Steven Pinker: Progress, Despite Everything

I’m very pleased today to be talking to Dr. Steven Pinker from Harvard University He’s the Johnstone family professor in the Department of Psychology there and has taught additionally at Stanford and MIT He’s an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition psycho linguistics and social relations Dr. Pinker grew up in Montreal and earned his BA from McGill and his PhD from Harvard He’s won numerous prizes for his research his teaching and his nine books Including the language instinct how the mind works The blank slate the better angels of our nature and the sense of style he’s an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist a humanist of the year a recipient of nine honorary doctorates and one of foreign policies world taught 100 public intellectuals and times 100 most influential people in the world today He’s chair of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary And writes frequently for the New York Times The Guardian and other publications Enlightenment now, the case for reason science humanism and progress, was his tenth and best-selling book published in February 2018 and It’s very nice, by the way to have the opportunity to speak with you again, and thanks very much for making the time Thank You Jordan PETERSON: So, can I ask you it’s been about a year since we talked last I guess I’d like to ask you First of all, personally, what’s this year been like for you? You’ve become a much more controversial figure I would say than would really be predicted but you’ve always seemed to me to be a solid reliable interesting mainstream scientists not someone who would attract a tremendous amount of critical Attention and yet you’ve become well oddly enough associated with the intellectual dark web what ever that happens to be and so much of what you’re doing is controversial and so, what’s that being like and what’s your life be like over the last while Yeah, you wouldn’t think that a defensive reason science humanism and progress would be incendiary and I’m hardly a flame thrower and.. and as you note I have put forward some pretty controversial ideas in the past such as that.. uh.. men and women aren’t indistinguishable and that we all Harbor some unsavory motives like Revenge and dominance but saying the world has gotten better turns out to be a radical inflammatory hypothesis there… uh… there are there’s first of all just sheer incredulity because the you of the world that you get from Journalism is so different from the view of the world when you get from data because journalism reports everything that goes wrong It doesn’t report things that go right, and so if they’re more things that go right every year. There’s just no way of Learning about it if you know the world from the papers and so there’s just sheer disbelief. I’m talking about there are intellectual factions that are committed to the idea that the world has never been worse than it is now and data on human progress undermines Some of their their foundational beliefs and then so that does attract some some opposition people think of it as a defense of neoliberal capitalism or a defense of the opposite, secular humanism Traditional liberalism and so does get some people exorcised Basically anyone if you’re a social critic if your reputation comes on saying what’s going wrong about the current society. then You’re kind of committed to the idea that things have gotten gotten worse and the idea that things are Not as bad as they used to be not as bad as they could be is an insult to that those core beliefs Yeah, well, it’s it’s a surprising thing because well and so so let’s let’s talk about that a little bit I mean, here’s some of the things I know, I think I know and Maybe you could describe some of the things, you know And like I started learning that the world had been improving when I worked for a UN committee about five years ago now and started looking at the data on Ecology and sustainable economic development and that’s like there’s some bad ecological news I think that what we’re doing to the oceans is Fundamentally unforgivable and and foolish beyond belief, but there’s some ecological news. That’s of Surprising positivity like there is a paper published in Nature not so long ago Stating for example that an area twice the size of the US has greened in the last 15 years think it was last 15 or 20 years that actually happened to be as a consequence of increased carbon dioxide because Plants can keep their pores closed if there’s more carbon dioxide and so they can live in more semi-arid areas and There’s more forests in the northern hemisphere than there were a hundred years ago and more forests in India and China Than there were 30 years ago. And then this has gone along with it massively improved stan… standard of living The child mortality rate in Africa is now the same as it was in Europe in 1952, which is a statistic that I just regard is absolutely miraculous, the African economies are growing, sub-saharan African economies seem to be growing faster at the moment if the stats are reliable then economies anywhere else in the world Partly because the Africans are getting connected electronically and have access to reasonable information into something Approximating let’s say stable currency alternatives, um… There… there’s people are the rate of poverty is diminishing at an amazing rate Right, we have poverty Considering it at a dollar ninety a day between 2000 and 2012 and I’ve read criticisms of that saying well that was an arbitrary number, but if you look at $3.80 a day You see the same Decline if you look at $7.60 a day You see the same decline not as precipitous and even the UN not known I would say for its optimistic Prognostications estimates that at this rate by the year 2030 there won’t be anyone in the world Who’s living below the current poverty level? So… so there are some positive statistics so What… what… what… what would you like to add to that? Oh yes, and those are all of those those numbers are reported in graphs in enlightenment now, but also what else? Illiteracy is declining rates of uh… of uh… Violent crime including violence against women and children are declining, child labor is declining Death and warfare is declining how people have more leisure time. They have more access to small luxuries like ear and Reporting on plane fare, so it’s funny that that all of these Examples of human progress which one would think indicate the attempt to make the world a better place? It’s not just do-gooding It’s not romantic. It’s not utopian. We really can improve the world if we set our minds to do it should-should around so much anger Partly because they people are so unused to thinking that things have gotten better, but they confuse it with Certain kinds of magical thinking such as… that things.. that this must mean that there is a force in the universe that that Carries us ever upward that just makes progress happen by itself, which is the exact opposite to reality the universe Not only doesn’t care about us. But as a number of features that are constantly pushing back at us like like like entropy like like pathogens Entropies a bad one Entry entropy is is the is the root of all human suffering So here this doesn’t care about us I’ve read to other things that are peculiar that are so interesting and well, okay, so first of all, um, It’s pretty hard on the Marxists. I would say because Even though there is inequality and inequality is a problem first of all, it doesn’t look like Inequality can be placed at the feet of capitalism. It seems to me to be a far more intractable problem than that second it’s clear that the poor are getting richer despite the fact of inequality and third and this is hard on the environmentalists I think is that it turns out that if you Get people’s income up to about five thousand dollars a year in terms of gross domestic product They actually start to care about the environment Which I suppose is because they’re not worried about dying Instantly that day or that week and so we seem to be in this perverse situation for a pessimist where We could make people wealthy and in in a positive manner and We could make the world a better place simultaneously and that does seem to be very hard on ideologue whose ideology is predicated on a Fundamental pessimism where you get the other people like the biologists do this sometimes and say well, yeah, we’re purchasing all this short-term prosperity you know for these billions of people but at the cost of some medium to long term eventual precipitous, you know apocalyptic collapse and it’s very difficult to formulate an argument against that kind of idea because Well, you never know when some yeah, I think this is one of the thing tell him takes you to task for doesn’t he? Yes, I even though I actually have pretty extensive coverage of the tail risks both in the better angels of our nature and in enlightenment now and and indeed we do we cannot take incremental improvement as itself an indication that the Risk of catastrophe is at an acceptable level it may not be uh… It’s very hard to estimate what the risk of it catastrophe is but there are certainly some that we that we ought to take very seriously You’re on the other hand the fact that you mentioned uh… Are often resisted by people in the green movement I’m just going to lean down and pick up my earbud which rolled across the floor Ah, but if anything it should give hope and succor to the environmental movement because it shows that it is not true that we have to choose between Economic growth which people do not want to give up and protecting the environment That we can have both and indeed. There are some ways in which they go together the nations that have done the most to clean up their environment in the last ten years are the wealthiest nations because they can afford it if you’re dirt-poor as you mentioned the your first Priority is putting food on the table and a roof over your head and the you know The fate of the white rhinoceros is pretty pretty low on your list of priorities And you might be willing to put up with some smog in order to have electricity It’s really awful to do (without) electricity. And I know having visited cities like Mumbai which are horribly polluted And and they are awful, but it would be much worse to not have any electricity Well on the other hand when you get more prosperous, then you willing to spring for the cleaner energy and you can afford the clean your energy and as you mentioned your values tend to climb a hierarchy and more long term Future concerns loom larger in your value system so it’s an odd Assumption that both the hard right and the hard green have in common Which is that if we want to protect the environment we have to sacrifice Prosperity go back to a simpler more peasant Style of life the hard greens say well that we’ve got to give up modernity give up capitalism go back to what are you living off the land the Hard right says well, I don’t want to do that. No one wants to do that So to hell with the environment if the reality is that if both policy and technology are deployed intelligence they ought to be then we can afford to protect the environment without going backwards and foregoing all of the benefits of modernity, right I was I was shocked when I started to learn about this the fact that there was so much good both economic and ecological news with the economic news, perhaps being somewhat better than the Ecological news and it doesn’t mean that we can sit back and relax in the environment will clean itself up all by itself Quite the contrary we know why the environment got better combination of policy like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act in the United States in 1970 and Technology, like catalytic converters and scrubbers and and clean energy so it doesn’t happen by itself The fact that it happened is one of the great Fallacies in people’s understanding of progress if they equate the existence of progress with progress happening all by itself as a as if it was some force of the universe, which is Contrary to reality the other you mentioned that the existence of human progress is a blow to doctrinaire Marxist which is certainly true because he has seen the spectacular economic growth of India and China when they liberalized their economies and the disasters of say North Korea with a beautiful Control group South Korea same geography same resources. Same culture. Same language same history