Jordan B Peterson Interviews: Steven Pinker

Discussion for Dialogues with Interesting People - Enlightenment now: Steven Pinker/JB Peterson

my notes

  • 2:00 - Case for humanism, science, reason. (Anybody read the book, history of the enlightenment?)
  • 3:00 - measure after measure, life is getting better.
  • 8:00 - education, peace, food, violence,
  • 10:00 - things that are more memorable seem more prominent, (more people die from falling off a ladder than die from tornadoes (of course, tornadoes happen less frequently))
  • 11:00 - we aren’t tuned to thinking probabilistically, so we don’t think about the gradual improvements over time
  • 12:00 - there was the anti-enlightenment that considered the world as getting gradually worse.
  • 13:00 - hopes to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. (!!!)
  • 18:00 - the doomsayers going all the way back to the old-testament prophets.
  • 20:00 - the good things that are occuring aren’t happening through the transfer of money from one to the other, but new value is being created in the poorer societies.
  • 22:00 - investments in the future,- investments in public goods, investments in insurance -safety, and also greater amounts of charity.
  • 26:00 - what drives the discontentment with those up above is if they sense that the people with money have gotten it through ill-gotten means
  • 28:00 - 40-50% of the success in society is naturally concluded from intelligence and personality
  • 33:00 - successful people expressing gratitude for chance in their success through social justice.
  • 35:00 - too much of our best people within the finance field, as well as focusing on suing each other in the legal fields
  • 37:00 - the freedom of the system tied to the ability to be creative within the system. Criminality correlatory to creativity. How to allow for one and not the other without be totalitarian? Incrementalism?
  • 40:00 - [lol, it’s like everything that Peterson says Pinker pushes back against.]
  • 41:00 - those that save millions of lives aren’t heralded as heroes, while there are saints who might save one life by a miracle, but of course miracles don’t happen.
  • 43:00 - Who is most moral, Theresa, Gates, or Norman Borlage? Theresa didn’t really save anyone, she was just the nun that gave sick people random pills and was there with them as they all died. Whereas Borlage brought about a green revolution to allow for growing food in any place
  • 44:00 - people shouldn’t label things as trends that have just happened, to be a trend it has to be a general thing tracked over time.
  • 45:00 - instead of asking which side is more moral, left or right, let’s instead look at the data.
  • 48:00 - science can greatly inform the humanities
  • 52:00 - if you are more aware of your own political biases, it allows you to step back to try to look at things from other sides
  • 56:00 - ‘detections of pathogens by disgust trait is evolutionarily useful’ ‘Yes but, now there are scientific ways of calculating such things, so these evolutionary traits may be getting in the way, no longer useful to be responding to other people as if they are pathogens
  • 59:00 - christianity was around for a thousand years before the enlightenment, so it probably wasn’t that. In ancient greece you don’t exactly have the compassion for the weak, and universal human flourishing. (I’d say also the rise in forgiveness)
  • 1:00:00 - the scientific revolution as the precursor, as well as the removal of old dogma, allowing people to work against their prior intuitions to discover the truth. Also the greater accessibility to ideas via the printing press. The ability for heretics to move away to somewhere they wouldn’t be killed for their discoveries.

wikipedia page

On topics such as nuclear weaponry, Pinker places the blame on anti-Enlightenment forces. - Scientists working on the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear weapons did so because they needed to beat Hitler; Pinker states “Quite possibly, had there been no Nazis, there would be no nukes.” In contrast, critics point out that science lacks any ethical logic of its own.