Dr. Pangloss predicts the future, in The Financial Times. Political Observer comments

Headline: Steven Pinker: what can we expect from the 2020s?

Sub-headline: Look beyond the gloom of the daily headlines and the case for progress is still strong

Dr. Pangloss’ essay  presents many compelling aperçus :

On Human Nature as Determined :

And our species evolved for advantages in the struggle to reproduce, not for happiness or wisdom.

On thinking about the future: 

The first step in thinking about the future is to reconcile human progress with human nature.

On Journalism: 

But this progress is invisible to most people because they don’t get their understanding of the world from numbers; they get it from headlines. Journalism by its very nature conceals progress, because it presents sudden events rather than gradual trends.

On Un-Reason:

It’s true that the parent ideal of reason is under assault by fundamentalism, fake news and conspiracy theories, as it always has been.

These just a sample of the Dr.’s pronouncements early in his long essay. The reader can only wonder at The Dr.’s choice of a publication to spread his good news, or should we call it a Gospel, on ineluctable human progress? Did he miss Mr. Rachman’s December 23, 2019 essay on the persistence of human anarchy ?

Headline: 2019: the year of street protest

Sub-headline: Mass demonstrations around the globe show no sign of fizzling out


Or the fact that a General Strike in France that began on December 5, 2019 is ignored by this newspaper, except to report on possible travel delays?

Headline:December strikes in Paris: travel disruptions to look out for

Sub-headline: Protests at pension reforms have disrupted rail and air links, plus national and international services


This paragraph demonstrates that the Dr. is suffering from an advanced case of political/economic myopia. Those ‘regulated markets’ were victim to the ascendant Neo-Liberal Swindle!

These gifts were amplified by ideas and institutions advocated during the Enlightenment and entrenched after the second world war: reason, science, liberal democracy, declarations of rights, a free press, regulated markets, institutions of international co-operation.

The Dr. betrays his particular form of apologetics for the political present , an admixture of fatalism and cynicism, masked as optimism, in this paragraph.

But — as the sustainable goalkeepers emphasise — “progress is possible, but it is not inevitable”. Poverty, disease and conflict are natural, not unnatural, parts of the human condition, and only the concerted application of reason, science and humanism can push back against their creep.



There is nothing more that the editors of The Financial Times fears, than the comments of its regular readership!

Comments on this artice have been disabled and will reopen on Monday’

Political Observer






About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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