What differentiates them is their political system and South Korea is a much better place to live. It’s not only freer, but it is also enormously more prosperous Do debates level XI check on the 19th of April and I’ve been preparing for that, you know And I thought what I might do to begin with this list There’s a graph that I think human progress dot org put out It might be Matt Ridley’s graphed or maybe hands. Is it hands Rosling? Rosalyn it maybe it’s Martin Merriam to be is the proprietor if you’re right But it’s what they call the most miraculous most important graph in the world and shows this unbelievable Acceleration if you prosperity basically kicking in exponentially around 1895 and yes a little bit earlier, but this is a combination of data sources including the Late historical constant angle Madison who began a Madison project trying to retrospect respectively estimate GDP per capita in eras where they did not collect those data at a time, but using historical data. Yes It is astonishing and I’ve got to say when I first saw that curve when I was working on better angels of our nature I was stunned. I mean this is the original hockey stick. Yes Till the Industrial Revolution and then then it shoots up exponentially wait so, you know, I look at that and I think well look I mean What’s the issue here We still have inequality but you can’t put it at the feet of capitalism because it seems to be a much more fundamental Mechanism will ease poverty. Certainly. Yes. Yes well, and even inequality, I mean that there seems to be this proclivity towards the unequal distribution of phenomena, not just monetary phenomena, but I mean if you look at virtually every domain of human Endeavor that’s associated with creativity you get a preeto distribution of productivity, you know I mean a small number of masked ball players Shoot the my vast majority of the hoops and a small number of record recording artists record the majority of the hits a small number of planets have most of the mass and like there is this I Mean, I’m not trying to make a case that inequality Isn’t a problem I’m trying to make a case that it’s a way Deeper problem than the Marxists presume and then you have the other problem that well the poor keep getting richer I mean half the world is middle class now and obesity is a bigger problem than starvation. And so When I’m talking I can’t I’m really having a hard time Trying to understand what the Marxists have left as a doctrine. It’s like yeah Problem you guys were identifying seems to not exist anymore yes, so part of it is that their foil is a kind of playing around Ian Objectivism in which you have a pure untrammeled unconstrained market capitalism with no regulation and no social safety yet now one of the discoveries that I made which was almost as surprising as the Hockey stick graph of prosperity the fact that in the 20th century Every developed country every rich country I went on a screen of social spending and so that from a baseline about 1.5 percent of GDP redistributed to children and the poor and the elderly and the sick now the Median oacd between redistributes about 22% of its prosperity And all which countries are in a band from about 20% of GDP to about 30% of GDP I have the United States is at the low end Actually Canada to my surprise our home and native land is actually a bit lower than the United States. I don’t Even know Canada it would appear to have a more generous welfare state than the United States and in fact The United States would be even higher if you added all of the socialism that is done through employers like retirement and health insurance which in other countries is done through the government, but even if we just looked at government redistribution It just does not exist a wealthy country without a an extensive social safety net Here’s the theory you tell me what you think about this. So I’ve been trying to Let’s say steel man, the Positions of the left. I don’t mean the radical left I mean the moderate left because I believe that the dialogue between the moderate left in the moderate right is what keeps our ship stabilized essentially and for this reason so imagine People have to group together Cooperative cooperatively and competitively to solve difficult problems because we have difficult prob. That’s entropy Let’s say and and the assault of the natural world. So we have to group together when we do that We create hierarchies and we do that in large part. We hope by elevating those who the most competent at solving the problems to the higher positions in the hierarchies now that can be contaminated by power and tyranny and crookedness and poor selection and all of that poor measurement but fundamentally if your Hierarchy is functional the more competent people rise to the top. No that produces the advantage of solving the problem But it produces the disadvantage of making a lot of people stack up at the bottom of that hierarchy because that’s what tends to happen because of the Credo distribution and and the Built-in proclivity for inequality. So the answer to that seems to be well we produce the hierarchies we accept the inequality, but then we attend with some degree of clarity of vision and care to those who are dispossessed by the necessity of the hierarchies and your claim seems to be from what you just said is that that’s essentially what we’ve been doing in civilized democracies for the last hundred years and that that seems to be roughly working Well it is. Yes, that’s right. Now whether or not the hierarchies are optimal in the sense that we’re better off with the hierarchy because of just what will happen in a distributed market economy it you may have winner-take-all situations where the the most entertaining story the most efficient Car the best washing machine in a global market will push out a lot of the competitors and so you get that creative distribution whether or not it’s Anyone would have designed it if they were to plan the entire society Might even be beside the point as long as you don’t have central planning and distribution it might naturally result if it is not explicitly a host which which some of our policies do As you mentioned it’s a little bit like the like environmental Progress that far from being in opposition to economic growth. It’s often economic growth that lets people become more munificent or generous There are a number of reasons why every wealthy country has a social safety net and why as countries get richer like Brazil and India and China, they turn their attention to more social welfare The the the European and North American societies did it in the 20th century and the developing world is following suit partly It’s because some of the investment in some of the redistribution is investment. It’s a public good It’s really good If the entire population is educated or everyone including the people who are hiring them And so some of it is just investment in One take on the Marxist position because funny thing is is that you know You lived in Montreal. I lived in Montreal Montreal is a relatively flat city in some sense in terms of its economic distribution like there are no pockets of terrifying poverty at least on the island and it’s a very safe place and and so it’s Socially rich in some sense. Like I always felt wealthy when I lived in Montreal even though I was living on a hd’s Stipend which was very in the area the area we used to call the Stephen get home. Yeah, the sound luxury condominiums What was so lovely about Montreal was that it was safe It was beautiful and it had an unbelievably vibrant public culture. Yes there was all a consequence of the fact that people Generally speaking were well enough off. And so, you know, if you contrast that with a country like Brazil Where a tiny minority of people have all the wealth? Well, they’re stuck with the problem of living in gilded prisons They have to move their children around in helicopters. And like I think one of the things that people realize as he’s become richer is that it’s better to calculate your wealth on a broader level to include more people within the purview of what Constitutes wealth for you because it’s so nice to be in a city. That’s thriving and and healthy and and and not crime ridden and resentful and and those need to be factored in there’s elements of individual wealth That’s right. And there is a Debate among the social scientists as to whether it is inequality that drives these other social goods such as low crime such as Investment such as education or whether it’s prosperity It’s not so easy to tell them apart because in general poorer countries like South Africa and Brazil have sky-high Inequality countries like Norway and Sweden and Switzerland, which have less inequality are also pretty rich And it isn’t so easy to see which one is driving it because as societies get richer as we’ve discussed they tend to redistribute partly out of investing in a public good such as Will a crime such as having an educated populace is just a really good thing hardly It is literally insurance and the euphemism social safety net That is something that captures to you if you fall actors the idea that even when people are well-off they worry that they’re there but for a fortune goai that You got to be nice to people on the way up because you might need them on the way down. And so putting a bottom floor on how poor you can be makes everyone feel a little more secure that if the worst thing happened they will not be Destitute. Yes. Well, so that’s a second thing It’s not that uncommon for people who are in the top 10% say of the economic distribution Or even in the top 1% to suffer a substantial reversal of fortune at some point in their life and it’s a very rare person a very very rare person who isn’t at Economic danger of economic disadvantage at some point in their life for some reason Well, certainly people move in and out the top decile top 10% of the income distribution Although this argument fool or social spending would be to indemnify people against the worst outcome I don’t think that many people in the top tenth or to say nothing of the top 1% will ever go on welfare but still a lot of people in the middle class can imagine it and they don’t want to think that they’ll be out on the streets their job or fans of us suddenly suffer a big, you know medical expense and the third reason after investment and insurance is just a compassion or empathy we see in the history of the West after the Industrial Revolution you get a literature of of compassion or war you you have The little MatchGirl you have magnesia table and know about wrong being in prison for stealing a bit of bread to say this sister you have the The Joads bearing grandpa on the side of route 66 in Grapes of Wrath and so people are also moved by fear fellow-feeling with their with their computers their fellow-citizens that’s another reason why the people who are criticizing your Informed optimism are irritated because you know, if your fundamental political doctrine insists that well Everything your primary identity is your group whatever that happens to be and the primary Motivating factor for the function of your group is raw naked power Played out within that group against all other groups the introduction of something like the notion of an implicit compassion for the downtrodden Seems to like wreak havoc with the purity of that ideological position But like I’ve never met anyone in my life, and I know one a large number of extraordinarily successful economically successful people I’ve never met anyone in my life who walks down the street and sees it down and out alcoholic Who’s clearly suffering terribly as a consequence of dwelling on the street? um what would you say celebrate the Justice of the universe in elevating them above that person who’s suffering I mean, I think well Go ahead. I mean we do know from from social psychology that there is a tendency to To to blame the victim to believe that you know in a just world. So I think those are two motives that we have compassion for everyone but also feeling that that those who are badly off must have done something to To deserve it We do see this of course in the app service that you and I usually attention because of course the attention I think It’s also modulated by by some degree of ethnic solidarity There’s been noted that some of the generous welfare states of europe have least historically occurred in countries that are ethnically more homogeneous I certainly racially