Enlightenment Now succeeds in illustrating the ways technology has improved people’s lives, but it fails as a moral and political argument. If Pinker had just claimed we should keep using technology to improve human lives, the book would have proved more successful. And it could have been great if he had used his discussion of evo, entro, and info to attack post-modern/post-structuralism/critical theory/anti-realism, given that today’s leftists are far more radical and wield far more power than the Christian Coalition ever did. However, he does write that the “prophets of doom are the all-stars of the liberal arts curriculum, including Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Edward Said, Cornel West, and a chorus of eco-pessimists” (p. 39 – 40).
The humanities have yet to recover from the disaster of postmodernism, with its defiant obscurantism, self-refuting relativism, and suffocating political correctness. Many of its luminaries–Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, the Critical Theorists–are morose cultural pessimists who declare that modernity is odious, all statements are paradoxical, works of art are tools of oppression, liberal democracy is the same as fascism, and Western civilization is circling the drain” (p. 406).
If he had dug into the writings of these authors and criticized their positions in detail, he would have had something more interesting on his hands. But no, disappointingly he goes on to discuss how the media makes people think things are getting bad, and why it should instead use its power to convince them everything is great.
Instead, the task of using entro, eco, info to attack leftist post-modern anti-realism has been the task of the Dark Enlightenment, and it is more as a guidepost to the Dark Enlightenment that Enlightenment Now has real value.
For those unfamiliar with ancient history, in 2012 Nick Land published an essay called “The Dark Enlightenment.” Reading it now, the essay has not aged well as it was heavily preoccupied with the hot issues of the time: the Greek financial crisis, John Derbyshire’s firing from the National Review, Trayvon Martin, and George Zimmerman. However, soon after Land’s “Dark Enlightenment” appeared, Radish began producing the funny/ironic/affectionate “Heroes of the Dark Enlightenment” trading cards. And Scharlach produced his well-known-at-the-time map of the Dark Enlightenment. These latter two developments expanded the scope of the Dark Enlightenment beyond the concerns of Land’s essay. It was the nodes on Scharlach’s map, more than the views of any one thinker, that interested me (See “The Dark Enlightenment For Newbies”).
Today, no one on the Right talks about the Dark Enlightenment; and the Left only occasionally mentions it in the context of: “The Dark Enlightenment equals the opposite of the Enlightenment, and the Enlightenment equals Science, so the Dark Enlightenment is against science and for a return to the Dark Ages!” I guess the confusion over what the DE was is understandable, as there never was much of an agreement.
There were at least four ways to think of the Dark Enlightenment.
There was the DE as synonymous with neoreaction. But this misses people like hbdchick, Steve Sailer, and Greg Cochran who were featured on Scharlach’s map and Radish’s cards.
Or, the Dark Enlightenment could be thought of as a group of dissident bloggers who were dissatisfied with the dominant options of progressivism and corporate conservatism and probed the intellectual foundations of these structures.
Alternatively, the Dark Enlightenment could be conceived of as a specific, one-time historical event that occurred in 2012/13 when all these bloggers discovered each other and saw that they were all attacking the premises of the current post-modern progressivism from different angles.
But there was also a wider notion prevalent at the time, that the Dark Enlightenment was more akin to the historical Enlightenment; it was a wider intellectual movement, a dawning of new ideas. In The Meaning of Human Existence, E.O. Wilson called for a “New Enlightenment.” This was to be a rejuvenation of the humanities through application of insights gained in the biological sciences. Perhaps if the Dark Enlightenment had called itself the New Enlightenment and claimed to be picking up Wilson’s banner, it would have had greater legs. But in truth Dark Enlightenment was a perfect title as it explicitly wished to refute the sunny optimism of the perfectibility of mankind which followed from blank slate egalitarianism. (Isn’t it odd that Pinker wrote one book singing the praises of the Enlightenment and another shredding the Enlightenment’s strongest pillar in The Blank Slate?)
In Enlightenment Now Pinker might have unwittingly provided the long sought after definition of the Dark Enlightenment: Enlightenment plus entro, evo, info. But if so, I don’t think it has the implications Pinker thinks it does.
The rest of this essay will be about proposing an alternative view to Pinker’s as to the implications of evo, entro, info. First I’m going to quickly run through a number of ways in which entro, evo, info would have consequences contrary to the reigning post-modern liberalism. To start with evo, the Dark Enlightenment, more than any other online community, was always heavily interested in recent developments in the study of human biology, especially human biodiversity, genetic anthropology, behavioral genetics, evolutionary, and bio- psychology. The Dark Enlightenment takes the message and implications of Pinker’s The Blank Slate more seriously than any other group. More seriously than Pinker himself probably. Along these lines we can see the following developments which might be seen as the Dark Enlightenment view:
Anthropology: The dominant view of indigenous tribes as pacifists and violence as being the result of civilization, capitalism, or imperialism is being disproven.
History: The use of modern genetics to discredit the “pots not people” dogma of anthropologists and historians and replace it with a truer history that includes migrations, massacres, and displacements/genocide, in addition to genetic changes as a result of the different histories of distinct peoples, could be considered Dark Enlightenment history.
