- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (27 May 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007267118
- ISBN-13: 978-0007267118
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 4.3 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 460,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Rational Optimist Hardcover – 27 May 2010
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‘Nature via Nurture sets the modern terms for an ancient debate, and at the same time delivers a superb tutorial on contemporary genetics; the feedback loop that embraces genes and environment is generally not well understood. And yet this plasticity, this elegant mutuality, seems crucial if our new understanding of human nature is to inform public policy. These times need a book like this.’ Ian McEwan
‘Lucidly explains the most recent discoveries on what makes us what we are, and how we should think about these discoveries as we ponder who we want to be…A treat, written with insight, wisdom, and style.’ Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate
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‘A real page-turner. What a superb writer he is, and he seems to get better and better.’ Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene
‘Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist, in glorious contrast, tells us what we really should want to hear: that the human species, through our unique ability to exchange ideas and thus innovate at the speed of thought, has overcome all the challenges that have ever confronted us, and will do so in future. This inspiring book, a glorious defense of our species, explains why: it is a devastating rebuke to humanity's self-haters.' Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times
From the Back Cover
For two hundred years the pessimists have dominated public discourse, insisting that things will soon be getting much worse. But in fact, life is getting better and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down all across the globe. Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people's lives as never before.
In his bold and bracing exploration into how human culture evolves positively through exchange and specialization, bestselling author Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. An astute, refreshing, and revelatory work that covers the entire sweep of human history from the Stone Age to the Internet The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
On the plus side, he says many things that need to be said. It's a book I'd recommend to anybody, simply because of the sheer number of shibboleths of both left and right that he deftly and enjoyably skewers. This sort of thing is essential in a world where too many of all political persuasions have given up thinking for themselves and rely instead on timeworn cliches. He also, true to his rationalist title, leans heavily on a weighty ballast of credible evidence drawn from a range of good sources.
It's a pity, then, that in places he lets his enthusiasm run away with him and writes like a journalist rather than an academic. For example, I'm no expert in primatology, but even I know that you can't make simplistic points about the relative nastiness of our fellow primates (p.65) without acknowledging that there are relevant distinctions between our two closest cousins, the common chimpanzee and the bonobo. Given his academic credentials, Ridley should be better than this (indeed, I'm surprised it wasn't pointed out to him by Frans de Waal, whom he cites in his acknowledgments). Then again, he isn't the first well-known writer to dive into into the exciting field of primatology, grab the first thing he sees to back up his point and rush for the surface to catch breath; see Francis Fukuyama's latest on the origins of political order for an even worse example of exactly the same approach.Read more ›
Overall though a great read and it has gave me a newfound respect for the human propensity for trade and specialisation. To be read with an open-mind and prior knowledge of the authors political and economic views.
It's a stimulating read and I found the book easier to get through in short doses. I think it could have been a bit shorter, a bit punchier and a bit more aggressive toward the nay-sayers, but overall I found it a refreshing change to a lot of the messages we receive today about us all being doomed.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read the Red Queen by Matt Ridley and enjoyed it, but though there are one or two good arguments in this book, I didn't find it held my interest and although I hate giving up on... Read morePublished 3 months ago by LC1025
Another of this guy's gems, and a big one at that. Again the reader is presented with a relentless array of facts leading to conclusions which are well nigh inescapable. Read morePublished 7 months ago by John McCowan
The book is fine; certainly not great. The premise is that everything is getting better and has been since almost the dawn of time, so we shouldn't worry about the future. Read morePublished 9 months ago by david
Amazing book. Ridley connects many scientific dots with a helicopter view where others drag on with tunnel visions about 1 subject. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Guido van Oppen
Ridley's ideas could have been dealt with in 10 pages but it runs to 464 pages on a paperback. The writer wants to write about economics but he has zero awareness of some basic... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Giant Cheese Burger
Great book BUT should come with an advisory note: At times author ignores facts to look at world through the rose-tinted glasses of a libertarian. Read morePublished 11 months ago by C
The Rational Optimist has been around for a year or two now, but it's still a cracking read. Ridley writes clearly and engagingly. Read morePublished 14 months ago by D. Lye