more homogeneous than the United States which tends to be a somewhat stingy. ER now this is not a if there is some elasticity into what we call beautifully categorized as our group and one of the great achievements of any kind of nation-building is to Is to instill a feeling well, we’re all Canadians or we’re all Swiss or a lot We’re all Iraqi something that is actually not happened in Iraq, which is a big problem If you unless you have that fictional family in a fictional clan Nation, then people tend not to cooperate including you in ways of providing social welfare for the worst half It’s a ridiculously interesting point I would say because one of the things that you really see in Canada, for example And our Prime Minister is a real devotee of this idea is that there really is? No Canadian culture? There’s no central Canadian ethos. And what we have is a plurality of Multicultural microcosms and that that’s actually all for the best. No, I guess the Canadian mosaic as opposed to the melting pot isn’t Right. All right, the Prime Minister’s father Pierre Elliott Trudeau Famously tried to forge kind of Canadian identity that spanned English the Anglophone and francophone Communities hardly exemplified in himself because he was a dashing charismatic figure was distinctively Canadian He just wagered. He wasn’t French. He was an American. He had the Rose in his lapel. He wore a cape He was perfectly bilingual. He was debonair and witty and charming. We all felt at the time I remember this I remember trudeaumania We all felt now That is a comedian that’s something to aspire to and he did with his policies and with his symbolism or Jack I’d of Canadian consciousness above and beyond the mosaic of the Lebanese Canadians and the Italian Canadian Jewish Canadians and so on well in Sufficient what would you call it success to at least keep the country together, which was something quite remarkable I mean, well he had to have one point he had to declare martial law to do it. Yes. I dream the October crisis when? separatist terrorists kidnapped A Trade Commissioner anda and I a government minister Look it looks like there’s a there’s a contradiction maybe you could tell me what you think about this in the in a certain element of leftist doctrine because assuming that Multiculturalism is can be reasonably viewed as part of the leftist doctrine If it is the case that people are more likely to be Generous to those that they see in some sense as their in-group Then what it suggests is that you need to take the the mosaic of your culture the African Canadians and the European Canadians and the Asian Canadians the same in the US and have them maintain their their culture and their traditions But also to embed them inside a broader game that constitutes the national identity that unites them all despite their differences and it Seems like given what you just described that unless you can forge that trash Ethnic or trans racial identity that you motivate people to be less Generous in their social policies. So look that that is true. Now I consider this to be one of the key ideas of Coming out of the Enlightenment Opposed by the counter enlightenment of the 19th century by the romantics I mean the nationalists that be that a state a Group of people under the jurisdiction of a government but held together Basically by a social contract by agreement that we’re all in this together there are many public goods W better we share public costs that we can suffer a government that allows us to Get along by serving in our interests is way of improving our welfare it’s a very given conception of a nation and the blood and soil nationalism of a 19th century continuing well into the 20th, but what makes us a nation is that we’re all We’re all white. We all speak me I come from love Same ancestry and that the successful nations are often ones that manage to forge. The somewhat artificial identity is Fascinating because then ok, then then we got two arguments here for that for that Let’s say artificial or conceptual nation-building process one is that maybe you can allow people in their different ethnic and racial groups to maintain key elements of their identity and And and feel comfortable doing so but also embed them in a broader game like a game voluntary played and laid out But if exactly are the same token Given your logic that’s also the most effective antidote to the kind of nationalism. That is identitarian that also seems to be in the resurgence and You see this. I really see this as having been done extraordinarily effectively in the United States now, they had the advantage of the examples of England and France, but that the American experiment was an experiment in conceptual Nation-building. It’s like here’s a creative principles that we can all agree on despite our differences and to the degree that we decide that we will agree on these principles then were the same enough we can cooperate we don’t need to revert to Nationalism or or very much in in the Declaration of Independence. That was made crystal clear that to pursue life liberty and pursuit of happiness Governments are formed with the consent of the governed to allow people to to flourish to prosper Nothing in the Declaration said anything about in European big white in Protestant Union in Christian It was really a social contract I setup from first principles, which of course made some pretty big problems with of course. We are the African citizens it took quite a while to work that out and there were tensions in the 20th century with ways of immigration from Ireland from Eastern Europe from Jews from Italians and there were of course tensions between the Italians and Irish But by the standards of human history, they got worked out pretty well I’ve been capitalizing on a feature of our psychology, which is that even though we do have an in-group favoritism We do have tribalism what counts as a tribe is pretty Elastic it is not by skin color We form coalition’s that cut across skin color and a successful country is one that capitalizes on that elasticity form a virtual tribe which is simply every citizen of the country and that ultimately every citizen in larger units including the humanity including All the world a lot of this depends blow on undermining certain features of human nature such as kin solidarity It has been noted that in cultures that have a lot of cousin marriage where you’re related to People in your clan. It’s rather hard to do nation building there like in Lincoln High Rock For example people don’t have a sense of superordinate Loyalty to a coalition about their blood relatives and they are Titan Titan blood relatives by a cousin marriage But it’s also played itself out of his the United States and there’s a wonderful Snatch of dialog the end of the first Godfather movie when Michael Corleone II Enlists after Pearl Harbor and as brother Sonny says, what did you go to college to get stupid your country ate your blood You’re gonna die out. You can be a SAP who dies for strangers And that is a perfect encapsulation of the difference between traditional tribalism and the Mentality that we need for successful right? Sounds like it’s you know, it sounds like one of the ways to combat right-wing identitarian ISM that the new emergence of right-wing identitarian ISM is to make that conceptual distinction between national identity that’s predicated on blood and soil Let’s say kinship direct kinship or or even secondary kinship and these these more abstract conceptions now it seems to me so just don’t just you may know this or you may not but been Shapiro’s new book is number one on the New York Times bestseller list and I read Ben’s book a while back and I think it shares some features with your book and it’s shares some features with my book and I would say the features it shares with my book is that I stress the importance of the judeo-christian stories as part of that conceptual substructure that unites a civilization and Then it has features in common with your book because it’s also a pro enlightenment manifesto Celebrating the achievements. Let’s say of the Greeks and the rationalists moving forward from there Like Shapiro sees our culture s and this is something that I agree with I would say as a marriage between that judeo-christian tradition and that emergent enlightenment you’re You’re and it’s taught me if I’m wrong, but your emphasis. So let’s say that we’re playing this abstract conceptual game that unites us as a people independent of our ethnicity and our race and there are principles that Constitute the game rules for that agreement and you see those as primarily Deriving from the Enlightenment and and and starting then Well not I mean there’s nothing new Under the Sun and certainly someone waiting Vijaya T has had precursors in the the the Renaissance and in ancient Greece But that set of ideas that came together that it needed of course further elaboration. I think that that’s much more of a basis of human progress than the judeo-christian tradition again any every every intellectual movement who draws from pre-existing ideas, and so there was some cherry-picking from from the Judeo-christian tradition, but it certainly did not depend on belief in Jesus Christ Our Savior did not depend on a one God as opposed to many God’s really depended on Human well-being life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s something you can believe in regardless of your theological commitments So what what do you think? So here? Here’s the Question I have about that. Is that like it seemed to me so that the people who formulated the Declaration of Independence, for example accept it as self-evident that human beings were intrinsically valuable and the locus of sovereignty insofar as they were the citizens who would determine the course of the nation and There’s some recognition there as far as I’m concerned of Intrinsic value Outside of a rational argument, you know it as a as a as an a priori presupposition we accept these truths as self-evident right and and and the the the most fundamental truth of that is that it’s something like in my View it’s something like the strange metaphysical equivalence of man before God the fact that we all have intrinsic Value and that’s where I see the Enlightenment being irreducibly Embedded inside this underlying structure and that’s that’s different than the idea of progress, which is something that that you’re Focusing on and that I think is more Attributable to the development. Let’s say of science and technology, but it still seems to me that The Enlightenment had to have an under structure that enabled it to emerge for those self-evident truths to be Accepted universally as self-evident and well exactly I agree that there that those aren’t scientific ideas And this is these the set of ideas that I draw together under the rubric of humanism. It’s not clear that that the Self-evident right to life liberty. The pursuit of happiness is particularly judeo-christian I think I don’t think you could find that in US Scripture and in fact in the Jewish tradition God chose the Jews who were the chosen people so the idea of universal. Yeah Human Worth and well-being. It’s not a particularly Jewish notion. Ali is a particularly Christian notion You’ve got to it’s only you you have to accept Jesus in order to escape Eternal damnation, none of that’s in the Declaration what self-evident is things that are almost prerequisite to even considering? What ought to go into a country or or anything else namely you’ve got to be alive rather than dead You’ve got to be able to Express opinions in order to even have that conversation. So you’ve got freedom happiness as we know from from evolutionary considerations It’s basically the set of motives that kept our ancestors alive and allowed us to come into existence in the first place combating of a grinder of entropy So I think that the foundation of that enlightenment we there’s not particularly judeo-christian But more existential it just comes from what are the actual? prerequisites to being a incarnate reasoning of creature ok, so I’m gonna press you on two elements of that and I’m not Disagreeing with you by the way, because I’m not convinced. I’m right it’s just that these this is how things have laid themselves out for me and my thinking I mean One of the things that’s very interesting about the book of Genesis. Is that it? insists that Human beings are made in the image of God and that that gives them a bit Intrinsic value