I’ve been so moved by these two books I’ve read recently – The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch and The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker – that I can’t get enough. So I’ve searched out what others have said about them. Big mistake.
In the case of Deutsch’s book, most reviewers don’t have much to say other than it is challenging. The most striking thing for me about the reaction to BoI is that so few people were moved as I was. There’s little criticism of it; mostly, people just shrug.
Pinker’s book, however, seems to appeal to a much wider audience, and as a result everyone has an opinion. Lots of them are negative. The most striking thing here, though, is that I wonder how many of these negative reviewers even bothered to read the book? Many of their criticisms are topics Pinker dealt with directly. I can’t imagine how frustrated Pinker must feel at reading these no-nothing opinions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something written like, “I haven’t read the book, but here’s why he’s wrong.”
Possibly in response, Pinker has put out a Q and A about the book. It is very well-written, and addresses (again) these senseless criticisms, as well as the few well-thought-out criticisms of his ideas. After you read the book itself, I recommend this Q and A. I also recommend that you DON’T try to read the no-nothing comments of people who are convinced they know better.