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March 20, 2018
6:00pm

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, with Steven Pinker, Psychology, Harvard
Please be our guest Tuesday March 20, 6-9 PM, at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge for our next Roundtable on Science and Religion featuring Steven Pinker who will address Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, the title of his new book.

 

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophesies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In 75 jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

 

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, Pinker makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress. 

 

Before we adjourn to dinner and discussion, Professor Pinker will answer a single question or comment from each of these three professors: Anne McCants (History, MIT), Mark Ramseyer (Law, Harvard), and Tyler VanderWeele (Epidemiology, Harvard).