and that they’re made in the image of God regardless of whether they’re male or female and Then I know the Jews emerge as the chosen people In the Old Testament, but there’s also a strong idea powerful conceptual idea in the Old Testament that emerges that The people of Israel the true Israelites are those who wrestled with God? This was like an it’s like an it’s like an existential adventure. It’s partly based on blood it’s partly based on ethnicity, but there’s a conceptual idea to there that there’s the struggle for ethical endeavor let’s say and the struggle for for for the discovery of the meaning of existence is actually what marks out the truth follower of God and then as Judaism Transforms itself at least in some part into Christianity what I see happening is that you you get the idea that that identity with God that existed in Genesis that that intrinsic value starts to become more humanized that really manifests itself sort of fully in the Renaissance that that the religious figures start to become more individual and that the idea that each Individual does in fact have a divine worth that that keeps the state at bay is Part of what allows for the conception that people are deserving of the chance independently of their ethnicity and the race and their creed and their sexuality to do such things as pursue life liberty and happiness and I see cuz otherwise I can’t see I can’t see Where the ideas would have? Otherwise he merged? during pointed but it’s um You know partly the enlightened came about as a reaction to see what happens if you ground even worth in religious doctrines such as the European Wars of Religion Parker unprecedented carnage and together with the burning of heretics If you’re going back to to have scriptures particularly in the in the Hebrew Bible God commands the Israelites to engage in one genocide after another There is no Prohibition against slavery, there’s no prohibition against rape. There’s no prohibition against grisly Forms of torture for victimless crimes like I like working on the Sabbath I don’t I don’t think is very easy to come up come up with a notion of universal even rights from either scripture or Christianity I think the reason that it happened to me in the Enlightenment who knows why anything happened to the exact moment did it did hardly it was a realization of the Internecine carnage from the Wars of Religion but also it’s when you when you start to peel away Scripture and dogma and doctrine what you’re left with is our common humanity namely The there’s no way that I can insist that only my interests are special and you’re not because I’m me and you’re not And and I hope for you to take take me seriously seriously engage in any kind of discourse with diverse other people what we are forced to To fall back on is what we have in common namely. We are on both sentient We are both rational the ability to suffer. We have the ability to flourish I made it the same stuff as you. I can’t claim that that you don’t suffer That would be a ludicrous Proposition and that’s what gives you the notion of universal human rights and as government as a derivative means of pursuing those rights as opposed to say Divinely ordained It’s so hard like this because it depends to some degree on your time frame and also on Whether you take the broad picture or you constant the details to some degree because mm-hmm, like I mean, I’ve got no objection to any of the descriptions of the horrors of Religious tribalism that you just laid out. I mean I would place that more in the domain of tribalism than in the domain of religion because I think the tribalist tendency is the warlike tendency that the movie Although the most severely punished heretics are often those within the tribe Those are the ones would be really what a burn at. The strength is an example so it’s not it is I think there’s tribal so I think there’s also a kind of Puritanical Emphasis on the pure essence that anyone who contaminates the body politic must be expelled Well, you see that with taboo violations in absolutely tribal system wealth or terian ISM the challenging a Legitimate Authority is itself inherently evil, it’s not the idea that Criticizing the leader is essential to the health of a nation Which is constitutive our idea of democracy in freedom of speech you have the ability to make fun of the president. Yes The moral obligation to and we’re obligation to it Madison, that’s a deeply unintuitive feeling that the natural human tendency is to we know this from the work of people like a rich waiter and John height and I know this is that less measure stay Attacking the king is a a mortal sin that reject the height Hierarchies or themselves often moralized that’s a natural human idea That was I guess isn’t it’s a deconstructed or or reject it I joined the Enlightenment including the rationale for government laid out in the Declaration CP it’s a funny thing because what I see happening is that over the thousands of years of of religious thinking let’s say that that went on in the West is that What emerged in this was the idea that there was something? akin to deity that characterized human beings and that stated very early on in the religious tradition and in a very surprising way partly because it’s Distributed between men and women equally and it seems to be partly a creative function in that human beings partake in the co-creation of existence and partly an ethical function in that we’re called upon to Act courageously in truthfully and and that’s that’s that’s the core ID. I think that’s expressed in Genesis and it’s it’s a it’s a really sophisticated And demanding idea and then I see it Like the mustard seed that that’s part of the parable in them in the New Testament It’s this tiny idea that takes root and against incredible odds manifests itself across the centuries until what we get is an increasing realization of the universality of humanity and that that constitutes part of the core of the Enlightenment and you know you made arguments about religious sectarianism and and also the and and and religious like tribal warfare, but the funny thing is is that I would say that the critics of your defense of the Western enlightenment project might point to the same details in some sense and to say well Look at the consequences of Enlightenment thinking there’s being endless warfare since the Enlightenment. There’s been a tremendous generation of destructive technology the the negatives Which you can point to case by case and piece by piece arguably outweigh the positives I mean I certainly don’t believe that but people could make that case and so it’s not so difficulty when you’re when you try to take a long view of history to decide What? Which part of the melody you focus on like is it deep? Yeah me or is it the details that that that seem to work against those themes? Yes, why of course talk about the trajectory? historical trajectory of warfare in some detail in the better angels of our nature with with something of a very I were praising the chapter on keys And it’s certainly not true that Wars increased after the event quite contrary I if you look at the percentage of years that the great powers they were at war with each other it actually goes goes down starting in the 7th 17th century Great power wars don’t even occur anymore. We haven’t had one for 65 years, but be it is what happened was that that in the centuries after the 18th century there were two trends that we’re in opposite directions Which is that Wars actually got shorter and less frequent are the ones that did occur got deadlier. That is countries got more efficient at killing more people in a shorter amount of time partly because of weaponry but also just because of social organization being able to can script large numbers of Young men and then send them to the battlefield as cannon fodder Until and a lot of that was driven actually by counter Enlightenment ideologies of nationalism which mention both both world wars and Starting in 1945 for the first time Wars became less frequent Shorter and less deadly. And so the first time in I think in human history, you have a systematic move away from occurred after 1945 with the formation of the United Nations with a kind of unprecedented Universalism the kind of global consciousness including all races all religions Still not of course universally accepted and even as an aspiration about that’s something that’s pretty new in human history It did not occur during the time of thee and European enlightenment in the 18th century but I think it was the the consolidation of Enlightenment ideals including the formation of the United Nations which was a call for by by a manual countenance essay a perpetual Peace which of course did not happen about it but we’ve enjoyed it students and crucially for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the United Nations now the Sustainable development goals you have people coming together nations coming together some of them not from a judeo-christian tradition by date by any means but who can’t agree on things like well, it’s really better if People live there afraid I of disease. It’s better if eighties I don’t don’t die in their first year of life It’s better if kids go to school. It’s better if we don’t go to war It’s better if we have a clean environment all these things that we have in common because we’re human beings. Mmm on the lack of the utility of unnecessary suffering Something like that and maybe the even the lack of the utility of unnecessary Malevolence, that’s something you don’t need to be Oh, yeah, you need to do to endorse thatis be a humanist have the ability to to suffer or or to flourish So, okay. So let me switch this a bit if you don’t mind and I’d like to speak a bit more personally if you would, um What’s the consequence for you? Over the last year of this increasing public Exposure and also controversy and what do you think just out of curiosity about being associated with this? loose IDW you know, which is that no one really joined, but just be merged out of the blue I mean, I think that’s all the people in it in some sense. You’re the most surprising member because Bob well, yes. Yeah, you may be the prototype All right. Yeah, and yeah and I am More providing it just comes from being you know just not I’m not having drunk the kool-aid of a political correctness identitarian ISM social justice warfare lokhnath as long as you’re not part of that tribe as long as you haven’t signed up to and associated with this this of course whimsical humorous entity copy it Right, right social you need to find it’s a joke because of course there is a dark web, right? Because it’s a ridiculous Club, I mean I’ve been trying to figure out what characterizes the people who’ve been loosely aggregated in that association, you know, and I think that a certain Fortunate independence is part of it. You know that almost everyone in that group has their own Means of support I mean, you’re a university professor obviously and that could be taken from you but I mean you have nine books and many of them are bestsellers and like you you have the means to Keep yourself operating as an independent being without being dependent on any necessary External bureaucracy and I have and I also have tenure which means that I’m a little harder to fire than most people in those jobs So that gives me a certain I used to be cynical about Ten years. It’s A unique cynic you are of University Professors, but there isn’t part of the initial rationale Giving you some and degree of intellectual independence. I’m really coming to appreciate Ten years like the Canadian Senate it’s useless except when it’s absolutely necessary Hey, yeah Yeah I think it’s really and politically of course the people in this I mean there is no there’s as you said there’s no such thing as an intellectual dark whether accepts the kind of joke, but the people who are Connected to it. I did have a certain amount of unwillingness to To kowtow will bow down to some of the pioneers that have become Orthodox on many college campuses and in some of being elite Media this politically the people who’ve been connected to it. Are are are pretty diverse. They’re very diverse They’re there There’s there’s almost the complete range except for the absence of people who are politically, correct the other thing that’s fair interesting about the group two other things I would say is that They’ve been very effective users of social media and also They don’t think that