Why We’re Promoting The Rational Optimist

By | September 28, 2010
New reading material: The Rational Optimist

Image by Daniel Bachhuber via Flickr

We’ve been talking about this for the past two weeks on the podcast. We officially kicked off our campaign to get 1000 people to read The Rational Optimist with a blog post last week, followed by setting up a Facebook group this week.

So what’s the big deal, anyway? It’s a good book and all, but why all the fuss?

Apparently the book is doing pretty well, but Matt Ridley faces an uphill battle try to spread his message. Over at Less Wrong, Yvain provides a wonderfully succinct explanation as to why that is:

So my hypothesis is that if a certain side of an issue has very obvious points in support of it, and the other side of an issue relies on much more subtle points that the average person might not be expected to grasp, then adopting the second side of the issue will become a signal for intelligence, even if that side of the argument is wrong.

Absolutely brilliant. And spot on.

That’s the reason that it’s “controversial” for me to suggest that death sucks.

And that’s the reason that it’s “controversial” for Matt Ridley to suggest that the condition of humanity is improving and is likely to continue to improve.

Strange but true: some obvious truths require a more robust defense than other, more subtle truths. So be it. Matt Ridley provides a reasoned and straightforward defense of the (what ought to be) obvious in his book, and we’re here to back him up.

So once again: if you haven’t read it, read it. If you have read it or are reading it, pick up a copy for a friend or just pass your copy on to someone when you’ve finished. And let us know what you’ve done — we’re trying to get to a 1000 (more than 40th of the way there as of today!)

UPDATE: Instalanche!  All right Instapundit readers, who’s ready to push us closer to 1000?

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/.OXMZjFllc7a3u.yO5s07Ch_0lcFgs0-#b97e5

    Uh. I like death and think it is a very good thing. Most people’s attitudes are fixed by age 20 or 25 and rarely change the rest of their lives.

    I’m not interested in 1,000 year old communists. Thank you very much.

    Me? I’m 66 and death is my constant companion. And a very good friend he is. He makes every breath and every pain delicious.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/.OXMZjFllc7a3u.yO5s07Ch_0lcFgs0-#b97e5

    The above “I like death” was by me. And who is this me?

    M. Simon of Power and Control

  • nukemhill

    Just ordered it from Amazon. I’ll move it to the top of my pile.

  • Phil Bowermaster

    M. Simon wrote–

    >>He makes every breath and every pain delicious.

    Well no offense, but I think your pal Death is a Class A son of a bitch. BTW, did you mean to leave your comments here:


    That’s the intended home of the whole revived death discussion. This thread is all about people getting on board with reading The Rational Optimist and sharing the book with their friends. Which is about to begin right…



  • Phil Bowermaster

    Great! I’m so glad that our list of 100 names will include “Nukem.” I wasn’t sure it was going to and yet here you are in the first 100!

  • bleyddyn.aprhys

    I just checked Barnes and Noble’s web site. It doesn’t look like the ebook version of Rational Optimist is shareable. But I’m not entirely sure.

    Anyone have the B&N ebook version who can confirm or deny that? I’d be interested in borrowing a copy if it’s possible.

  • stephentg


    Shell out the dough for this one. It’s worth it. :-)