Do I agree with Steven Pinker’s optimistic world view that humans are living longer and better? Well, yes and no.
When the FT’s Henry Mance, in a recent interview with Pinker (behind the FT’s paywall), remarks that news headlines suggest the opposite, Pinker argues that
journalism is a non-random sample of the worst things that are happening on earth at any given time. When you look at the world through the lens of data, rather than events, it’s much more positive.
Well, up to a point!
Later in the interview, Pinker suggests that US politics needs more scientists. Mance points out that some of the least trustworthy politicians are doctors, to which Pinker replies,
Doctors are not scientists! Doctors are professional descendants of mediaeval barber surgeons. There’s a surprising number of doctors who don’t think scientifically.
Hmmm. I know at least one doctor who would disagree (but then Pinker in making his argument ignores the historical distinction between physician and surgeon).
. . . and although I’m not at all sure UK politics needs more scientists – Thérèse Coffey was once a scientist – UK politicians should perhaps listen more to the scientists (read Kate Bingham’s The Long Shot).