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Westwood Freethinkers’ Book Club Trigger Questions. Nov. 2018

Westwood Freethinkers’ Book Club

Trigger Questions. Nov. 2018

Nov. 28, 2018 Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker (below from Amazon, the publicist and retailer!)

If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature–tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking–which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation. With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Pinker divides the book into chapters, each showing the progress that Enlightenment values and practice has bestowed upon us. Which one of these ‘benefits’ speaks to you as the most important sign of human development?
  2. We feel the 2nd Law at work as we see our bodies getting older, Pinker’s explanation of the power of ‘self-organization” to build systems that can find and consume energy, is heartening on a species level. But is it reassuring to the individual?
  3. Pinker states a number of times that Enlightenment thinkers were Diests – not quite able to image how evolutionary biology could possibly have “designed life”. Are diests the same as the “Intelligent Creation” types?


  1. Do you agree that the “ROMANTIC Green” movement denies the value of humans striving against enthropy and self organizing for better of people?


  1. Pinker has been criticized as trying “too hard” to make a case that the Enlightenment and Enlightenment values has made life so mucu better. In the process he ignores the contradictions of the Enlightenment times and its heroes. Would you agree?


  1. Critics have argued that there are some (many?) issues to which science and rationalism has no place and contend that those that push this agenda are suffering from “scientism”. What are your thoughts on ‘scientism’?

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