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On 3/4/18 2:16 PM, MM wrote:
On Mar 4, 2018, at 12:29 PM, Louis Proyect via Marxism <marxism@lists.csbs.utah.edu <mailto:marxism@lists.csbs.utah.edu>> wrote:

Two asshole Panglosses get taken down in the NY Times but not nearly as viciously as they deserve:

Steven Pinker:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/books/review/steven-pinker-enlightenment-now.html

“Taken down”? Here’s how the Pinker review ends:

"Steven Pinker’s book is full of vigor and vim, and it sets out to inspire a similar energy in its readers.

"He cites one study of “negativity bias” that says a critic who pans a book “is perceived as more competent than a critic who praises it.” I will just have to take that risk: “Enlightenment Now” strikes me as an excellent book, lucidly written, timely, rich in data and eloquent in its championing of a rational humanism that is — it turns out — really  quite cool.”


Sorry for the confusion. I had this one in mind from earlier in the week:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/books/review-enlightenment-now-steven-pinker.html

In one particularly tortured passage, Pinker goes so far as to downplay the harm of the notorious Tuskegee syphilis study — which tracked syphilis in 600 African-American men, many of them poor sharecroppers, withholding information and proper treatment from them — on the grounds that the doctors “did not infect the participants, as many believe.” The study, a “one-time failure to prevent harm to a few dozen people” (as he breezily puts it) “may even have been defensible by the standards of the day.”

Why do this? Why not simply state that the study is a ghastly stain on the history of medicine? Despite the occasional warning that progress is “hard-won” and “perfect order” isn’t “the natural state of affairs,” Pinker’s book is filled with such fulsome apologias, which inadvertently suggest that the gains of the Enlightenment are so delicate that they require the historical gloss he compulsively provides.
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