Steven Pinker: ‘The way to deal with pollution is not to rail against consumption’

The feather-ruffling Harvard psychologist’s new book, a defence of Enlightenment values, may be his most controversial yet

• Read an extract from Enlightenment Now here

Say the word “enlightenment” and it tends to conjure images of a certain kind of new-age spiritual “self-improvement”: meditation, candles, chakra lines. Add the definite article and a capital letter and the Enlightenment becomes something quite different: dead white men in wigs.

For many people, particularly in the west, reaching a state of mindful nirvana probably seems more relevant to their wellbeing than the writings of, say, Immanuel Kant and Adam Smith. But according to Enlightenment Now, a new book by the celebrated Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, this is precisely where we’re getting our priorities wrong.

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