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Steven Pinker: A brief history of violence


If people had behaved in the 20th Century as they did in the Bible, several billion people would have died in war, not several hundred million. There are more people alive today, meaning that the raw numbers of deaths are higher, but people are fundamentally far less violent and in percentage terms violence has continually decreased since the enlightenment.

Steven Pinker is a Canadian psychologist with a talent, rather like Richard Dawkins, for thinking logically and writing clearly, while still remaining poetic. His books about language and the brain are popular science classics.

Here he talks at the famous TED conference, on the subject of violence, demolishing both the conservative fallacy of a morally superior past, and the liberal delusion about benign pre-scientific cultures.

science, society, talks

One comment on “Steven Pinker: A brief history of violence

  1. Ian says:

    He is not an Anthropologist, he doesnt have the right background to make comments on Forager or Horticulturalist societies. And it is painfully appearent that he doesn’t know the difference. He had a number of groups he called “Hunter-Gatherers” that were actually Horticulturalists, and that makes a difference. Also, he failed to mention that much of the violence recorded is due to our influence on those regions. The land that is allowed to them, technology, religion all play a part in effecting those societies. This makes thier situation different then earlier Foragers and Horticulturalists. But not that he really cared, he was too busy pleasuring himself on how wonderful Western Civilization (code for The Enlightenment) is. Not once did he talk about countries outside the West. By not mentioning the rest of the world, he completely renders is “world is getting better” arguement useless. Very silly presentation indeed, and I would say wrong.

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