Speculation about the future is routinely wrong - and I don't claim to be especially good at it - but I will venture the guess that rapid arrival of vaccines for Covid-19 will give at least a temporary injection to Steven Pinker's attempt to revive the Enlightenment project, which depended upon reason and science. But it will take more than that to see off Pinker's antagonists; religious conservatism (or radicalism) and postmodernism.

For anyone interested the philosophy department at Edinburgh University are hosting an online conference on the theme of trying to replace lost promises of a better world. I would be more inclined to join in if Pinker were taking part, and we could see how well his optimistic data on global health, welfare, safety, education and so on stand up to intellectual gloom.

As Pinker is aware, his toughest challenge is, as it always was, human psychology. A combination of increased inequality (with dangerous power imbalances), group identities and robotic warfare is enough to raise those hairs on the back of the neck.

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