Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now is making a case for optimism, not offering a balanced analysis of what’s wrong with Western culture. David A. Bell’s review [“The PowerPoint Philosophe,” April 2] misses the mark.
Thank you, David A. Bell, for this delightful (and wryly humorous) discussion of Pinker’s work. This is the kind of review I thoroughly enjoy, for while I may not agree with your critique of Pinker at all times (I personally loathe Nietzsche and Foucault and Derrida), your insightful observations and clear-sighted criticisms—complete with snarky but hilarious (and appropriate) comparisons between Pinker’s work, TED Talks, and Dan Brown’s Origin)—gives me a clear picture of whether or not I should take a hiatus from my own PhD reading in order to see if this book will have any value for my political-philosophy students. Your review gives me the confidence to decide that I should not bother to reduce either the foil of Ayn Rand or the insight of Thomas Picketty in order to make room for Pinker. Thank you for doing the labor for me!
A good and thorough critique of technocratic neoliberalism is sorely needed, and this might be as good a start as any for our particular time. Besides our dismal prospects in the face of anthropogenic climate change, we’re facing a slew of technologies—from artificial intelligence to genetic engineering and nanotech—that hold great promise for improving the lives of billions of people, but that require an understanding of the intimate coevolutionary dynamic between (radical) social movements and scientific discovery to achieve any kind of change that might be considered “progressive.” Thank you for a great read.
The Renewable Solution
What could The Nation have been thinking, publishing the letter by Jim Padden with its nuclear-power-cheering nonsense [“Never Mind Armageddon,” April 2]? It is one thing to present minority or opposition viewpoints. It is another entirely to publish misinformation.
Nuclear power is and always has been a corporate-welfare dinosaur. After being subsidized by the government for 60 years, it makes less economic sense than ever. Its radioactive waste, which no one wants and which has never been dealt with, lasts longer than human civilization has existed. Future Fukushimas and Chernobyls threaten. Yet Padden says that nuclear power’s problems are “solvable.”
It’s time to get acquainted with the truth: Renewables, without subsidies, are now the cheapest source of new energy. Utility-scale solar generation increased 51 percent from 2016 to 2017. Wind increased 11 percent. Nuclear declined 1.5 percent.
Let Them Feel Our Fear
The only way we’ll ever have gun control is if firearms are allowed into the halls and offices and onto the floors of both houses of Congress [“How to Beat the BS,” March 19/26]. Only when those who have sworn to represent “We the People” are subject to the same threats as we the people will our safety weigh as heavily as the NRA’s contributions, which function as successful bribes.
Liane Ellison Norman