their audience is stupid you know, yes, I think that’s I think that is that is a True and it’s one of the keys to effective teaching to effective communication one of the first bits of advice I got when I made the crossover from academia to popular writing from an editor at a university press you told me the mistake that academics often make when they Try to reach a broad audience as they talk down. They assume that their audience is not as ladies They are so the key is assume that your audience is your intellectual here But they happen not to know some stuff that you know well I offer that also as writing advice in my books the sense of style but you’re a but you’re also right that this the independent minded people that we’ve been talking about try not to use Insults and put downs not as a means of argument not even so much their audience thinks stupider, but rather being evil if you don’t agree with me, and you are a reprehensible That’s definitely a mistake With within the bounds of that group, let’s say I think it’s a brand mistake. Let’s say whenever that happens so well, and of course it’s apples if that defines the kind of Political politically correct social justice warfare that these people are reacting to namely that the The the mode of argument that I think we’re all trying to move to Distance ourselves from is that if you don’t agree with me and you are a moral crap, right, right, and so, okay So now what’s been the personal consequences for you? Like you’ve been at the center of a fair bit of controversy? Yeah I mean, it’s very difficult to have a series of best-selling books for example in speaking tours and so forth without being controversial in some way because it probably indicates that you’re saying anything of any real novelty or importance but What how has it affected you and and has it been a net positive or a net negative and then how are people reacting? To you. Oh it’s unquestionably a net positive and at least so far I have Certainly escaped. They Kind of beat the outrage logs that we know can be Aroused by advancing Ever heterodox opinions. I have gotten you know, some anger I have I was Subject of a rather bizarre incident where a panel that I was on Called the political correctness Like Donald Trump where some of mine my remarks were Spliced in the video it was then cited by the By all right in neo-nazis which went to a kind of denunciation on the Left Fortunately in my case, I can’t complain because the New York Times stepped into my defense. Jesse single wrote an op-ed With my photo adorning it saying how social media making a stupid and using the attack on me as evidence with Pathology, so social media, so I came out of that Unscathed on the other hand, I do live in in some degree of fear But the mob could turn on me at any at any moment. It was a wonderful essay by Eddie by Neil Ferguson Expressing a similar fear he said well, my wife is made of a braver stuff than I tells me not to worry She’s made her stuff than almost a pulse in the world. So I don’t suppose the joke, of course his wife being I understand. Sorry bravest people on the planet But that was a sly little bit of humor for those who know his personal situation and a reminder that people have withstood Much fiercer attacks than in you must have to worry about Right, right, right and how are people responding to you in public like when you’re out in public? I mean you’re you’re a rather striking figure you’re easy to recognize What happens when you when you go out? Or how do its form to you? Oh, it’s a it’s Positive I have nothing to complain about people people recognize me and I expect after this What we’re doing now airs that I’ll be recognized Even more because I know that you have quite a diverse following but in also in person as we know people tend to MIT often mitigate the kind of animosity that is easy to express in we when you’re anonymous in claiming the shield of Social media removing the people are a much more civil face-to-face. I have gotten you know a lot of Warmth I’ve gotten to my surprise a number of people writing to me saying that I’ve been good for their mental health My core let us say even though technically maybe flanked you. I’m a psychologist unlike you I’m not a clinical psychologist I have no confidence whatsoever intriguing Xiety depression psychological problems but for them and I even have to explain to people and asked me what I do for a living I Didn’t I tend to avoid saying I’m a psychologist even though that’s what my degree is a great The people assume that I’m a clinical psychologist Which I’m not so I sometimes say have a cognitive scientist cuz no one has any idea what that mean You know, I think you’d be good for my mental health. Well, that’s what some people for the first time in my life I said I kind of learned that credential but some people write and they say I just I’m so Dejected and discouraged and downtrodden by reading the news that when I come across The data being presented that humanity has been improving. It actually is is good for my mental health. I don’t feel as despairing or for my children for myself for the future You’re also it’s more than that it’s not it’s not only that you’re saying it’s Deeper than that for a couple of reasons. I mean first of all you’re a credible source and like Naive optimism is worse than cynical pessimism, I think Because it’s too fragile it’s too we damaged but your Optimism isn’t naive it’s it’s data based and it’s well researched and so you can go in there as a pessimist like as a powerful pessimist and you can think oh, oh Well, look at that look at that and and look at that and and it’s not just one or two things It’s enough things So that starts to be a story and you think oh well Maybe we’re not going to hell in a handbasket quite as fast as we thought we were and then not necessarily. Yeah well at least not necessarily yes well and that starts something but then there’s a there’s a an implicit message there too, which is Perhaps the Enlightenment message itself, which is that. Well, not only are things getting better but human beings are the sorts of creatures that could make things better if they chose to and that’s that’s a Radical message I think I mean one of the things I’ve noticed about what people respond positively to in my lectures is my insistence to them that they could be They may not be but they could be Powerful forces for good and powerful beyond really in some ways beyond the limits of their imagination Is that human beings? unbounded Rationally, even from an Enlightenment perspective independent of the metaphysics is that we do have the capacity to address incredibly complicated problems and with good will and caution and a certain degree of intelligence we can actually Make them better and I think that that’s a deeply positive message especially for young people who’d be raised on nothing but a steady diet of disenfranchisement and like nihilistic pessimism about the future Indeed and and it has been a source of tension in my own intellectual autobiography because and I know that I’m not an optimist about the human condition by but by ideology or by background fact I wrote a book called the blank slate on the modern denial of human nature we’re not blank slates that we are equipped by evolution with that not a lot of motives some of which are not not so doesn’t smell so conducive to human well-being like tribalism like authoritarianism like my greed like cognitive illusions like self exception, but that what what shifted my worldview it’s really coming across data that came is as much of a Surprise to me as to anyone showing that violence is going down and it is fun How did prosperity is gone up and then have tried to resolve that attention? How could me as a species both? burn each other alive and engage in in rate the discrimination and genocide I mean the other hand somehow managed to power this improvement and I think it comes from the fact that we have more Cognitively and psychologically complex. We have a number of ugly motives But we also have some modicum of empathy we have self-control We have cognitive Processes that allow us to reason we have language that allows us to share our ideas and if we manage to channel those with the right institutions with a commitment to free speech to democracy to science to empirical testing Then we can mobilize the better angels of our nature as Abraham and and kind of eke out Its of improvement despite our worst selves. I think it’s quite comical that you used a religious seller Analogy title. I mean because I think part of the case that you’re making and I would say this is a narrative case to some degree is that Despite the depth of human depravity Which is definitely something that you did discuss in the blank slate Although not as intensely as some people have that good so to speak has the capacity to triumph over evil and and sorrow Despite the depths of both of those and that that is also an unbelievably optimistic message because I don’t believe that you can be a credible voice for opt ISM and and and What would you say? Someone who celebrates the human spirit Unless you’re very cognizant of its Darris because otherwise you’re just not informed, you know right enemy That’s right, and you have to I think Value the hard-won human institutions and norms that don’t actually necessarily Come naturally to us Like the rule of law like like free speech like empirical facing arguments on a caracal data things that are have to be Inculcated every generation. We’re not doing such a good job with Generation, I sometimes think but it’s because of these these games that we’ve invented that bring out our our better side that we have been able to overcome our our Inner demons are darker angels. I wonder sometimes – I wonder what you think about this I mean, you know when I grew up and when you grew up You know from the end of World War two until let’s say 1989 there were real reasons for apocalyptic thinking and in my estimation, you know, they the massive buildup of the thermo nuclear arsenal and the constant tension and testing between especially the Soviets and and the Western bloc They at the times when we came so close to nuclear annihilation, I think for several generations And then also in the 60s the discovery of human beings as a as let’s say a planet Transforming force on an ecological level. I think there were real reasons for people to be terrified into a kind of apocalyptic pessimism and I kind of wonder sometimes if one of the things that you’re not battling against is What would you say is is the revelation that that period of time in some sense is over Is that that particularly pound lips god-willing? has been Reduced substantially in probability and we can now start to think about the future in a positive way again But man, it was 45 years You know and not counting World War 2 which I think we probably shouldn’t count. It was 45 years where everyone was Well being being taught that if they put themselves under their desks as elementary school Yes, I was gonna protect them from an atomic blast. And so Coming out of that Now, that’s true. I think 1989 truly was momentous It was the the end of the Cold War and the worst threats of nuclear exchange It also led to a decline in the number of proxy wars in Asia and Africa and South America Which people don’t appreciate look at the horrific wars that are taking place now such as in Yemen and Syria and you might think that were in a Unprecedented area of warfare, but this is nothing compared to the seventies and eighties were Africa was in flames. They were The word that man killed far more people than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in Syria combined There were threats like I mean the Yom Kippur War in 1973 Richard Nixon raised the level of nuclear alert something that has not happened since these really were perilous times is it’s quite apart from The Cold War Iran and Iraq are their version world war one which threatened to choke the flow of oil out of Persian Gulf bringing the world economy to a halt and then so the people forget how How awful these 60 seventies and eighties were in terms of right? It was also the fact that well in Africa and in South America, I would say in particular Those proxy wars also being also ideological Wars Absolutely Stifled economic development both in South America and in Africa and one of the reasons that we’ve seen this unparalleled Improvement in economic conditions. Let’s say Well, it’s obvious in