“. . . I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that rising authoritarianism, the pandemic and the climate crisis, among other things, are signs that we’re going to hell in a handbasket. Is that irrational of me? It’s not irrational to identify genuine threats to our well-being. It is irrational to interpret a number of crises occurring at the same time as signs that we’re doomed. It’s a statistical phenomenon that when events are randomly sprinkled in time they cluster. That sounds paradoxical, but unless you have a nonrandom process that spaced them apart — We’re going to have a crisis every six months but we’re never going to have two crises in a month — events cluster. That’s what random events will always do. ”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This piece lost me. Climate change, the pandemic, and the rise of authoritarianism are not equals. Bad questions lead to bad answers. Why exactly is this professor not deeply concerned about the existential threat of climate change and the sixth extinction? Perhaps there should be a follow up interview by an environmentalist. Does he know what the sixth extinction is? Does he know that in the last 50 years, human population doubled, while the populations of most species were cut in half, and thousands were eliminated. Some studies show insects and birds are down 70% Half the great barrier reef is bleached or dead. How is Mr. Pinker optimistic, when we went from 2 billion humans to almost 8 billion humans, 7.8 billion human beings, in just under 100 year– probably since 1930 to the present. Edward O Wilson, also of Harvard, but a naturalist, has written that if we lose half the world’s species, the human species will probably not survive.
“NASHVILLE — Back when my children were small, I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of things. Diapers. Pacifiers. Booster seats. Storybooks. Action figures. Legos, hobbling anyone foolish enough to go barefoot in the dark. It dawned on me once that the whole house could burn to the ground and I would feel no great regret. As long as my family was safe, I could stand on the curb and watch the flames leaping into the night sky.
My childhood home was worse. My mother blamed us kids and our endless projects, but she was the one who couldn’t part with anything. Dad did his best to keep the clutter to manageable levels, but after he died, nothing ever seemed to leave that house. The attic got so full that Mom would climb to the top of the steps and heave anything she wanted to save as far back as she could throw it.
When she left Alabama and moved to the rental house across the street from us, she brought along everything she deemed necessary for her new life, including 37 coffee mugs, an entire bookcase swollen with fabric remnants, and countless back issues of Southern Living. She fought to keep them all, and she won every fight.”