Evidence Based Optimism

Happy Easter Weekend!

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Steven Pinker’s latest book is called; ” Enlightenment Now”.

It spoke to me. He speaks to me.

I’m calling it a connection.

To say he is merely a scholar is an understatement.

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology
Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology and a Harvard College professor

He has a 36 page resume.  36 page curriculum vitae ……….it alone is worth the read on this link.

It would be a hilarious experiment to send out his application to a job posting.

Wanted……..

“We’re looking for our next great Summer Cruiser Intern”.

What’s this?

It’s from a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Let’s have a peek.

“You sir are obviously over qualified”…….rejected.

That’s not to demean or degrade any great summer cruiser interns……..but it would be interesting if this guy got a job being customer facing……..I’m guessing he’d be successful.

The whole reason he connects with me is that he helps validate my optimistic look at the world. He even dedicated his latest book to his grandchild, who, all things being equal, will live to see the 22nd century. That assumption is based on the fact that life expectancy worldwide has increased dramatically in the past century……one of his many positive observations.

Among other things, he says……

The media is overly negative……..indiscriminate pessimissm he calls it.

Just browse through any newspaper and you’ll see just that. Virtually most headlines are negative. He said the last thing consumers should ever see on TV is a story about Tiger Cubs being born in a zoo, but no question there is much room to report on the positive.

His writing has been criticized by fellow intellects as populist contempt. He says populism contradicts the science. Take climate change for example. He says his words are based on data, not dogma. And he mentions dozens of other examples throughout the book.

Denuclearization is not a crazy aspiration for this century. He points out that the last nuclear explosion against humankind was Nagasaki. He also points out Trump and Kim are doing the world no favours here.

I found this review by Sarah Bakewell in the New York Times and she writes in part;

“the goal of maximizing human flourishing — life, health, happiness, freedom, knowledge, love, richness of experience.” Who could be against any of that? Yet humanism has been seen in some quarters as unfashionable, or unachievable, or both. Pinker wants us to take another look.

Much of the book is taken up with evidence-based philosophizing, with charts showing a worldwide increase in life expectancy, a decline in life-shattering diseases, ever better education and access to information, greater recognition of female equality and L.G.B.T. rights, and so on — even down to data showing that Americans today are 37 times less likely to be killed by lightning than in 1900, thanks to better weather forecasting, electrical engineering and safety awareness. Improvements in health have bettered the human condition enormously, and Pinker tells us that his favorite sentence in the whole English language comes from Wikipedia: “Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor.” The word “was” is what he likes.

So you don’t conclude he is only a dreamer, he acknowledges that getting better doesn’t mean ignoring the problems. But he maintains that humans have faced many challenges over time and have solved them and he believes we will solve our challenges now.

What’s wrong with that? This baby is worth trying to make better……right?

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Happy Passover

It’s Easter weekend, which falls on the first full moon after spring officially arrives. That’s why it’s early this year. I was raised Catholic so we experienced the full treatment growing up including meat less Friday, regular attendance at mass and celebrating religious holidays. I admit when I was young I was afraid of the whole Roman treatment of Jesus. Punishing him, sentencing him to death, making him carry the cross, the crown of thorns, the lashings, humiliation and finally the crucifixion. It was not cool. And definitely not a Good Friday for him.

But I also learned about his resurrection on Easter Sunday and that he rose to heaven to be with his father, I think? I never really knew if it was a Father/Son team. At any rate, it made me feel better after that brutal part of his death.

I’m still not 100% sure on why we have the Easter Bunny and eggs and chocolate. It would be challenging to explain to our next generation. That said, I miss chocolate sometimes. Cadbury Caramilk, Crunchie Bars, Coffee Crisp and Aero….oh my. I don’t eat added sugar anymore but the craving is there at times. Sometimes I’ll get a Lindt dark chocolate bar with high 95% cocoa. It’s not the same.

Growing up, we’d hunt for eggs after we got our baskets……..I never liked those sugar coloured shiney eggs……were they made by Dare? But foil wrapped chocolate…..hey now!!!! And those bunnies we’d get. Looked good, but hollow……still lots of Milk Chocolate. I was always excited about dying hard boiled eggs different colours too. When we eventually peeled them, the grey colour of the yolk did me in, but always fun to make a mess in the kitchen.

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When the boys were young, I’d take them on extensive easter egg hunts. Upstairs, downstairs, outside and in the garage. They thought it was lame and un-necessary but went along with it to humour me…..and get the goods.

I was talking to my Mom last night and reminded her of these huge sugar and chocolate eggs she’d make for us. They had to be 4000 calories. Honestly.

We’d always watch Easter shows…..Davey and Goliath clay-mation. Pokey and Gumby. And there were Easter movies like Ben Hur, The Robe and Ten Commandments. No VCR’s back then…….all real time.

We’ll have Adam, Mila, Sean and Jude for Easter this weekend (Kitchener next weekend) and no matter that it won’t include all the sugar, it’ll still be nice.

I do have many good memories of dressing up for Easter Sunday, singing Easter Parade in my best Judy Garland voice and Here Comes Peter Cottontail by Roy Rogers and enjoying friends and family. And maybe they can help me with the whole Father/Son debate.

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I will also be thinking about my family, Mom and friends not here this weekend including this couple…..we spent many Holidays with them…….Peter and Betty Luke.

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Enjoy yours……turkey or ham? Go.

Did you know……..

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  • The Ontario Liberals have proposed free child care for kids 2 and half to five? Also free prescriptions for those on fixed incomes and free dental care for the same. I guess I am a real moderate politically, because a large part of me supports helping people. I’ve been lucky and make a good living and don’t feel entitled. But this won’t be cheap and frankly cannot work. I have 10’s of thousands of dollars available to me on credit……and I keep getting offered more……….but credit needs to be re-paid. It’s not a windfall. Politics!!!! Yeesh.
  • One of our Play by play announcers in Lethbridge noted that the Red Deer Rebels logo looked like ovaries. He got in trouble for it. You decide.

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  • The Masters is next weekend. Tiger is improving. Be still my beating heart.

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  • Our sweet little Lulu turns 2 on Sunday……….yes, that is time flying by. What are you doing about it?

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Thanks for reading……….have a great weekend.

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