Keeping the Lights On

Stephen Pinker argues that the Enlightenment is the key driver behind massive improvement that is taking place in a number of different areas. He claims the enlightenment is working. Phil and Stephen discuss whether they agree with Pinker’s analysis and what the chances are that the enlightenment will keep doing what it’s doing.

The Enlightenment is Working

Globally, the 30-year scorecard also favors the present. In 1988, 23 wars raged, killing people at a rate of 3.4 per 100,000; today it’s 12 wars killing 1.2 per 100,000. The number of nuclear weapons has fallen from 60,780 to 10,325. In 1988, the world had just 45 democracies, embracing two billion people; today it has 103, embracing 4.1 billion. That year saw 46 oil spills; 2016, just five. And 37% of the population lived in extreme poverty, barely able to feed themselves, compared with 9.6% today. True, 2016 was a bad year for terrorism in Western Europe, with 238 deaths. But 1988 was even worse, with 440.

Background on the Enlightenment

Anti-enlightenment Trends


Authoritarian Governments

Alt-Right / White Nationalists / the “Dark Enlightenment

WT 403-716

Eternity Kevin MacLeod ( | Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License |