May I suggest this Earth Day you peruse Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now?
Steven Pinker is by no stretch of the imagination a conservative, right-wing, Republican blah-blah-blah-blah — if, that is, you’re still into all that nonsensical partisan meaninglessness, which I am not. (Meaningless, I say, because the left and the right are two sides of an identical penny, as I’ve stated so many times, and I am quite prepared to prove that to you.)
Pinker “identifies” as a “left-wing libertarian” — a little like his teacher Noam Chomsky, with whom, however, he deviates significantly and is far less Marxist — which, incidentally, is one of the primary reasons I don’t think the word “libertarian” has much value or explanatory power:
It’s a rubber word that can be stretched to fit almost anything and anyone. If it’s to mean anything at all, it must be qualified out of all sensible proportion: civil libertarian, leftwing libertarian, anarchist-libertarian, anarcho-capitalist libertarian, Austrian libertarian, Rothbardian libertarian, Ron Paul libertarian …
Steven Pinker, in any case, is rational inquirer enough to have seen the clear and obvious and irrefutable:
Science, technology, progress, reason — all outgrowths of the ideas behind the Enlightenment — have made the world far cleaner, healthier, and better, even as world populations have grown.
He is, unfortunately, still far too equivocal in certain of his views, unable to break out of all the frozen dogma that’s been inculcated into his head — though I have followed his writing over the years and he’s come a long way — and so if you really wanted to know for Earth Day the actual facts about planet earth, I recommend Julian Simon’s book, which remains as sound and as brilliant today as it was the day it was published, the logical power of which has persuaded many, many, many people who honestly care about the truth, Steven Pinker included.
Be forewarned, however: Julian Simon’s book is fact-filled and not for the dogmatist.
It is the book that quondam Greenpeacer Bjorn Lomborg and his students tried to refute — and ended up being persuaded by because the data is so strong, and speaks for itself.
In fact, a beautiful book was born out of Bjorn Lomborg’s attempt to refute Julian Simon — who was a true hero and genius and lover of the earth, in my opinion, and who endured and tirelessly refuted staggering amounts of hostility, harassment, hate, ridicule, and lies almost exclusively from the tolerant left, who in my personal experience are the most intolerant of any religion or group, and never lost an argument because he had facts on his side — and that book by Bjorn Lomborg is an excellent book called The Skeptical Environmentalist.
Julian Simon’s book is also the book that Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore often cites as a seminal influence in why he, like me, left the environmental movement long, long ago:
Here is Steven Pinker’s recent interview with the excellent Nick Gillespie of the excellent Reason Magazine: