Steven Pinker’s ‘Enlightenment Now’ ignores Israeli genocide against Palestinians

Steven Pinker’s ‘Enlightenment Now’ ignores Israeli genocide against Palestinians

Steven Pinker’s anti-science, spin-based analysis involves the selective use of asserted facts to support a partisan position. Pinker undermines an argument about Enlightenment benefits by ignoring gross human rights abuse of Palestinians by Apartheid Israel, the ongoing Palestinian Genocide, Muslim Genocide, and other holocausts…

By Dr Gideon Polya, reposted from CounterCurrents, Sept. 7, 2019

“Enlightenment Now” by neoliberal, Canadian-American One Percenter Steven Pinker argues that the 17th century onwards European Enlightenment that promoted reason , science and humanism resulted in huge scientific, technological and moral advances with ultimately huge improvements in the human condition in many areas. However Pinker scoffs at Greens and leftists, supports the neoliberal capitalist order, and ignores horrendous realities……

“Enlightenment Now. The case for reason, science, humanism and progress” by Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard [1], is well-written, well argued, endlessly interesting, very readable, lengthy (573 pages), well indexed (31 pages of Index), well annotated (36 pages of Notes), well referenced (31 pages of References), and well organized into 3 Parts (encompassing 23 Chapters). In section I, “ Enlightenment ”(Chapters 1-3) and in Section III “Reason, Science and Humanism”(Chapters 21-23) Pinker describes the 17th century onwards Enlightenment project involving empirical observation, reason, science and humanism as a productive and humane substitute for superstition- , faith- and xenophobia-based irrationality.

In the intervening Part II “Progress” (Chapters 4-20) Pinker entertainingly but arguably sets out the evidence for the improvement of the human condition in numerous areas thanks to the Enlightenment, this being superbly illustrated by 75 Figures from Figure 4-1 “Tone of the news, 1945-2010”, Figure 5-1 “Life expectancy, 1771-2015”, Figure 5-2 “Child mortality, 1751-2013”, Figure 5-3 “Maternal mortality, 1751-2013”, Figure 5-4 “Life expectancy, UK, 1701-2013) and Figure 6.1”Childhod deaths from infectious diseases, 2000-2013” to Figure 18-1 “Life satisfaction and income, 2006”, Figure 18-2 “Loneliness, US students, 1978-2011”, Figure 18-3 “Suicide, England, Switzerland , and US, 1860-2014”, Figure 18-4 “Happiness and excitement, US, 1972-2016”, Figure 19-1 “Nuclear weapons, 1945-2015”, and Figure 20-1 “Populist support across generations, 2016” (the full list of 75 Figures is usefully set out in pages xi-xiii [1]).

However “Enlightenment Now” suffers from major counter-Enlightenment flaws that its author so cogently criticizes, notably culturally- and ideologically-based bias, and the ignoring of massive realities. Thus the scientific method that is at the heart of the Enlightenment involves the critical testing through empirical observation of potentially falsifiable hypotheses. Contrary to the scientific method is anti-science, spin-based analysis involving the selective use of asserted facts to support a partisan position. Pinker undermines an otherwise erudite, evidence-based argument about Enlightenment benefits, with the primary data set out in 75 Figures, by ignoring a veritable Herd of Elephants in the Room as set out below in this review.

Pinker is an Israel advocate who opposes BDS

“Enlightenment Now” ignores gross human rights abuse of Palestinians by Apartheid Israel, and the ongoing Palestinian Genocide, Muslim Genocide and Muslim Holocaust.

Steven Pinker is an atheist but comes from a Canadian Jewish family [2] and is notorious for opposing peaceful and ethical academic Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel on the Harvard campus and elsewhere [3, 4]. Having a major Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, I determined that the 23 Chapter text of “Enlightenment Now” is replete with a total of about 130 Jewish-related references (to Jews, Judaism, Jewish culture, the Nazis, anti-Jewish anti-Semitism, and the WW2 Jewish Holocaust), and yet only made about 6 references to Israel, 1 reference to Zionism, and only 1 reference to Apartheid (of the Apartheid South African variety but not of the Apartheid Israel variety ). “Enlightenment Now” made zero (0) reference to substantially ethnically cleansed Palestine, Israeli Apartheid, the sorely oppressed Palestinians or the ongoing Palestinian Genocide – obscenities that represent a huge stain on Pinker’s rosy view of Enlightenment outcomes.

Facts Pinker left out about the Palestinian Genocide

Here is a concise summary of what Pinker did not report about the Palestinian Genocide that like all genocides grossly violates the ideals of the Enlightenment. 2.2 million Palestinian have died from violence, 0.1 million, or from imposed deprivation, 2.1 million, since the British invasion of the Ottoman Empire in 1914 in WW1. In 1880 there were about 500,000 Arab Palestinians and about 25,000 Jews living in Palestine of whom half of the latter were immigrants [5-7]. The genocidally racist British invaders and genocidally racist Zionist colonizers have been variously responsible for a Palestinian Genocide involving successive mass expulsions (800,000 in 1948 and a further 400,00 Arabs in 1967) , ethnic cleansing of 90% of the land of Palestine, and an estimated 2.2 million Palestinian deaths since 1914 from violence (0.1 million) or from violently-imposed deprivation (2.1 million) [5, 8-11]. There are now 7 million Palestinian refugees, and of 14 million Palestinians (half of them children, three quarters women and children) about 50% are forbidden to even step foot in their own country on pain of death, only 1.9 million Palestinian Israelis are permitted to vote for the government ruling all of the former Mandated Palestine, and 5 million Palestinians have zero human rights [12] as Occupied Palestinians in West Bank ghettoes or Bantustans under Israeli military rule (3 million) or in the Gaza Concentration Camp (2.0 million). However the “lucky” Israeli Palestinians are Third Class citizens subject to over 60 Nazi-style, race-based laws [13, 14]. The land of Palestine has now been 90% ethnically cleansed. The per capita GDP is a deadly $3,000 for Occupied Palestinians as compared to $40,000 for Israelis [5, 8-11]. While Indigenous Palestinians represent about 50% of Apartheid Israeli subjects, nearly three quarters of them cannot vote for the government ruling them – egregious Apartheid that is declared by the UN to be a crime against Humanity [15].

Pinker on Muslims, Western colonialism and Zionism: “Correlation is not causation, but if you combine the fact that much of Islamic doctrine is anti-humanistic with the fact that many Muslims believe that Islamic doctrine is inerrant [incapable of being wrong] – and throw in the fact that the Muslims who carry out illiberal policies and violent acts say they are doing it because they are following those doctrines – then it becomes a stretch to say that the inhuman practices have nothing to do with religious devotion and that the real cause is oil, colonialism, Islamophobia, Orientalism, or Zionism (page 440 [1]. Utterly ignored by Pinker except for brief mentions of Libya, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the ongoing Muslim Genocide and Muslim Holocaust in which 32 million Muslims have died from violence, 5 million, or from imposed deprivation, 27 million, in 20 countries invaded by the US Alliance since the Zionist-beholden US Government’s 9-11 false flag atrocity that killed 3,000 people [16-18]. Eminent Americans Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve) and Professor Noam Chomsky (linguistics, MIT) – coming from the political right and the left, respectively – have both expertly opined that the Iraq atrocity was about oil [19-21]. [Editor’s note: In actuality, the Iraq atrocity was about Israel – see this and this, and this, for example.]

Ignores many genocides

“Enlightenment Now” ignores the Enlightenment Paradox of horrendous wars, genocides and holocausts despite the spread of humanist ideals from the 18th century onwards. The Enlightenment Paradox is that associated with the rise of humanism and love of fellow Humanity was the rise of science and an increasing technological capacity for mass destruction of humanity. This is cogently described in the children’s story about Little Red Riding Hood who encounters the Wolf in bed dressed up as Grandma and comments on Grandma’s big ears (“The better to hear you with” replies the Wolf), on Grandma’s big eyes (“The better to see you with” says the Wolf) and on Grandma’s big teeth (“The better to eat you with” replies the Wolf, who then gobbles her up). By 1945 Humanity had achieved the ability to completely destroy itself and most of the Biosphere with nuclear weapons, and today we have the further existential threat from man-made climate change as discussed in detail later.

In Chapter 11 “Peace”, Pinker argues from flawed and limited data sets that the spread of the Enlightenment from the 18th century onwards was associated with a decline in wars between great powers as dubiously measured as percentage of years the great powers fought each other, aggregated in 25 year periods. This dubious manipulation claims such an incidence of circa 90% in 1500-1700 and then a steady decline to almost zero by 2000 (Figure 11.1, page 157 [1]). However this manipulated view obfuscates the massive high technology 18th century world war between France and England involving state-of-the-art cannons, guns, navies and strategic deployments of huge armies that concluded with the defeat of the French Enlightenment hero Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo. This obscenely manipulated view also ignores the huge deaths (including huge civilian deaths from war-imposed deprivation) [22] associated with genocidal colonial wars, WW1, WW2 and of post-WW2 American wars against over 50 countries [22, 23]. The Americans have invaded 72 countries (52 after WW2), as compared to the British 193, Australia 85, France 82, Germany 39, Japan 30, Russia 25, Canada 25, Apartheid Israel 12, China 2, Korea arguably none, and Iran none since the 7th century CE [22-28].

Poverty kills and imposed deprivation through hegemony, subversion, sanctions and war is deadly. Thus 15 million people die avoidably from deprivation each year on Spaceship Earth with an endlessly greedy and merciless America in charge of the flight deck [22]. In countries invaded by the US Alliance since 1950, civilian deaths from imposed deprivation exceed violent deaths of Indigenous people, and vastly exceed deaths of the invading military. Thus, for example, in Iraq (1990-2011), 4.6 million Iraqis died from violence, 1.7 million, or from war- or sanctions-imposed deprivation, 2.9 million [18, 19] , and in Occupied Afghanistan 7 million people have died from violence or deprivation since 2001 [18, 29], whereas US Alliance combatant deaths have totalled about 4,900 in Iraq and 3,600 in Afghanistan [30]. Indeed the US subverts all countries and has over 700 military bases in over 70 countries [31]. If the US succeeds by deadly sanctions and subversions to overthrow the democratically-elected Venezuelan and Iranian Governments [32, 33] these will be the 68th and 69th of such US removals of other governments, many of them democratically elected [34]. In 2017, 5.4 million children under the age of 5 died world-wide, with an additional 0.9 million deaths occurring among children aged 5−14 [35, 36] – this is part of the price of world domination by “Enlightenment Now” America.

I must reiterate that assessment of deaths from wars must necessarily include not just violent deaths but also collateral avoidable mortality (mainly of civilians) due to war-imposed deprivation. Further, in describing mass murder, the term “holocaust” implies a huge number of deaths whereas the term “genocide” is defined by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” [37]. War is the penultimate in racism but genocide is the ultimate in racism. Politically correct (PC) Pinker rightly deplores racism (numerous references in the Index) but follows the rigidly applied and utterly dishonest convention of the Zionist-subverted Western Mainstream culture that there is but one holocaust, The Holocaust (i.e. the WW2 Jewish Holocaust; see pages 161 and 397 [1]) . The WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million deaths from violence or imposed deprivation) was part of a wider WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slavs, Jews and Roma killed) that is overwhelmingly ignored by the Western Mainstream as are the WW2 Bengali Holocaust (6-7 million Indians starved to death by the British with Australian complicity) and the WW2 Chinese Holocaust (35 million Chinese killed under the Japanese, 1937-1945) [22].

Deaths in holocausts and genocides deriving from actual violence or from imposed deprivation are given in brackets as follows for the following alphabetically listed atrocities: 1788 onwards 21st century Afghan Genocide and Afghan Holocaust (7 million), 15th – 19th century African Holocaust (slave trade; 6 million), 16th century onwards Amerindian Genocide (90 million), WW1 Armenian Genocide (1.5 million), post-1950 Asian Holocaust due to Australia-complicit US Asian Wars (40 million), 1914-1924 Assyrian Genocide (Syriac Genocide; 0.2-0.3 million), 1788 onwards Australian Aboriginal Genocide and Aboriginal Ethnocide (2 million), WW2 Bengali Holocaust, WW2 Bengal Famine and WW2 Indian Holocaust (6-7 million), 1971-1972 Bengali Holocaust (3.0 million), 1990s Bosnian Genocide (circa 0.1 million), 1969-1998 Cambodian Genocide (6.0 million), 19th century Chinese Holocaust (Opium wars and Tai Ping rebellion; 20-100 million), WW2 Chinese Holocaust (35 million), 1958-1961 Chinese Holocaust of the Great Leap Forward (20-30 million), 1960 onwards Congolese Genocide and Congolese Holocaust (20 million), WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slavs, Jews and Roma killed), 1941-1950 German Genocide and German Holocaust (9 million), Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust (1,500 million since 1950), 1757-1947 Indian Holocaust (1,800 million), 1947 Indian Holocaust due to Partition (1.0 million), 21st century Iraqi Genocide and Iraqi Holocaust (2.7 million), 1990-2011 Iraqi Genocide and Iraqi Holocaust (4.6 million), WW2 Jewish Holocaust, Shoa (5-6 million), 1950-1953 Korean Genocide and Korean Holocaust (5.2 million), 1840s Irish Famine (2 million), 1955-1975 Laotian Genocide (1.2 million), 2011 Libyan Genocide (0.2 million), 21st century Muslim Genocide and Muslim Holocaust (32 million), 1900s Namibian Genocide (0.1 million), 17th – 19th century North American Indian Genocide (up to 18 million), WW1 onwards Palestinian Genocide and Palestinian Holocaust (2.2 million), WW2 Polish Genocide and Polish Holocaust (6 million), 21st century Rohingya Genocide (circa 0.1 million), 1930-1953 Russian Holocaust under Stalin (20 million), 1994 Rwandan Genocide (0.9 million), 1992 onwards Somali Genocide and Somali Holocaust (2.2 million), 1930-1953 Soviet Holocaust under Stalin (20 million), 1955-2018 Sudan Genocide and Sudan Holocaust (13 million), 2011 onwards Syrian Genocide (1.0 million), 1975-1999 East Timorese Genocide (0.3 million), 1930s Ukrainian Famine, Holodomor (7 million), 1945-1975 Vietnamese Genocide and Vietnamese Holocaust (15.3 million), and the 2015 onwards Yemeni Genocide (circa 0.1 million) (my sincere apologies for any absences) (updated from [38]).

Pinker and the oh so Enlightened and politically correct Mainstream Western culture ignore most of this horrendous carnage – mostly perpetrated in the 18th century onwards Enlightenment era – and compound this genocide ignoring and holocaust ignoring by referring to The Holocaust (aka the WW2 Jewish Holocaust) to the exclusion of the numerous other horrendous holocausts listed above. Genocide ignoring and holocaust ignoring are far, far worse than repugnant genocide denial and holocaust denial because the latter at least permit public refutation and public debate.

Pinker ignores horrendous collateral civilian deaths from deprivation in his Figure 11.2 “Battle deaths, 1946-2016)” (page 159 [1]) that could persuade the reader that war deaths were largely eliminated after 1990 – this ignoring the horrendous carnage (deaths from violence or deprivation in brackets) of the Afghan Holocaust (7 million post-2001), Iraqi Holocaust (4.6 million post-1990), the Muslim Holocaust (32 million post-2001), the Somali Holocaust (2.2 million post-1992) and indeed of the Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust (15 million avoidable deaths from deprivation annually and about 300 million such deaths in the last 2 decades) [22]. Indeed Pinker’s Figure 11.3 “Genocide deaths, 1956-2016”(page 161 [1]) would have us believe that genocide had almost vanished from the world after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide (1994, 0.9 million violent deaths).

“Enlightenment Now” variously ignores or obfuscates horrendous realities in the global South and US violation of major Enlightenment-derived UN Conventions.
In Chapters 4-20 “Enlightenment Now “ presents scores of Figures that claim that thanks to the Enlightenment life has been getting better in all kinds of ways (e.g. nutrition, life expectancy, health) in the US, the West or in the world in general. Two general criticisms can be made of this huge set of interesting data: (1) the improvement trends do not belie the absolute magnitude of the various bad realities (e.g. the laudable decline in poverty in the US (Figure 9.6, page 116 [1]) does not belie the reality that 27% of African Americans live in poverty [39] ), and (2) the improvement trends in the US or the West do not belie the horrible realities in the impoverished global South (e.g. of the world’s 7.6 billion people, 800 million are under-nourished, 2,200 million suffer from micronutrient deficiency, and 15 million people die avoidably each year from deprivation [22, 40]).

A major achievement of the Enlightenment has been emplacement of major international conventions or institutions that protect Humanity e.g. (1) the UN Charter [41], (2) the UN Genocide Convention [37], (3) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [42], (4) the Geneva Conventions [43], (5) the Convention on the Rights of the Child [44], (6) the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the crime of Apartheid [15], (7) the International Court of Justice, and (8) the International Criminal Court. While Chapters 4-20 “Enlightenment Now “ (the bulk of the book) sets out in great detail how things have been improving in the US in all kinds of areas, it steers clear of US and US Alliance violation of these major conventions and institutions of Humanity, e.g. (1) US invasion of 52 countries since 1945 in violation of the UN Charter; (2) US violation of the UN Genocide Convention in US-invaded countries, notably Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan; (3) US violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at home and abroad in occupied or devastated target countries; (4) horrendous avoidable mortality from deprivation in US-occupied Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia has evidenced gross violation by rich America of Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War that unequivocally demand that an Occupier must supply its conquered Subjects with life sustaining food and medical requisites “to the fullest extent of the means available to it”; (5) US passive mass murder of infants and children in US-occupied countries (notably Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia) is in gross violation of the Rights of the Child Convention; (6) the US is fervently pro-Apartheid Israel and hence of Israeli Apartheid; (7) the US has used military might on 160 occasions to have its way with other countries, with Brian Toohey observing: “A 2016 Congressional Research Services study found the US has used armed force 215 times overseas since 1798. The tempo has stepped up, with force used 160 times since the Cold War ended in 1991” [45]; and (8) the US refuses to allow its citizens to be subject to the International Criminal Court

Climate change, biodiversity loss, nuclear weapons

“Environment Now” obfuscates the need for urgent action on climate change and biodiversity loss, and ignores the acute seriousness of the worsening Climate Emergency and Climate Genocide.
At the start of Chapter 10 “The Environment” Pinker states: “But is progress sustainable?… As in the chapter on inequality, I won’t pretend that all the trends are positive or that the problems facing us are minor. But I will present a way of thinking about these problems that differs from the lugubrious [looking or sounding sad and dismal] conventional wisdom and offers constructive alternatives to the radicalism and fatalism it encourages… [and] Romantic reverence for nature” (page 121 [1]), and continues in this insulting, overblown and offensive vein: “Starting in the 1970s, the mainstream environmental movement latched onto a quasi-religious ideology, greenism, which can be found in the manifestoes of activists as diverse as Al Gore, the Unibomber, and Pope Francis. Green ideology begins with an image of the Earth as a pristine ingénue [an innocent or unsophisticated young woman] which has been defiled by human rapacity” (page 122 [1]) and “The fate of the black rhinoceros and the well-being of our descendants in the year 2525 are significant moral concerns, but worrying about them now is something of a luxury” (page 24 [1]). Pinker scorns “ecopessimists”, adopts a position of being “conditionally optimistic” and concludes “Problems are solvable… we can solve them if we sustain the benevolent forces of modernity that have allowed us to solve problems so far, including societal prosperity, wisely regulated markets , international governance, and investments in science and technology” (page 155 [1]).

Neoliberal One Percenter Pinker’s solutions to decarbonisation are (1) a deliberately insufficient carbon tax (as opposed to Pope Francis who correctly argued that the cost of pollution should be “fully borne” by the polluters) [46], and (2) nuclear energy (that is prohibitively expensive, dangerous, highly polluting , a major nuclear terrorism security threat, involves use of a non-renewable uranium and thorium ore resources, and involves massive greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution – while nuclear fission per se does not involve GHG pollution, in our present carbon economy the rest of the nuclear cycle is highly GHG polluting at the levels of uranium mining, transport, and refining, building the plant, safe disposal of extremely long-lived waste, and ultimate safe demolition and disposal of the plant) [47]. In order to continue carbon pollution Pinker offers geoengineering solutions (e.g. fertilizing the oceans to increase algal CO2 sequestration, and generating global dimming atmospheric sulphate aerosols) that are variously extremely expensive, dangerous and damaging) [48] and carbon capture and sequestration (that is extremely expensive and yet to be applied industrially on a large scale) [49, 50]. Neoliberal One Percenter Pinker in preferring spin-based, neoliberal, and capitalist “conditional optimism” dumps on the core Enlightenment demand for science-based analysis. Pinker further dumps on the Enlightenment ideals of commitment to truth and beauty by obfuscating the current horrendous mass species extinction event – with a species extinction rate that is 100-1,000 times greater than normal) [51-53] it has resulted in the present era being named the Anthropocene Era. Indeed the key, Elephant in the Room terms “Anthropocene”, “Biodiversity”, “Climate Emergency” and “Climate Genocide” are missing from the Index of “Enlightenment Now”.

Given continued current rates of pollution the Paris Climate Change Agreement target of 1.5C will be reached within 10 years and plus 2C is effectively inevitable (however we are obliged to do everything to make the future “less bad” for our children and future generations) [54]. The IPCC (2018): “B4.2. Global warming of 1.5°C is projected to shift the ranges of many marine species, to higher latitudes as well as increase the amount of damage to many ecosystems. It is also expected to drive the loss of coastal resources, and reduce the productivity of fisheries and aquaculture (especially at low latitudes). The risks of climate-induced impacts are projected to be higher at 2°C than those at global warming of 1.5°C (high confidence). Coral reefs, for example, are projected to decline by a further 70–90% at 1.5°C (high confidence) with larger losses (>99%) at 2ºC (very high confidence). The risk of irreversible loss of many marine and coastal ecosystems increases with global warming, especially at 2°C or more (high confidence) ” [54, 55]. However “conditionally optimistic” and “things are great” Panglossian cognitive psychologist Pinker glibly and dismissively asserts: “Though many species remaining precarious straits, a number of ecologists and paleontologists believe the claim that humans are causing a mass extinction like the Permian and Cretaceous is hyperbolic” (page 133 [1]).

Humanity is existentially threatened by nuclear weapons and man-made climate change (and of course the universe ends for the 15 million people who die avoidably from deprivation each year in the soon to worsen Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust)[56]. Low-lying Island Nations and major mega-delta countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and China are particularly threatened by global warming, attendant sea level rise and storm surges from more intense tropical and sub-tropical storms. While Island Nations beg the world to keep temperature rise under 1.5C , it now appears that 1.5C will be reached in 10 years’ time, a catastrophic plus 2C is unavoidable on present trends, and national commitments to the Paris Agreement imply plus 3.2C by 2100 [56-62]. Expert predictions of a sustainable human population of only 0.5-1.0 billion by 2100 imply 10 billion deaths in a worsening Climate Genocide this century if global warming is not requisitely addressed [57].

Neoliberal and Panglossian cognitive psychologist Pinker is conditionally optimistic, has faith (!) that science and the capitalist market will find the solutions, and scorns “alarmism”, “ecopessimists”, “climate justice warriors”, the Greens and the Left. However this is in stark contrast to the succinct warning has been repeatedly given by outstanding physicist Stephen Hawking: “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change” [62, 63].

“Environment Now” minimizes the existential threat from nuclear weapons.
In Chapter 19 “Existential threats” Pinker admits the existential threat from nuclear weapons and climate change but does so in a flippant, “jokey” way: “A second hazard of enumerating doomsday scenarios is that humanity has a finite budget of resources, brainpower and anxiety. You can’t worry about everything. Some of the threats facing us, like climate change and nuclear war, are unmistakable and will require immense effort and ingenuity to mitigate. Folding them into a list of exotic scenarios with miniscule or unknown probabilities can only dilute the sense of urgency. Recall that people are poor at assessing probabilities , especially small ones” (pages 291-292 [1]). Just as he absurdly blamed Nobel Laureate Al Gore for contributing to climate change denialism by being a Democrat “who stamped climate change with a left-wing seal” (page 382 [1]) , so Pinker obscenely states that “The historian Paul Boyer found that nuclear alarmism actually encouraged the arms race by scaring the nation into pursuing more and bigger bombs” (page 311 [1].

Pinker agues for “soft” conversations and actions: “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. A positive agenda for removing the threat of nuclear war from the human condition would embrace several ideas. The first is to stop telling everyone they’re doomed. The fundamental fact of the nuclear age is that no atomic weapon has been used since Nagasaki. If the hands of a clock point to midnight for seventy-two years , something is wrong with the clock [the Doomsday Clock maintained since 1947 by associates of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]” (page 311 [1]). However reason dictates that we consider not just the low but finite and calculable annual empirical probability of nuclear war (2 nuclear bombings and 200,000 killed in 1945 and none since) but also the several US-USSR near-misses [56, 59, 61], the contingency plan of genocidally racist Apartheid Israel to detonate a nuclear bomb in Egypt in 1967 (as revealed by Israeli Brigadier General Itzhak Yaakov [64, 65]), and the likely destruction of nearly all of Humanity and the Biosphere in a post-nuclear war nuclear winter [56].

Rather than the expertly advocated banning of nuclear weapons and denuclearisation, Pinker argues for a reduction of the nuclear threat rather than the banning of nuclear weapons and total denuclearisation as expertly advocated by the Nobel Prize-winning ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) that was founded in my city of Melbourne (the location of the “no survivors” nuclear holocaust novel “On the Beach” by Neville Shute and the famous movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner). One can only repeat Professor Stephen Hawking’s succinct, expert and urgent warning: “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change” [62, 63].

Focuses on non-state terrorism, ignores state terrorism

“Enlightenment Now” devotes a chapter to repugnant non-state terrorism but ignores the carnage of genocidal US state terrorism and huge domestic preventable deaths in America.
Pinker commences Chapter 13 “Terrorism” thus: “’ When I wrote in the preceding chapter that we are living in the safest time in history, I was aware of the incredulity those words would evoke. In recent times highly publicized terrorist attacks and rampage killings have set the world on edge and fostered an illusion that we live in newly dangerous times. In 2016 , a majority of Americans named terrorism as the most important issue facing the country” (page 191 [1]. Table 13-1(page 192 [1]) sets out annual deaths from various causes in the US, Western Europe and the World in circa 2012, with the data for the US being as follows: terrorism (44) [jihadi terrorism (4)], war (28), homicide (15,696), motor vehicle accidents (35,398), all accidents (136,053), all deaths (2,626, 418) .

However this catalogue ignores the reality that the average annual number of deaths due to jihadi terrorism in America post-9-11 is 4 [66]. Further, 1.8 million Americans die preventably each year from a variety of “life-style” and ”political choice reasons”, the 2019 updated breakdown (with some overlaps) being (1) 480,000 (smoking related), (2) 440,000 adverse hospital events in hospitals each year), 300,000 (obesity-related), (4) 200,000 (air pollution), (5) 75,000 (alcohol-related), (6) 70,000 (drug-related), (7) 60,000 (non-drug, non-poison and non-vehicular accidents), (8) 45,000 (lack of medical insurance), (9) 37,000 (motor vehicle accidents), (10) 31,000 (gun-related), (11) 30,000 (suicide with 7,000 being US veterans), (12) 21,000 avoidable under-5 infant deaths, (13) 15,000 (homicide) and (14) 4 (jihadi attacks in America) [66, 67].

While the evil of non-state terrorism has been largely successfully countered in Western countries by top-down state action involving education, high technology intelligence, intra-national and international intelligence sharing, and skilled counter-terrorism forces, countering the vastly more deadly evil of state terrorism (e.g. deadly US state terrorism, UK state terrorism, French state terrorism, Saudi Arabian state terrorism and Israeli state terrorism) requires peaceful, bottom-up action by billions of ordinary people world-wide through (a) overcoming the mendacious Wall of Silence of Mainstream media, politician, commentariat ad academic presstitutes, and (b) applying Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against people, politicians, parties, corporations and countries involved in deadly state terrorism [27, 28]. Thus since the US Government’s 9-11 false flag atrocity that killed 3,000 people [17], 32 million Muslims have died from violence or imposed deprivation in 20 countries invaded by the US Alliance[16] and 1.8 million per year x 18 years = 32 million Americans have died preventably from “lifestyle” or “political choice” reasons [66, 67]. Successive US Administrations have committed to the over $6 trillion long-term accrual cost of the War on Terror [68, 69], and this fiscal perversion has been associated with killing 32 million Muslims abroad instead of keeping 32 million Americans alive at home – double whammy US state terrorism. Repugnant jihadi non-state terrorism (some variously US-backed as in Kosovo, Syria, Libya, the Yemen and in Russian-invaded Afghanistan) has been of major assistance to US state terrorism because every jihadi atrocity provides an excuse for disproportionate US devastation of the Muslim world.

Final comments

I have confined my review of Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now” to the biggest and deadliest issues that he failed to address properly or at all. For all its 75 Figures showing how the Enlightenment has contributed to improving the human condition, “Enlightenment Now” ignores massive deadly realities and in doing so uses selected asserted facts to support a partisan position i.e. a spin-based approach that subverts the Enlightenment-introduced scientific method of inquiry that involves the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses. Pinker ignores massive realities to support a neoliberal, capitalist, “we live in the best of times” Panglossian and evolutionary One Percenter Establishment approach to the immense and indeed existential problems of the world involving no systemic change but merely blind faith (!) that science, technology and the market will continue to provide “more improvements”. Pinker dangerously ignores massive realities such as a multiplicity of genocides and holocausts, the Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust, the Muslim Holocaust, the acute seriousness of nuclear weapons, and the worsening Climate Genocide that may kill all but 0.5-1 billion of Humanity this century [56, 57].

Some other critical reviewers of have come to much the same conclusion. Thus Landon Frim and Harrison Fluss: “Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now is a manual for liberal self-congratulation. This preening tome professes a pragmatic and quantitative approach to the world’s problems. For Pinker, modern capitalist democracy has basically gotten things right, and activism should at most consist of pushing for minor improvements, mitigating bad symptoms around the edges. Systemic critique, ideologies, and “big ideas” are downright dangerous. Criticism of liberal capitalism is thus the provenance of hysterical populists on both the Left and the Right. What “Marxist professors” and racist Trump supporters have in common is that they just don’t know (or want to admit) how good they have it. Pinker is passionate in his tepidity, and contemptuous of anyone daring to criticize the present world order” [70]. In similar vein, John Gray: “Pinker is an ardent enthusiast for free-market capitalism, which he believes produced most of the advance in living standards over the past few centuries… The message of Pinker’s book is that the Enlightenment produced all of the progress of the modern era and none of its crimes” [71]. Conor Lynch: “In the end, “Enlightenment Now” is an erudite defense of the status quo and an apology for global capitalism (not surprisingly, the second-wealthiest man in the world as of this writing, Bill Gates, has named Pinker’s new book his “new favorite book of all time”)” [72].

The current neoliberal order espoused by Pinker involves maximizing the freedom of the smart and advantaged to exploit human and natural resources for private profit – as opposed to social humanism (socialism, ecosocialism, communalism, communism, “Greenism”, the welfare state) that he variously scorns and which aims to maximize human happiness, opportunity and dignity through evolving intra-national and international social contracts [73-76]. Capitalist greed has brought us to a point at which both Humanity and the Biosphere in general are existentially threatened by nuclear weapons and climate change – again, as Stephen Hawking puts it: “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change” [62, 63]. As of 2019 science informs us that presently in a continuing Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust 15 million Third World people die avoidably from deprivation each year on Spaceship Earth with the First World in charge of the flight deck [22], that there will be a predicted 10 billion deaths this century if a worsening Climate Emergency and Climate Genocide is not requisitely addressed, that there is a remorselessly worsening mass species extinction event in our present Anthropocene era, and of the present need to urgently restore atmospheric CO2 to the pre-industrial level of circa 300 ppm CO2 and for 50% negative population growth and negative economic growth (degrowth) [77-79] , with estimates of a sustainable human population by 2100 of merely 0.5-1 billion [57].

Neoliberal One Percenter Pinker condemns such estimates as “alarmist” and advocates an evolutionary, business-as-usual, neoliberal, capitalist One Percenter approach to the existential threats of climate change and nuclear weapons. However a one-person-one-vote third chamber of world government (in addition to the UNGA and the UNSC) is needed to urgently address these dire circumstances and dire threats [79-81] . Nevertheless Pinker with characteristic sarcasm dismisses scientist calls for world government thus: “Many scientists are naifs when it comes to policy and cook up non-starters like world government, mandatory licensing of parents, and escaping a befouled earth by colonizing other planets” (page 390 [1]) – however one notes the science-based counterarguments that acutely threatened Humanity urgently needs a one-person-one-vote world parliament [79-81], that 50% of Apartheid Israeli children are variously physically, psychologically and sexually abused, with comparable data from pro-Apartheid Israel and hence pro-Apartheid US and similarly pro-Apartheid Australia [82-84], and that an eminent scientist such as Stephen Hawking argues for settling other solar system bodies given the high likelihood of a massive asteroid strike mass extinction event in the next 100 million years [63].

In Chapter 2 “Entro, evo, info” Pinker adduces the key Enlightenment-derived concepts of entropy (disorder, lack of information content), evolution (through natural selection of favourable mutated genes or through societal selection of favourable behaviours and ideas or memes), and accurate information (the key to science-based analysis). It is clear to scientists that life involves decreasing entropy by extracting free energy from an increasingly chaotic universe. Indeed if there is any approximation to “purpose” for us it is surely to create order, beauty and truth in defiance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that states that the entropy of the world inexorably increases (thus one can imagine being a non-sentient vegetable for all of 10 seconds, and then adopt the alternative, not without pain, of defying the Second Law through creating truth and beauty). However I have translated the 3 laws of Thermodynamics, to whit, (1) conservation of energy, (2) entropy increases to a maximum, and (3) zero motion at Absolute Zero, to Polya’s 3 Laws of Economics, to whit (1) Profit = Price minus Cost of Production), (2) Deceit about Cost of Production increases to a maximum, and (3) no life, work, price or profit on a dead Planet [85]. Unfortunately, the neoliberalism that Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now” espouses violates the core Enlightenment principles of profound respect for truth, beauty, scientific method and accurate information. Thus we must not destroy what we cannot replace, any one species is accordingly priceless, and the Cost of Production in our present Gadarene, One Percenter-dominated, mendacious and anti-science neoliberal world means huge suffering and premature death for the assertedly “deficient” and “uncompetitive” Ninety Percenters, mass speciescide and mass ecocide leading the Earth towards omnicide and terracide.

Gideon Polya is an Australian scientist who has published extensively on avoidable mortality (especially in relation to poverty, deprivation, hegemony, war and genocide) and the worsening climate emergency and climate genocide. He taught science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”



[1]. Steven Pinker, “Enlightenment Now. The case for reason, science, humanism and progress” , Penguin, 2018.


[2]. “Steven Pinker, Wikipedia: .


[3]. Jonathan Marks, “Steven Pinker on the boycott Israel dispute at Harvard”, Minding The Campus, 23 December 2014: .


[4]. Andrew Pessin, “Harvard’s Steven Pinker opposes Israel boycott as anthropologists prepare for upcoming vote ” , The Algemeiner, 26 February 2016: .

[5]. “Palestinian Genocide”: .

[6]. Justin McCarty, “Palestine population: during the Ottoman and British mandate period”, Palestine Remembered: 8 September 2001: .

[7]. “Historic population of Israel/Palestine”: .

[8]. Gideon Polya, “70th anniversary of Apartheid Israel & commencement of large-scale Palestinian Genocide”, Countercurrents, 11 May 2018: .

[9]. Gideon Polya, “Apartheid Israel’s Palestinian Genocide & Australia’s Aboriginal Genocide compared”, Countercurrents, 20 February 2018: .

[10]. Gideon Polya, “Israeli-Palestinian & Middle East conflict – from oil to climate genocide”, Countercurrents, 21 August 2017: .

[11]. Gideon Polya, “End 50 Years Of Genocidal Occupation & Human Rights Abuse By US-Backed Apartheid Israel”, Countercurrents, 9 June 2017: .

[12]. Gideon Polya, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights & Palestinians. Apartheid Israel violates ALL Palestinian Human Rights”, Palestine Genocide Essays, 24 January 2009: .

[13]. Susan Abulhawa, “Israel’s “nation-state law” parallels the Nazi Nuremburg Laws”, Al Jazeera, 27 July 2018: .

[14]. “Discriminatory laws in Israel:, Adalah, .

[15]. John Dugard, “International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the crime of Apartheid”, Audiovisual Library of International Law: .

[16]. Gideon Polya, “Paris Atrocity Context: 27 Million Muslim Avoidable Deaths From Imposed Deprivation In 20 Countries Violated By US Alliance Since 9-11”, Countercurrents, 22 November, 2015: .

[17]. “Experts: US did 9-11”: .

[18]. “Muslim Holocaust Muslim Genocide”: .

[19]. “Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide”: .

[20]. Peter Beaumont and Joanna Walters, “Greenspan admits Iraq was about oil, as deaths put at 1.2m”, The Observer, 16 September 2007: .


[21]. Noam Chomsky quoted in Sherwood Ross, “Chomsky: Iraq invasion “major crime” designed to control Middle East oil”, The Public Record, 3 November 2009: .


[22]. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, that includes an avoidable mortality-related history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal on the web : .


[23]. Gideon Polya, “The US Has Invaded 70 Nations Since 1776 – Make 4 July Independence From America Day”, Countercurrents, 5 July, 2013: .


[24]. Gideon Polya, “British Have Invaded 193 Countries: Make 26 January ( Australia Day, Invasion Day) British Invasion Day”, Countercurrents, 23 January, 2015: .


[25]. Gideon Polya, “As UK Lackeys Or US Lackeys Australians Have Invaded 85 Countries (British 193, French 80, US 70)”, Countercurrents, 9 February, 2015: .


[26]. Gideon Polya, “President Hollande And French Invasion Of Privacy Versus French Invasion Of 80 Countries Since 800 AD”, Countercurrents, 15 January, 2014: .


[27]. “Stop state terrorism” : .


[28]. “State crime and non-state terrorism”: .

[29]. “Afghan Holocaust, Afghan Genocide”: .

[30]. “I-casualties”: .

[31]. David Vine , “Where in the world is the U.S. military?”, Politico, July/August 2015: .


[32]. Gideon Polya, “Criminal US sanctions & passive mass murder of Venezuelans by state terrorist Trump America”, Countercurrents, 10 July 2019: .


[33]. Gideon Polya, “Apartheid Israel bombing Syria & Iraq – hotting up deadly 4-decade US war on Iran”, Countercurrents, 14 August 2019: ).


[34]. John Pilger, “John Pilger: the war on Venezuela is built on lies”, Green Left Weekly, 1 March 2019: .

[35]. Joanne Lu, “A new UN report finds that a child under the age of 5 dies every 5 seconds”, UN Dispatch, 21 September 2018: .

[36]. UN Interagency Group, “Levels and trends in Child Mortality, Report 2018.

[37]. “UN Genocide Convention”: .

[38]. Gideon Polya, “Media Lying, Media Censorship & Australian Federal Police Raids On Media In Pre-Police State Australia”, Countercurrents, 15 June 2019: .


[39]. Gideon Polya, “Truth & Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) Can Overcome Huge Inequities Suffered By African Americans Under American Apartheid”, Countercurrents, 29 September 2014: .

[40]. Gideon Polya, “The need for global governance” in “The New Enlightenment. On Steven Pinker & beyond”, by Brian Ellis (with contributions by Greg Bailey, Tony Lynch and Gideon Polya), Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2019.

[41] “UN Charter”: .


