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自分が読んで興味深く感じた英文記事を中心に取り上げる予定です

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理性を信じよう

 


「理性」や「啓蒙」なんて言葉を使うのが気恥ずかしい時代になっていますが、「理性によって世界は良くなる」という信頼を取り戻そうという本が出るとか。本を書いたのは有名なスティーブンピンカー教授。英検にも出た本の続編になるそう。The follow-up to Pinker’s groundbreaking The Better Angels of Our Natureとなっています。

THE CASE FOR REASON, SCIENCE, HUMANISM, AND PROGRESS
By STEVEN PINKER

ABOUT ENLIGHTENMENT NOW
“A terrific book…[Pinker] recounts the progress across a broad array of metrics, from health to wars, the environment to happiness, equal rights to quality of life.” —The New York Times

The follow-up to Pinker’s groundbreaking The Better Angels of Our Nature presents the big picture of human progress: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature–tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking–which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation. 

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.

新年早々の雑誌TIMEはビルゲーツを編集長に迎えてThe Optimistsという特集をしていましたが、これと似たような方向性のようです。ニュースを見てると世界は破滅に向かっているように思えるが世界は確実に良くなっているというのです。

By BILL GATES January 4, 2018

Reading the news today does not exactly leave you feeling optimistic. Hurricanes in the Americas. Horrific mass shootings. Global tensions over nuclear arms, crisis in Myanmar, bloody civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Your heart breaks for every person who is touched by these tragedies. Even for those of us lucky enough not to be directly affected, it may feel like the world is falling apart.

But these events—as awful as they are—have happened in the context of a bigger, positive trend. On the whole, the world is getting better.

This is not some naively optimistic view; it’s backed by data. Look at the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. Since 1990, that figure has been cut in half. That means 122 million children have been saved in a quarter- century, and countless families have been spared the heartbreak of losing a child.

ピンカー教授もこのTIMEに寄稿していましたね。不必要に悲観的になることは逆に危険であるとも語っています。

By STEVEN PINKER January 4, 2018

The bad habits of media in turn bring out the worst in human cognition. Our intuitions about risk are driven not by statistics but by images and stories. People rank tornadoes (which kill dozens of Americans a year) as more dangerous than asthma (which kills thousands), presumably because tornadoes make for better television. It’s easy to see how this cognitive bias–stoked by the news policy “If it bleeds, it leads”–could make people conclude the worst about where the world is heading.

Irrational pessimism is also driven by a morbid interest in what can go wrong–and there are always more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. This creates a market for experts to remind us of things that can go wrong that we may have overlooked. Biblical prophets, oped pundits, social critics, dystopian filmmakers and tabloid psychics know they can achieve instant gravitas by warning of an imminent doomsday. Those who point out that the world is getting better–even hardheaded analysts who are just reading out the data–may be dismissed as starry-eyed naïfs.

彼もゲーツと同じくデータ的裏付けを持って良い面を見ることを訴えています。動画では北朝鮮だって世界大戦直後と比べればよくなっているといっていました(苦笑)

The cure for these biases is numeracy: basing our sense of the world not on bleeding headlines or gory images but on measures of human flourishing such as longevity, literacy, prosperity and peace. Numbers, after all, aggregate the good and the bad, the things that happen and the things that don’t. A quantitative mind-set, despite its nerdy aura, is not just a smarter way to understand the world but the morally enlightened one. It treats every human life as equal, rather than privileging the people who are closest to us or most photogenic. And it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of our problems and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to solve them.

ニューヨークタイムズのコラムニストNicholas Kristofもこの本を引き合いに出していました。世界の統計をまとめているサイトは世界が良くなっていることを実感できます。


Nicholas Kristof JAN. 6, 2018

Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychology professor, explores the gains in a terrific book due out next month, “Enlightenment Now,” in which he recounts the progress across a broad array of metrics, from health to wars, the environment to happiness, equal rights to quality of life. “Intellectuals hate progress,” he writes, referring to the reluctance to acknowledge gains, and I know it feels uncomfortable to highlight progress at a time of global threats. But this pessimism is counterproductive and simply empowers the forces of backwardness.

President Trump rode this gloom to the White House. The idea “Make America Great Again” professes a nostalgia for a lost Eden. But really? If that was, say, the 1950s, the U.S. also had segregation, polio and bans on interracial marriage, gay sex and birth control. Most of the world lived under dictatorships, two-thirds of parents had a child die before age 5, and it was a time of nuclear standoffs, of pea soup smog, of frequent wars, of stifling limits on women and of the worst famine in history.

What moment in history would you prefer to live in?

もちろん3人とも盲目的に楽観主義になれといっているわけではありません。Pinkerはconditional optimismという言葉を使っていました。3人の表現は違いますが訴えている姿勢は似通っていますね。

I’ve never been “optimistic” in the sense of just seeing the glass as half-full — only in the sense of looking at trend lines rather than headlines. It’s irrational both to ignore good developments and to put a happy face on bad ones.

As it happens, most global, long-term trends have been positive. As for the future, I like the distinction drawn by the economist Paul Romer between complacent optimism, the feeling of a child waiting for presents, and conditional optimism, the feeling of a child who wants a treehouse and realizes that if he gets some wood and nails and persuades other kids to help him, he can build one. I am not complacently optimistic about the future; I am conditionally optimistic.

Bill Gates
I’m not trying to downplay the work that remains. Being an optimist doesn’t mean you ignore tragedy and injustice. It means you’re inspired to look for people making progress on those fronts, and to help spread that progress more widely. If you’re shocked by the idea of millions of children dying, you ask: Who is good at saving kids, and how can we help them do more? (This is essentially why Melinda and I started our foundation.)

Nicholas Kristof
F. Scott Fitzgerald said the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time. I suggest these: The world is registering important progress, but it also faces mortal threats. The first belief should empower us to act on the second.

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