Couple holding hands against illuminated urban cityscape at night (Getty Images)

< Go to Homepage

Ignore the Doomsayers, the Enlightenment is Continuing

Why the pervading pessimism about the state of the world is un-American… and wrong.

In these politically polarized times, it seems Republicans and Democrats can agree on at least one point: that we are all locked in a downward spiral. There is a shared general malaise that life is getting worse. But in an eye-opening piece in The Wall Street Journal, writer Steven Pinker argues that progress has been a steady upward curve ever since The Enlightenment.

He goes so far as to label such pessimism as un-American.

“Our ancestors replaced dogma, tradition and authority with reason, debate and institutions of truth-seeking,” he writes.  “They replaced superstition and magic with science. And they shifted their values from the glory of the tribe, nation, race, class or faith toward universal human flourishing. These developments have been gradual and uneven, with many backtracks and zigzags. But the happy developments of the last two centuries are the cumulative gifts of the brainchildren they spawned.”

And he provides plenty proof — from the decline in the national homicide rate over the last decades to the dropping of the number of people living below the poverty line in the U.S. from 11 percent to 3 percent in the last three decades. Literacy worldwide is climbing. Mortality rates are dropping. “Through most of human history, continuing into the 19th century, a newborn was expected to live around 30 years,” Pinker points out. “In the two centuries since, life expectancy across the world has risen to 71, and in the developed world to 81.”

 

Read the Full Story on The Wall Street Journal