Monday, February 19, 2018

Steven Pinker, Cosmopolitan Person with Deep Feelings

Famed multibillionaire college dropout Bill Gates has called it his “favorite book of all time.” When you have that much money no one dares call you out on your ridiculous remarks. It’s not a good cultural sign.

I am talking about Steven Pinker’s paean to a new atheist faith. He calls his new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress and uses it to proselytize his progressive beliefs. He is not doing science. He is not engaging in empirical or pragmatic thinking. It is barely rational.

In truth, Pinker is selling a new religion, a new atheist cult that he believes will save the world. That atheism has already been tried and has failed miserably does not bother Pinker. He is more than happy to manipulate facts to persuade people of the correctness of his beliefs. When asked to explain the catastrophes that were produced by governments that tried to impose an atheist culture, most good atheists will respond that they did not understand the true faith or else that they implemented it badly. 

As I remarked a few days ago, Pinker has sung the praises of Immanuel Kant’s enlightened thinking, failing to notice that Kant's thinking, along with that of Hegel and Marx and Nietzsche, produced some of the greatest calamities in human history. How did Pinker deal with this anomaly? He declared that the Kantian Enlightenment only began to have any real influence after 1945. When you are playing with loaded dice, you always win.

Undaunted Pinker is happily promoting is open-borders cosmopolitanism. We already know, or should know, the mess that this policy has produced in Western Europe, but Pinker cannot really care about all that. The rising crime rates and the incipient anarchy caused by refugees is only a speed bump on the road to the Worker’s Paradise or, if you prefer, the Heavenly City.

Surely, Pinker believes that humanistic cosmopolitanism will prevent any future genocides. And yet, he failed to notice that humanism leads some people to think that they are superhuman. And that from there they declare other groups as subhuman... and that had to be eliminated in a Holocaust to placate the gods. Anyone who refuses to bow down to the gods of humanism is considered to be an enemy that must be destroyed.

Yesterday in the Times of London Niall Ferguson debunked Pinker’s naïve cosmopolitanism. To be fair, Pinker need not be all that naïve himself. He just needs a band of dupes, and, beginning with college dropout Gates, he has already found it.

Naturally, Ferguson says, Pinker must assert that cosmopolitism works. It's a fancy term, but, Ferguson continues, it is merely a bunch of policies that comprises the agenda of today’s enlightened leftists.

Ferguson writes:

Pinker shares the 18th-century Enlightenment’s faith in cosmopolitanism. He is on the side of “globalisation, racial diversity, women’s empowerment, secularism, urbanisation [and] education” and against the populist backlash Donald Trump has come to personify. This is partly because Pinker believes cosmopolitanism works. “As we continually expand discourse and interaction,” he said recently, “as people from diverse cultural backgrounds continue to sit down and agree about how to run their affairs, things tend to get better.”

As it happens, Pinker is wrong. Different peoples from different cultures cannot sit down and agree to anything unless… here is the kicker… they share a single, unifying culture. They must be speaking the same language, using the same manners, following the same customs and norms. If they do not, if they cling to the customs and norms of their ancestors—it’s called ancestor worship—they are never going to accomplish anything. When the humanitarian and cosmopolitan left fails, it will seek out scapegoats... and will often attack those who are not sufficiently humanistic or cosmopolitan.

If Pinker had been better versed in Scripture he would have known the story of the tower of Babel. He would have known that multiple languages makes work, to say nothing of conversation, impossible. And he would also know that multiculturalism is a reactionary throwback to the time of polytheism.

To be more clear about it all, when people do not have a common culture, they must, if they are to reconcile their differences, have something in common. Pinker would suggest that they all have the milk of human kindness, human compassion, human empathy rushing through their arteries. After all, feeling the right feelings is what makes them human. Right?

In the absence of a common language, humanists propose a common feeling, a universal emotion. Of course, you cannot negotiate anything if you only have common feelings. You will need all to believe in your feelings, in the murmurings of your heart. But then you will need to reject any culture that would unify the group. You need especially to reject all monotheistic religions, the kind that produced monocultures. When people speaking different languages sit down to resolve their affairs using the universal language of emotion, they will fail. At that point,the issue will be: who is to blame? The answer will be: anyone who rejects the cosmopolitan faith. Practitioners of monotheistic religion or patriots who value national unity will be expelled from the group for failing to believe in the politically correct beliefs. If they are not bathing in what the cosmopolitans believe to be universal sentiments they will immediately be declared to be subhuman. 