[42]. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”: .


[43]. “Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War”: that [43], (5) the


[44]. “Convention on the Rights of the Child”, Wikipedia: .


[45]. Brian Toohey, “The rules –based international security order that isn’t”, Financial Review, 15 February 2017: .

[46]. Gideon Polya, “Green Left Pope Francis Demands Climate Action “Without Delay” To Prevent Climate “Catastrophe””, Countercurrents, 10 August, 2015: .

[47]. Mark Diesendorf and Peter Christoff, “C02 emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle”, EnergyScience, .


[48]. Clive Hamilton, “Earthmasters. The dawn of the age of climate engineering:, Yale University Press, 2014.


[49]. Gideon Polya, “Huge Carbon Debt and intergenerational injustice: CO2 draw-down necessity. and 300 ppm CO2 target”, Global Research, 7 June 2018: .


[50]. Gideon Polya, “Intergenerational Theft – For Every $1 For Coal Today Future Generations Will Pay $1-$14 To Sequester CO2”, Countercurrents, 8 April, 2015: .


[51]. Phillip Levin and Donald Levin, “The real biodiversity crisis”, American Scientist, January-February 2002: .

[52]. William J. Ripple et al., 15,364 signatories from 184 countries, “World scientists’ warning to Humanity: a second notice”, Bioscience, 13 November 2017: .

[53]. Gideon Polya, “Over 15,000 scientists issue dire warning to Humanity on catastrophic climate change and biodiversity loss”, Countercurrents, 20 November 2017: .

[54]. Gideon Polya, “IPCC +1.5C avoidance report – effectively too late, but stop coal burning for “less bad” catastrophes”, Countercurrents, 12 October 2018: .


[55]. IPCC, “Global warming of 1.5 °C. Summary for Policymakers”, 8 October 2018: .


[56]. “Nuclear weapons ban, end poverty and reverse climate change”: .


[57]. “Climate Genocide”: .


[58]. Brandon Miller, “World is woefully short of 2 degree goal for climate change, according to UN report”, CNN, 28 November 2018: .

[59]. “Are we doomed?”: .
[60]. “Methane Bomb Threat”: .

[61]. “Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe”: .

[62]. Professor Stephen Hawking quoted in Will Dunham, “Nuclear, climate perils push Doomsday Clock ahead”, Reuters, 22 January 2007: .

[63]. Stephen Hawking, “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”, John Murray, 2018, Chapter 7.

[64]. William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, ““Last secret” of 1967 War: Israel’s Doomsday Plan for nuclear display”, New York Times, 3 June 2017: .

[65]. “Zionist quotes re racism and Palestinian Genocide”, Palestinian Genocide : .

[66]. Gideon Polya, “Over 14 million Americans will die preventably under a 2-term Trump Administration”, Countercurrents, 22 March 2017: .

[67]. “Our collective complacency costs us 466 lives every day”, National Safety Council, 2017:


[68]. Linda Bilmes, “Iraq and Afghanistan: The $6 trillion bill for America’s longest war is unpaid”, Common Dreams, 26 May 2017: .


[69]. Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict”, W.W. Norton, 2008.


[70]. Landon Frim and Harrison Fluss, “Steven Pinker: a false friend of the Enlightenment”, Jacobin, 10 October 2018: .


[71]. John Gray, “Unenlightened thinking: Steven Pinker’s embarrassing new book is a feeble sermon for rattled liberals”, ”, New Statesman, 22 February 2018: .


[72]. Conor Lynch, “”Enlightenment Now”: Steven Piker’s apology for capitalism”, Salon, 10 March 2018: .


[73]. Brian Ellis, ”Social Humanism. A New Metaphysics”, Routledge , UK , 2012).

[74]. Gideon Polya, “Book Review: “Social Humanism. A New Metaphysics” By Brian Ellis – Last Chance To Save Planet?”, Countercurrents, 19 August, 2012: .

[75]. [1]. Brian Ellis, ”Rationalism. A critique of pure theory”, Australian Scholarly, Melbourne, 2017.


[76]. Gideon Polya, “Review: “Rationalism” by Brian Ellis”, Countercurrents, 14 August 2017: .


[77]. “Economic degrowth – negative economic growth to save Humanity & Biosphere”, Carbon Debt Carbon Credit: .


[78]. Gideon Polya, “How much negative carbon emissions, negative population growth & negative economic growth is needed to save Planet?”, Countercurrents, 28 Novemebr 2018:


[79]. Gideon Polya, “The need for global governance” in “The New Enlightenment. On Steven Pinker & beyond”, by Brian Ellis, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2019.


[80]. Brian Ellis (with contributions by Greg Bailey, Tony Lynch and Gideon Polya), “The New Enlightenment. On Steven Pinker & beyond”, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2019.


[81]. George Monbiot, “The Age of Consent. A manifesto for a new world order”, Flamingo, 2003.

[82]. Gideon Polya, “Horrendous Pro-Zionist, Zionist And Apartheid Israeli Child Abuse Exposed”, Countercurrents, 21 April, 2014: .

[83]. Yarden Skop, “Nearly half of Israel ‘s children suffer physical, sexual or emotional abuse, study finds”, Haaretz, 13 November 2013: .

[84]. Danielle Ziri, “Child abuse more prevalent than ever, report shows”, The Jerusalem Post, 11 December 2013: .

[85]. Gideon Polya, “Polya’s 3 Laws Of Economics Expose Deadly, Dishonest And Terminal Neoliberal Capitalism”, Countercurrents, 17 October, 2015: .

Dr Gideon Polya taught science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007: ) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: ; Gideon Polya: ; Gideon Polya Writing: ; Gideon Polya, Wikipedia: ) . When words fail one can say it in pictures – for images of Gideon Polya’s huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: and


From left: Jeffrey Epstein, Lawrence Krauss and Steven Pinker in 2014 (Inside Higher Ed)

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