dan alleen maar professioneel narcisme.]

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