Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One last Pinker followup

Although I joked about the endlessness of my response to Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, the truth is that for a book so (physically) substantial and wide-ranging in its claims, a long reply is warranted. Which is why I was pleased to read Edward S. Herman and David Peterson's Reality Denial: Steven Pinker’s Apologetics for Western-Imperial Violence, a 39,000-word critique that points out many of the faulty assumptions, biases, and distortions underlying Pinker's absurd thesis. There's a particular focus on his treatment of the 20th and 21st centuries, but later sections also deal with the wider historical issues, and the science (such as it is) behind his claims. Herman and Peterson's blunt, meticulous overview brings home especially well just how unpleasantly smug Pinker is about the naive illusions that undergird not just his thesis, but his general worldview. Their book is available as a printable PDF, or a hyperlinked online version. I highly recommend it.