1. He is more likely right than wrong on the major points of optimism and progress and science.
2. The book is very clearly written, and it would do most of the world good to read it.
3. Contrary to Pinker, inframarginally I see the Enlightenment as a strong complement to Christianity/faith, even though the two at the margin often will clash. The same is true for nationalism.
4. The Counterenlightenment, as Pinker calls it, is intellectually much stronger than he gives it credit for. It’s time for yet another reread of Gulliver’s Travels.
5. I am uncomfortable with statements such as “Intellectuals hate progress.” That sentence opens chapter four. I know that he explains and qualifies it, but it is not how I like to organize concepts.
6. It is not a good book for understanding the Enlightenment.
7. Overall my main difference with Pinker might be this: I believe there is a certain amount of irreducible “irrationality” (not my preferred term, but borrowing his schema for a moment) in people, and it has to be “put somewhere,” into some doctrine or belief system. That is what makes the whole bundle sustainable. It also means that a move toward greater “Enlightenment” is never without its problematic side, and that a “Counterenlightenment” can be more progressive than it might at first appear. In contrast, I read Pinker as believing that Enlightenment simply can beat ignorance more and more over time.
The book’s subtitle is The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. And here is my earlier discussion with Pinker, video, podcast, and transcript.