Ferguson points out that America has been attempting to make Pinker’s cosmopolitan fictions a reality. How is that working out?

The problem with this [Pinker’s] theory is that no country in history has more systematically tried to put it into practice than America, his adopted home. (Pinker was born in Canada.) In the past few decades, increased immigration from all over the world has driven the foreign-born share of the US population from below 5% to above 13%. On present trends, the share will soon match the historic peak of 14.8% in 1890.

Moreover, immigrants to America now come from all over the world. Back in 1960, when Pinker was a boy, 84% of US immigrants were from Europe or Canada. By 2013 that share was down to 14%. On present trends in migration, fertility and mortality, the Census Bureau predicts that minority groups will outnumber non-Hispanic whites in America by 2044. According to The Washington Post, the most that a Trumpian immigration policy could achieve would be to postpone that by five years.

Of course, Pinker’s theory is not really a theory. It’s a prophecy. One understands that it does not really matter to him whether it is working out. If it doesn’t, you must take it on faith.

How’s life in today’s America? If Pinker is right, America should be thriving. It should be leading the world in all measures of happiness and fulfillment. It should still be that shining city on the hill, a place that people around the world want to emulate.

Ferguson points out that such is not the case:

If cosmopolitanism works, America should not be an outlier. It should not be the country where a significant proportion of the majority-soon-to-be-minority population is experiencing a rising mortality rate, not least because of an epidemic of opioid abuse, to say nothing of the multiple social pathologies described by Charles Murray in his seminal book Coming Apart. It should illustrate not contradict Pinker’s thesis.

Enlightenment Now? Or Benightedness? America today feels like a country where Pinker’s cosmopolitanism has overshot, triggering an increasingly nasty backlash.

Of course, like all failing extremist policies, today’s benighted Americans have a perfect scapegoat in one Donald Trump. Any time anything does not work, anytime anything goes wrong, the fault always lies with Trump. And, of course, it lies with the counterrevolutionaries who believe in the one God and the American nation, thus who stubbornly refuse to embrace the new atheist religion. 

To be fair, hating Trump, blaming him for everything that is going wrong, is a way to profess one's adoration for the New Messiah, the man who will save the nation from thought crimes. That is, Barack Obama.

It is not an accident that today’s radical students are behaving like fascist and communist pagans, that they are shutting down any speech that offends them. Cosmopolitanism produces the pathologies that it claims to cure. 

Ferguson concludes:

Protesting students often borrow symbols from 20th-century communists to make their points. The clenched fist on a red background is back in vogue. The irony is that Murray’s work has been far more about inequality than about race. Time and again, he has warned that a cognitive elite formed at the nation’s most selective colleges has lost all touch with the mass of ordinary Americans. Some campus protests illustrate his point.

Students protesting against free speech is just the kind of absurdity Voltaire throws at Dr Pangloss to challenge his optimism. Steve Pinker should watch out for that red fist.


Redacted said...

OT, I know, but Pinker reminds me of an 18th Century dandy. And he doesn't even need a wig.


Jack Fisher said...

"Pinker shares the 18th-century Enlightenment’s faith in cosmopolitanism. He is on the side of 'globalisation, racial diversity, women’s empowerment, secularism, urbanisation [and] education'"

"Globalization" in the 18th century meant empire.

"Racial diversity" meant having a racially diverse empire.

"Education" meant ensuring the yokels could understand enough to safely operate machinery.

"Secularism": decoupling "divine right" from "kings", no longer a particularly timely issue.

"urbanization", when you need to convert country bumpkins into factory drones.

"women's empowerment", when you need to convert country lasses into factory drones.

Sam L. said...

So, basically, he's lying to us. Or propagandizing; same same.

Jack Fisher said...

Sam, there's an Afghan saying, "The libtard speaks and the viper spits, no one grows fat on the difference."

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

G. Orwell: "That is so ridiculous, only an intellectual would believe it". - Rich Lara

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Intellectuals are fascinated by common sense, so long as it is accompanied by data sets.

Ares Olympus said...

I see Pinker was interviewed for PBS NewsHour. I think the strength of his argument is saying something like "Without progress, the alternative is despair and people will stop striving to make things better" while the weakness of his argument is similar, that when the "signs" of progress disappears, the signs that keeps individuals striving, we can fall very fast back into Carl Sagan's feared "Demon Haunted World" where superstition wins out. If you're worried about the world, here’s reason to be hopeful -- and keep worrying