I just now saw this post, but I would guess that some readers wanted more justification for the use of the term “secondary”, which implies that you’re assigning value to both of (improvements in knowledge) and (tapping of fossil fuels) and saying that the negative value of the latter outweighs the value of the former. I’d guess that readers were curious how you weighed these things against each other.
I’ll also note that Pinker makes no claim that the world is perfect or has no problems, and that claiming that “reason” or “humanism” has made the world better does not entail that they’ve solved all the world’s problems or even that the world is improving in all important ways. You seem to be making different claims than Pinker does about the meaning of those terms, but you don’t explain how you define them differently. (I could be wrong about this, of course; that’s just what I picked up from a quick reading of the comment.)
Thanks Aaron for your response.
I am assigning positive value to both improvements in knowledge and increased energy use (via tapping of fossil fuel energy). I am not weighing them one vs the other. I am saying that without the increased energy from fossil fuels we would still be agricultural societies, with repeated rise and fall of empires. The indus valley civilization, ancient greeks, mayans all of the repeatedly crashed. At the peak of those civilizations I am sure art, culture and knowledge flourished. Eventually humans out ran their resources and crashed, the crash simplified art forms, culture, and knowledge was also lost.
The driver is energy, and the result is increased art, culture, knowledge and peace too.
Reason and humanism have very little to do with why our world is peaceful today (in the sense that outright murder, slavery, colonialism are no longer accepted).
I read the book by Pinker and his emphasis on Western thought and enlightenment was off putting. We are all human, there are no Western values or Eastern values.
Hans Rosling puts it beautifully
“There is no such thing as Swedish values. Those are modern values”