The world is getting better, not worse, thanks to Enlightenment values – Stephen Pinker

Harvard University Professor Stephen Pinker, pictured above, argues the things are getting steadily better in the world

The above piece was broadcast on Drivetime, RTE Radio 1, on 19th February ’18


The election of Donald Trump, looming Brexit and the ominous re-awakening of fascism across Europe are just some of the reasons why many people today might think that things are getting worse, as we struggle to cope with an unstable world.

However, Stephen Pinker, the celebrated Prof of Psychology at Harvard University, argues in his new book ‘Enlightenment Now – The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress’ (Penguin Random House, 2018) that, despite all the pessimism, things are getting better.

This is due to the ongoing, and spreading influence of Enlightenment ideas around the world, the author argues, while presenting data, charts and graphs to support his optimistic position.

Prof Pinker’s is giving a talk at TCD on Friday 23rd, February

Volunteers sought for large Irish OCD study

OCD is often associated with repeated hand-washing, hoarding and checking of locks and lights, but it also involves repeated intrusive, distressing or frightening thoughts [Pic source:

One thousand volunteers who suffer from obsessions or compulsions due to OCD are being sought by the School of Psychology at UCD to take part in an online survey.

The disorder known as OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can drive people to repeating behaviours over and over again, such as washing or checking locks. It can also cause people to struggle to remove disturbing, intrusive and unwanted thoughts.

The disorder can severely impact on a person’s life, with some people actively engaged in thought rumination or performing rituals to reduce anxiety. It is estimated that between 2 and 3 per cent of people in Ireland suffer from OCD – or between 48,000 and 96,000 people.

The online study will be conducted by Patrick McHugh, a psychologist in clinical training at the School of Psychology NUIG, along with Dr Jonathan Egan, Deputy Director of the Clinical Psychology Doctorate Programme.

“Obsessions can feel overwhelming and difficult to control,” said Mr McHugh. “We aim to investigate whether strong emotions like guilt and disgust contribute to such symptoms.”

Dr Egan added: “When people do not reach out to others in order to normalise their thoughts, they may then start to experience distress,”

“Obsessions are often associated with thoughts which feel intrusive and out of your control and if left untended to, can become a worrying pre-occupation and affected a person’s day-to-day life, and may result in the need for a Chartered Clinical Psychologist’s intervention,” said Dr Egan.

To participate in the survey, visit:

Participants can enter for a draw for a €100 One4All voucher on completion of the survey and request access to a summary of the results