Human Biodiversity: As opposed to blank slate equalism, individual and group psychological and physical differences have a genetic or otherwise biological component, in addition to any cultural influences, instead of being the result of culture or upbringing alone.
Moving on to entro, Pinker writes:
How is entropy relevant to human affairs? Life and happiness depend on an infinitesimal sliver of orderly arrangements of matter amid the astronomical number of possibilities.
From an Olympian vantage point, it defines the fate of the universe and the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and knowledge to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order (p. 16 – 17).
Pinker is looking pretty squarely at what is jokingly referred to as the great crab god Gnon, a reverse acronym of “Nature Or Nature’s God.” Basically, Gnon constitutes the natural processes which explain why things—individuals, groups, states, institutions, etc.—endure through time. This brings us to the next thesis of the Dark Enlightenment, realism, as opposed to social constructivism concerning kinds, namely species, race, ethnic, cultural, and psychological.
Once self-organizing processes of physics and chemistry gave rise to a configuration of matter that could replicate itself, the copies would make copies, which would make copies of the copies, and so on, in an exponential explosion (p. 18).
Of course, the replicating genes do not travel alone; they hang together in DNA strands, which ride in individuals. The genes and memes residing in more or less isolated populations of these individuals, subject to shaping by the forces of a common environment and history over millennia, will form the distinctive ethnic and racial groups we find inhabiting the world. (See “Why the ‘No True Scotsman’ Fallacy Isn’t a Fallacy” and “Race (and) Realism”).
This common history worked to mold people, so as to produce similarities among groups of individuals. In order for these kinds to continue to persist, to fight the tide of entropy as it wears on these human kinds, they must do certain things, such as making new members at least as fast as old ones die, protecting territory, passing on traditions, and so on. If they fail in these tasks, they will bring down the wrath of Gnon. And as a result, traditional ethical systems have permitted ethnic and racial groups to do what it takes to continue to persist, including reserving their territory for themselves. I wonder what Pinker thinks people may and may not do to ensure collective existence. His hatred of partiality (p. 412) and tribalism (p. 333) gives the impression that nothing is permitted, as any such efforts would require partiality towards one’s own kind.
If you combine the natural selection of evo with the copying of entro, you get teleofunctionalism, which should be added to Pinker’s trio: evo, entro, info, and teleo. Teleofunctionalism explains why biological functions and cultural products like language forms, cooperative conventions, social institutions, traditions, and distinctive styles proliferate and endure. (See “The Biosemantics of Self-Representation“). It also explains why cultural diversity produces failures of functional conventions and its attendant feelings of alienation and destruction of social capital. (See “Alienation and Diversity” and “Why Diversity Destroys Social Capital“).
And finally, it supports an account of sex realism: sexual attraction is primarily a biological rather than cultural process, sex is not a social construct, and sexual orientation is a mistaken folk theory. See (“The Myth of Sexual Orientation” and “Sex Is Not A Social Construct“).
In part 1 of this review, I said that I would give my own explanation for the resurgence of the Right, and it is this: if you adopt liberalism, you go extinct, and the Right is fighting against leftist deathwish values. In Pinker’s barrage of charts and graphs, the most important one is missing: fertility rates. The birthrates of all modern, Enlightened, liberal nations are below replacement levels, and this trend will ultimately lead to the extinction of these peoples.
Values have survival value, and everywhere modern liberalism reigns, the people of that nation are on the path to indistinctiveness at best and extinction at worst. Isn’t it convenient that Pinker doesn’t look at the survival value of his Enlightenment values? Apparently, when it comes to evaluating Enlightenment values themselves, evo and entro are no longer important. Modern Enlightened nations are not being killed by enemies, eradicated by disease, wiped out by natural disasters, or devoured by predators; they are being wiped out by their own deathwish values. Enlightenment appears to be the worst path a people can take from a Darwinian perspective. Evolutionist X’s saying “Modernity selects for those who resist it” might best encapsulate this movement.
Hilariously, Pinker writes:
Many Jewish and Christian denominations have become humanistic, soft-pedaling their legacy of supernatural beliefs and ecclesiastical authority in favor of reason and universal human flourishing. Examples include the Quakers, Unitarians, liberal Episcopalians, Nordic Lutherans, and Reform, Reconstructionist, and Humanistic branches of Judaism (p. 412).
He couldn’t have picked a better list of dying denominations if he tried. All of these are dying out to the extent that they become less religious.
It is not ignorance, superstition, bigotry, or irrationality that is motivating the Right. It is that the Right can see that everything the Left touches dies. Institutions such as businesses, the military, or entire national governments require hierarchy and they die if they become egalitarian. Ethnic and religious groups die as they abandon traditionalism and adopt Leftist materialism. On the other hand, the values of traditionalism are designed, in a very “evo” sense of designed, to prevent social problems and preserve nation, family, ethnicity, and culture. That’s what the new Right is fighting for.
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