China because of their market reforms but in Africa is at least in part because there aren’t there isn’t a coterie of insane Soviet dictators dictating economic policy to African leaders that’s absolutely encounter productive and pathological and so just by removing that source of Trouble much less adding anything new and good just by getting that source of trouble the Africans have been able to free themselves from the worst excesses of the most foolish Economic theories of the 20th century and I are really is it started to manifest itself in the 2000s? that was part of it and there is each effect is the others so that Poverty makes civil war more likely and vice versa because war is system called development in Reverse And that nothing is worse for an economy. Then if schools are being blown up and people pulled out of their offices and shot and Institutions destroyed as quickly as they can be built markets transportation networks but also if countries are poor and then it’s true that Marxist economic ideas make countries poor and it becomes more attractive to join militias and should Rebel rebel groups because the government isn’t doing anything for you and quite a lot of young men who have nothing better to do With their time their loyalty is commanded by the incompetent government And then of course Both superpowers would under the insurgency movements that opposed whichever governments the The other superpower was supporting so we’re an amplifying the problem which consequence will find the problem Yes, people forget when people will talk about what a terrible state the world is in now they often forget how awful the Cold War was for the Great right rate witches. Okay. So let let me close with this if you would we’ve had a good conversation What what didn’t what are you working on at the moment that’s occupying you that you have hopes for and What are your general hopes, let’s say for the next three or four years. I mean your career is Ascendant in a manner that is true very few people and you have a tremendous global impact I would say All Things Considered and one that as far as I’m concerned is Overwhelmingly to the good What’s next for you? And and what would you like to see happen in the future for you over the over the next few years? Well for the world I would certainly like to see a push back against authoritarian populism and a momentum going back to the forces of Humanism cosmopolitanism of globalism acqua see against the identity rien politics primarily of the Populist right since they are in power, but also of these begins left but the renewal of the narrative that we If we think about what we all have in common as human beings and if we apply our brain power overcoming our Cognitive limitations and we can solve problems Climate change being a big one if I have my own views on climate change at all, its special imminent, you know Times editorial It’s coming out in a couple of days They’re gonna get you in trouble, uh, yes it will and I’m Looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think. It’s a very common problem. It is a very complicated problem, but And I think some of the activists are making it making it more complex and worse, but I’ll leave that as a little enigma Until people check out that article. Oh boy seeking enlightenment now, okay and academically and academically I’ve done am another studies over the years taking off from an interest in how language is used in a social context I prefer a large part of my career. I studied language It may be curious about well why we all just worry about what we mean so much at the time he issued bail threats sexual commands that are kind of folded between the lines We show a salary and you eat around the bush That led me to the concept of Common knowledge game theory since I know something, you know something I know you know it You know that I know it. I know that you know that I know that you know or not cases where we each know something who’s not so sure but the other guy knows that you know, I think that suddenly I think it’s usually powerful in our social and emotional lives and I have a I’m going to start writing a book in two years whose tentative title is Don’t go there common knowledge and the science of civility hypocrisy of rage Extremely interested mean one of the things that I’ve observed, you know is that people people have a hierarchy of values and then the Deeper in the hierarchy the value is embedded the more Experiential reality is stabilized the more its united under a single goal and the more it’s brought into out of uncertainty and I think we have rules that are like Don’t disrupt Too much of someone’s map Territory with any given utterance and so we we tend a bit to play on the periphery, you know Like it might be too much for you to stand to be outright objected by or rejected by someone that you’re sexually attracted to you know, because it casts light on your validity as a Acceptable source of DNA. Let’s say but to play a bit and to tease a bit and allow you to Accept Carefully and casually delivered Playful rejection without it having to go way down into the depths of your character. It’s like to me necessary force doctrine Yes, sorry, I’ve got a technical snap Yes, I think there is there is there is a lot to that just the ego threat of being rejected but in addition I we have we divide our social relationships into qualitatively different categories and a Essential relationship really is different from a friendship or a workplace relationship It is an inescapable fact that often people are sexually attracted to each other sometimes one attracted to the other but not not vice-versa To often indeed There is something that is Inherently threatening about a say a professional relationship on a friendship. Yes the sex is kind of oh, he blurted out even though Paradoxically any grown-up knows there’s got to be sexual attraction a lot of heterosexual relationships that are not overtly sexual So he might know it she might know it but as long as he doesn’t know that she knows that he knows that she knows He knows it. Then you can work under the fiction that the Relationship is 100% platonic or 100% professional? There’s something about learning it out which generates common knowledge neither side in denied. The other one knows that they know it, right Unequivocally changes the qualitative nature of the relationship once it’s as we say, it’s out there. It’s out there you can’t take it back Because the explicit statement imagine that you have implicit motivations and many of them and as implicit motivations they have a relatively low probability of being manifested, but when you Formalize that implicit motivation in speech do you suppose? you move the Probability of enacting it up the hierarchy and therefore pose more of a threat to the other person Is that the speech is somehow closer to action? Then do you think so but I think it’s even I think it’s even deeper than that I don’t think it’s just sort of an analogue shit along the scale. There is something qualitatively different about learning something out That’s for sure. I think we we subdivide our relationships into different types a thority Subordinate Equal sharing and Community of interest Exchange when these can take place over different resources over money over sex over aid and We don’t know we are very attentive to which one holds between in a given dyad, you know particular time Each one is a different coordination game as the game theorist would put it where we both again We’re on in the same cell if we’re on the same page, but if we’re yet discrepant understandings Then there can be in mild form, awkwardness embarrassment in the extreme case shock The problem of dual relationships that are often talked about in professional ethics You know that it’s very of course very difficult to have a unit dimensional relationship with someone but you’re constantly Warned, ethically not to for example If you’re a clinical psychologist not to make a friend out of your client and to say nothing about my sexual prime Absolutely, nothing of that. Yes exactly. These sorts of things happen between professors and students And so and I think to some degree they’re inevitable But the dual relationship problem also means that you end up playing at least two games with different outcomes and so the aims become blurry and the degree of Conceptual confusion also increases and no I’m not exactly sure why Making that explicit would necessarily make it worse, but it does seem to be associated with on What would you call unn? an unwise complexification of the situation absolutely, and this is that kind of Social emotional dynamic that I will be writing about in in that don’t go there exactly that paradox Well, I’m very much looking forward to Reading it and um, and also one of my dreams by the way, I don’t know what you think about this I think it would be fun and I suppose this is perhaps an invitation I think it would be fun to sit down with you and Ben Shapiro and have a talk about Religion and the Enlightenment and and the state of the modern world I don’t know if you’d ever be interested in doing something like that not a political discussion, you know, but uh but uh because I think there is there is something to be thought out in a serious way between The Enlightenment types like you and like sam Harris for example, because I would put him in the same Well not in the same category, but in a similar. Yeah, I think we’re where where there’s a lot of overlap. Yeah Yeah, and and then people like Sarah like Ben and I who are and maybe the Union and they’re analysts for example who tend to view The historical movement towards increased freedom and prosperity as a longer process there’s really something there that needs to be hashed out and it’s really complicated and might be fun to have a conversation about that at some point if you if you are ever interested in if you ever have the time I accept the invitation I’ll talk to Ben because okay. I Think we could have a good conversation, you know and scrap it out a bit and see if we could get somewhere because I Really liked your books You know I really liked enlightenment now and I regard myself In many ways as as a pearl enlightenment figure. I mean, I’m very scientifically minded. There are a lot of empirical research and learned a tremendous amount from it and I certainly believe that the mastery of Science and technology has been a major contributor to the furtherance of Human wellbeing and and there’s something to be said for the solidity of an objective materialist view of the world but there’s there’s an element there that seems to me to be Troublesome that Leads to a kind of nihilism which which interestingly enough you happened to be fighting with some of your optimism which is quite quite nice to see but I think there’s fertile discussion there too to reconcile Maybe to reconcile some of the unnecessary tension between the different streams of thought that have made Western culture and world culture for that matter the remarkable creation that it actually is I Think that could be fruitful deed Alright, well, is there anything else that you’d like to mention to people any forthcoming talks? You have or public appearances or things you’d like to draw their attention to or are we? Are we at the end of a fruitful discussion? Problem is we could just keep going so where to start I will be I’m Often on the road. I’m often giving public public Lectures and discussions. I have one. I’m having a public event Paul Krugman next week at Brown University Nothing next week by the time you circulate speaking the past tense. It’s my turn But you’re on my website. I have a listen about going. Yeah, okay. Okay. Okay. Well, it’s pretty fun to see that there’s a public audience for this sort of discussion named who would have guessed what Much more than anyone would have guessed just about five years ago. He admits. It’s Absolutely another reason for optimism Let’s open very nice talking to you and thank you very much for taking the time and good luck with your your talks and your and your academic endeavors and with your attempts to help people understand that there’s Reason to be hopeful now and perhaps even more reason to be Hopeful in the future and about people that’s a hell of a thing for someone who doesn’t think there’s a blank slate Indeed. Thank you, and thanks for having me on great pleasure talking with you. Thanks very much. Okay, thank you. Let’s stay in touch Bye. Bye

