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Steven Pinker, Better Angels


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Before we get too pessimist about the future, Steven Pinker, a well-know cognitive scientist, has written a book demonstrating that the level of violence in our lives has declined over time. We are now living in the most peaceful time in human history. I haven't read the book yet, but it is now on my list. I first heard an interview with the author and have since read a review. Since both are very intriguing, I thought it would be worthwhile to post this.

 

The review says:

"The central thesis of “Better Angels” is that our era is less violent, less cruel and more peaceful than any previous period of human existence. The decline in violence holds for violence in the family, in neighborhoods, between tribes and between states. People living now are less likely to meet a violent death, or to suffer from violence or cruelty at the hands of others, than people living in any previous century."

 

His claim is not just idle speculation or conjecture. According to the review, there are six chapters documenting it.

 

Pinker argues that there are several reasons for this trend toward less violence: Empowerment of women; state control of violence; the spread of commerce; the invention of printing and development of literature; and maybe most important, enhanced power of reasoning.

 

If anyone is interesting in reading the review, it can be found here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/books/review/the-better-angels-of-our-nature-by-steven-pinker-book-review.html?sq=pinker&st=cse&scp=2&pagewanted=all

 

An NPR "Science Friday" interview with the author can be found here: http://www.sciencefr...m/about/listen/ It is episode Scifri 100711.

 

George

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George, thanks for the info. I will definitely read this book. I have always thought that the world is in a much better place than ever before, even though there is violence still present. It will be good to read this book and substantiate my instinct.

 

I think it's a pity that the media uses such hype and sensationalism to sell their product, which in turn adds to this thought process that the world is getting darker. That and the fact that so much more is captured these days on video, the internet, through mobile phones, etc. Truly we are in the information age, it's just that information we are often made aware of is of the sensationalist/violent type.

 

I can't help but wonder if those Christians who embrace this negativity (albeit not in outward appearances) because they belive it points to Jesus returning soon on a cloud to judge their neighbours, are in some way contributing to the negative tone. Wouldn't it be more fruitful if we acknowleged the improvement in mankind, the evolution into a less violent species, and focused on what could be in time if we all continue to work towards those ends, rather than just wishing it would hurry up and finish!

 

Cheers

Paul

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