Friday, 2 December 2011

Message from One Canadian Steve to Another: Violence Is Actually Decreasing

The New York Times on Tuesday had an interesting interview with Montreal-born psychologist Steven Pinker, whose new book The Better Angels of Our Nature argues that violence has become less and less present in human life over history.

He says the "idea for the book took root in his mind...when he stumbled across graphs of historical rates of violence. In England, for example, homicide rates are about a hundredth of what they were in 1400." Shortly afterwards he was invited to write an essay on what he was optimistic about, and he quickly agreed to write about "the death of violence."

In 2006 Dr. Pinker was invited to write an essay on the theme “What Are You Optimistic About?” His answer: “The decline of violence.”

The NYT reports that reaction came quickly. "I started hearing from scholars from fields that I was barely aware of, saying, ‘There’s much more evidence on this trend than you were aware of,’ he said.

The video is a little old, but it gives a most interesting summary of his thinking. Steven Harper, who wants us to think that things are getting worse, would do well to watch it.

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