About the author


  1. Much Thanks and Appreciation goes out to both Peterson and Pinker! God Bless them both and us for having heard their valuable words!

  2. [Sarcasm filter on]

    Thank you very much Professor Pinker, I couldn't agree more the state of the world is in top notch condition. The economy is doing well, people are being lifted out of poverty … I mean today in 1927, what could possibly go wrong? Look we have steady track record of growth over the past few years … don't you worry about these few disgruntled men in Germany, it's just a small disenfranchised minority …

    [Sarcasm filter off]

  3. Big fan of Dr Peterson. I have purchased both of his books and have attended his lectures. Please stop associating yourself with scam artist only looking to use your name for credibility. Patrick Bet David is scam artist and a pathological liar. He heads PHP Angency which is a large MLM Pyramid scheme of a company which has ruined many lives.

  4. Pinker at 36:20 “Nothing in the Declaration [of Independence] said anything about being… Christian”

    And 41:00: “It certainly ‘[the Enlightenment] did not depend on belief of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, it did not depend on one God as opposed to many Gods, it really depended on human well being – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that something you can believe in regardless of your theological beliefs ”


    From the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    And 43:15: “It’s not clear that the self evident right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is particularly Judeo Christian… the idea of universal human worth and well being is not a particularly Jewish notion, I don’t think it’s a particularly Christian notion”

    And 47:20: “I don’t think it’s very easy to come up with a notion of universal human rights from either scripture or Christianity”


    Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  5. I love how lucidly and passionately Dr. Peterson speaks when it's about these crazy huge concepts like liberty or metaphysics or psychology and then just comes across like a sweet older gentleman when it's time to setting up or signing off of livestreams xD firebrand intellectual powerhouse one moment, mildly awkward uncle the next x'D

  6. Really keen for that discussion between Peterson, Pinker & Sapeiro on religion and the enlightenment. I thought the way Ben Sapeiro was treated by the Andrew Neil & the BBC several weeks back was really disgusting as well as infuriating.

  7. The left hates hearing that the world is getting better for two reasons: capitalism has been the driving reason, and it exposes their personal failure as their responsibility and no one else’s.

  8. See the Israelites were "chosen people" simply due to having the knowledge of the true God via companionship of the Law and the word spoken to their prophets. In Amos, this sort of relationship was MISUSED, the misuse of this relationship was apparent time and time again through their history. They continued to do what was evil, with the patriarchs as a type of the sign of Christ that would come, but the point remains that they were the ones who got the most scathing messages from a higher being.

    The Christ is a sign of the ressurection of the dead, this is proof that God loves life so much, and finds them so valuable, that he raised us even from death. Christ is the Savior of all and the first historical sign of the promise of the ressurection. It's important to draw precept from not only TaNaK but from the whole of the scriptures, if you are inclined to ween from the truth within them. Grace to you.

  9. I'm constantly surprised that when people who are associated with the "IDW" try to discuss what it is, or what attributes its members have in common, they never explicitly mention the one attribute that to me is its most important: all of them seem to accept that just because someone may disagree with them on one or more ideological or philosophical positions that doesn't mean that they are bad people. i.e., they accept to their core the idea that decent, rational people can disagree. Perhaps that's because to them that proposition is self-evident, but it seems to me that the reverse, the notion that if you disagree with me you are a bad person, has become the base assumption of our political discussions.

  10. Dr. Peterson, lovely conversation but it would make it just so much more pleasant if you did not keep interrupting Dr. Pinker mid-sentence at every other instance. I know you are passionate about the subjects you are touching in these conversations, but still. Take it as a bona fide advice from another passionate debater and all the best to you.

  11. larger population does not help humans. Not being able to separate groups when a plague breaks out endangers all. Greed, air travel distributes disease quickly and we've never seen a shutdown due to disease, only terrorism. Too many of one life form (humans) will create a mass kill off, mother nature will bring back balance.

  12. at 46min:57sec mark. The most heinous regimes of the 20th century were anti-religious or revered themselves as a higher power.

    2.Of all the great people in the bible, there were only 3 that went directly to heaven. Humanity is innately flawed but that doesn't mean we can't learn from these stories/abstractions.

    3.The divine-meteor-strike on Sodom and Gomorrah(ex of an abstraction) can be an object lesson of how society can regress into negative feedback loops that are inescapable. It is imperative for those that notice the loops forming, to speak out.

    [this channel bans timestamps]

  13. at 53min:59sec mark. After the 1700s there were more wars than in the centuries behind it.
    It seems that in any time period, war is simply more easily perpetrated when power is heavily consolidated to the top.
    The reason conflicts seem to be recently declining is because of deterrence. ie: mutually assured destruction

    Source: Max Roser, "Global deaths in conflicts, since 1400"

    [this channel doesn't allow timestamps. which I would be in favor of considering the lengthy watch times]

  14. Pinker would be so much better if he didnt insist on Atheism in most of his reasonings.

    It's an irrelevant, self-serving stance to say flatly "the universe cares nothing for us" while explaining the entropic nature of being. Why evoke the concept of a "caring universe" when acting as a scientist?

  15. the doctrine that all men are born with certain inalienable rights was, a mere two an a half centuries ago, akin to one of the greatest heresies the world had ever heard, but that was the cry of our forefathers as they orchestrated the political revolutions which toppled the despotic old monarchies of Europe, as well as the scientific revolution of thought that would effectively bring down one of the greatest sources of oppression the world had ever known, the Roman Catholic Church. How many times has history told of races, nations or classes of people who have clawed their way up from hundreds of years of bondage into newfound Freedoms, and then, as their duty to “water the tree of freedom with the blood lof old tyrannies” was neglected, they slipped slowly at first and then very quickly back into bondage and oppression for another hundred years.

    Today we are seeing a similar dynamic play out as, after the greater freedoms that were born with the introduction of wage based labor, and brought forth with the American, French and Industrial Revolutions… now mankind has been slipping slowly at first but evermore quickly back towards economic enslavement under a fiat currency banking authority and into feudalistic debt based serfdom.

    Nonetheless, just as every setback has seen man’s accepted definitions for a working Law of Liberty being perverted into new mandates for tyranny, with each new triumph, the scope, breadth and means of mankind’’s freedom have of a necessity been redefined to counter the perversions and corruptions of those doomed old dictatorships.

    Anyway, it's nice to see you trying to move in the right direction on these points.

  16. 41:09 – "… It certainly did not depend on belief in Jesus Christ as saviour, it did not depend on One God as opposed to Many Gods, it really depended on human well-being."

    The problem with this framing is that we don't know what the term BELIEVE IN means here. When a myth SPEAKS to you, it speaks to the psyche's archetypes. They RESONATE with the images in the myths, and that resonance, the wisdom of that resonance informs and guides our behavior and our ethic from the subconscious. Religious myths and motifs speak to a deeper, pre-cognitive part of the mind that isn't concerned with BELIEVING, it's not a matter of "calculating towards truth". That's the problem with materialists like Pinker and Harris. They think of "belief" as being one-dimensional and something you do with the rational mind. But the mind goes way deeper, and the deeper you go into the mind, the more you will find yourself in an archetypal mythological world of Resonance with what's meaningful – not with what's LOGICAL. The cognitive mind *thinks*, the deeper mind *dreams*.
    The motif of Christ, the central collective DREAM of Christ, has spoken to the subconscious of western culture since for two millenia, and it is this resonance that has unfolded and given BIRTH to what we call the enlightenment and it's values.

    As for belief in "One God over Many Gods" – It's a mistake to think that Zeus or Odin or Dionysius is the same thing as The Absolute.

    We need to stop thinking about religions as something we "believe" in but rather try to understand the way they FUNCTION in our psychology.

  17. There are too many comments to read, but I wish I could thank you both personally on the enviroment you enrich without me seeing it.

  18. I’m living in Sweden. I’m 30 and I’ve never seen a homeless person. And NO we are not a socialist country. We just have a little wider social safety net, and sure there are people who abuse the system but you cant just sit at home and collect a check. You have to show that you are actively looking for a job or that you really are unable to work. You have to do a lot of stuff before you get that check. We have a running joke in Sweden that goes something like ”in Sweden you have to work very hard to not have to work”. It works better in Swedish lol.

  19. Iv been subbed for a long time but your videos dont appear in my subscription feed so im smashing that notification bell

  20. What world are you two living in? Did you conveniently just gloss over all the homeless people and tent cities popping up all over the place? The denial of access to the basic necessities of life? The prison population? The immigrant crisis? Sorry maybe you got to it later in the conversation, but I can only tolerate Jordyn Peterson,s (nails on a chalk board voice) for just so long. pointless interruptions and talking around in circles in some false pretense of trying to understand whats wrong with peoples thinking. Perhaps the problem is with your own thinking and how out of touch you are with the current reality.
    The media continues to lie about the what, the how, and the who of our current social crisis. There is a moral crisis taking place and a social and economic crisis that you two seem to think is not a problem because it isn't touching you at the moment, and you can sum it up in % which is meaningless to those suffering.

  21. This whole conversation ignores the right-leaning viewpoint entirely when it isn't insulting it by calling left-wing policies "generous." It's not generous to elect thugs to redistribute other people's money.

  22. My intuition is that the difference between them is that one explains how circumstances have got better because of a particular period of time and intellectual effort called The Enlightenment which is concluded and conclusive, while the other thinks the improvement in human circumstances is evolutionary and reversible, based in present day individuals personal choices to adopt responsibility or not.

  23. I would love to see more discussion between these two. Really, I love seeing discussions between all of these very bright people. I look forward to Pinker's book and if there is a discussion featuring both Pinker and Shapiro with Jordan, I would be very excited.
    This is a particularly close to my soul pairing being that once upon a time somewhat recently, I was a very depressed and unfortunate person and Jordan quoted Pinker's notation of the statistics…and there was a click that changed just about everything in my thinking. I'm very appreciative for both of these men and for the fact that we have this sort of thing available to us.

  24. To control the masses you must keep them afraid of some thing that will threaten total existence, when I was younger this was "Nuclear Destruction", in a massive world war and this justified movements like C.N.D. who could field enormous demonstrations in the west, but since the implosion of the "Soviet Union", C.N.D. seems to have morphed into the Climate Change hysteria, same people or their children still out on the streets being obnoxious and trying to make everybody to their will.
    Climate Change is not a settled deal but we are being told by Politicians and the Legacy Media that it is and we have to do various ridiculous things within the next decade or the world will end, no one can deny this or they risk being burned at the stake as a heretic, there is something worryingly wrong here that there seems to be this unanimity of thought across parties and borders, at least here in the west…

  25. Dog gone You just have to interrupt Dr. Pinker . It is quite off-putting , Dr. Peterson , to us listeners but surely sir to the person you are talking to . Wouldn't it benefit you Jordan , if you could correct this at least somewhat . I really appreciate you Dr. Peterson so I beg your pardon here . This is important though…

  26. What an uplifting discussion! more of these facts need to be pumped to the public. Imagine what our society could be if we had a balanced diet of positive news well known.

  27. First of all. Another great interview! Alll of Jordan's interviews are just a great conversations that probe fascinating thoughts, ideas, theories and more.
    Second, at around 37 minutes, they are talking about the artificial group identity making it possible for diversity to work in countries like United States and Canada and how that artificial identity is an antidote to nationalism and racism. Am I the only one who sees that the left is trying to tear down our over arching identity and make smaller more race based identities of old along with sex and sexuality identies primary. And as a result we see a rise in nationalism? Why isn't being American or Canadian and our set of first principles something that binds us any more? Is it solely that what we have as first principles now differs too greatly? Is that the problem with such an artificial identity?

    Lastly, I somehow am just now learning about Tammy's cancer. I am hoping that the latest news I've found is an indication of how well she's doing. Hoping and praying she beats it completely.

  28. you guys are telling people the worlds getting better so you can sell books that noone in five years can even read,enjoy chinese rule you pampered people living in your bubbles.Why you are not screaming from the rooftops….We are sick and tired of jeffery epstiens and trudeaus etcetc …..and when the reckoning comes or the zombies I hope your prepared cause ,the mass's will be coming to your house dreamers….

  29. 39:59 there is no such thing as judeo-christian tradition. Christians are Jews who accepted Christ. Jews are who killed him and stayed Jews to become antichrist Talmudic Jews today.

  30. It's true that humanity on a global scale has done quite well, but it's been at the expense of the working classes of America and Europe. The median income in the US is $31K, that's insanely low, it's about as much as insurance costs for a family of 4 (average $28K per year). The stats in the US are all bad like that, 25% of kids don't get fed 3 times per day consistently, 80% of households live paycheck to paycheck, suicide rates are so high now that they're literally lowering our expectated lifetimes, and you guys are all acting like liberals are just being ignorant. We're not ignorant, we just aren't cherry picking our data to trick ourselves into thinking that everything is fine. It's not, Trump is clear evidence of that.

  31. 10:28 Taleb actually DID predict the '08 financial crisis, which may in fact have been just a pre-shock of what's to come. I'm not a doomsayer, but I certainly don't see the level of stability in our system that either of these guys seem to. There's far too much artificial manipulation going on.

  32. Why was Pinker's name in Jeffrey Epstein's rolodex? And his book about how things are getting better is propaganda nonsense for white rich people

  33. Love this interview thank you 🙏🏼 But, can we please invest a little in some quality microphones. Your really diminishing the experience with low quality audio. If you want some guidance I am happy to help and even donate some mics to you and your guests. Keep up the good work

  34. Why I am I paying for the needs of sn alcoholic newfoundlander? Why for the love of God are we an affinity beyond the arbitrary borders of the wealthy?

  35. The main theme in the Bible can't be ignored, and that is there is a spiritual or Elohim realm that interacts with humans.

  36. A debate/discussion about human progress and enlightenment vs Judeo-Christian values featuring Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro on one side of the table and Steven Pinker and Sam Harris on the other would be seriously great event!

  37. Jordan When people's incomes go up generally they're able to participate in private property ownership us we see good stewardship of lands in this case

  38. I would love to hear the conversation you mentioned at the end of this video, but please don't limit it to an hour.

  39. Well yeah more money will make people happier?? especially if it's based on debt economy and "over-valuation" of currencies…
    Then why still with all those wealth that people still getting more existentially depressed??
    and yes modern people have more money, but have less land as people being squeezed ever more yet to live luxuriously in cities.
    the humanist claim that materialistic gains can make people's life much better and more prosperous in general sense is indeed the best way of life that one can strife for…. that so you may please yourself with the (you claim) the best of thinkers, the most wealth that you've gain, and political power that you can grasp… that you've achieved with sole human merits.

  40. Pinker believes that people can decide and agree upon what is good for them and make progress towards that good. Peterson thinks that good must come from some pre-existing time tested tradition or faith or else, people may decide upon a good that isn't good. Both men are correct, but even pre-existing tradition or faith may not lead a people to a good that is good as the current world is changing at an ever increasing rate. That is where Pinker's belief that people should try to understand the world as it currently is and then choose a good suited for it may be the better option going forward.

  41. The idea of human rights coming from Christianity is the fact that as Peterson said, humans were created in the image of God and therefore have intrinsic value, worth and dignity. A person has value for that reason not based on how hard they work or their good outweighing the bad. Pinker went on to point to things like religious people and supposed Christians burning heretics as an example of Christianity not being the source or the best argument for innate value and worth of humans. However, he is pointing to perversions coming from flawed sinful human beings and this doesn't discredit that humans still have value and worth from God.

  42. Peterson should have a formal debate with Pinker on the source of Western values. They both have a point even though they are somewhat at odds so it will be enlightening.

  43. Pinkers clarity of mind and power of speech is very impressive. Peterson obviously calls for Shapiro as a reinforcement as he cannot counter Pinkers crystal clear arguments against the Judeo-Christian is the source of humanity-Argument.

  44. Spreading and acceptance of an understanding to increasing number of people, that progress i.e more political stability, building better infrastructure and achieving more wealth and prosperity, etc. cannot be achieved if at least certain value is attached to every individual of society, perhaps led to increasingly humane world we inhabit now.

  45. This is the second time that I have had to subscribe to this channel. I never unsubscribed in the first place. Don't know what the hell is up with that?

  46. It is usually the least educated who can measure true changes best. For instance, fishermen know the actual deal with "climate change" and social workers in the community know about true poverty. With the opiod crisis and how Obamacare shifted the way healthcare is delivered, it seems that the "data" Pinker discusses is itself flawed and collected at a different standard than those in the past he must be using to make these grand claims. Things are getting much worse, not better.

  47. Dr Peterson, can you please enable the download feature? I would love to watch your videos offline when no internet network is available, thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *