The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Author: Steven Pinker
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by cs702   2020-01-29
By the standards and attitudes of Medieval Europe with respect to torture and violence, this "flute of shame" looks pretty tame, actually.

It's hard to fathom from a present perspective, but Medieval Europe was insanely more violent and willing to torture than today's Western societies. Consider: Homicide rates were one to two orders of magnitude (~10 to ~100 times) greater back then.[a] There was a proliferation of devices designed to inflict pain and suffering that would make even Dr. Evil blush.[b] Just search for "medieval torture" online to see what I mean.

Steven Pinker has a good summary of the violent nature of Medial Europe in his book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature."[c]

--

[a] https://www.amazon.com/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/...

by NewbombTurk   2019-11-17

A predicted a couple of things when I posted my previous reply. One was that you would only respond to my last point. And the other was that that point would trigger you to no end.

Look, you're just one of those people who thinks their views are universal. The things your pointing out as evidence of a morally degrading society aren't anything new. There is evidence that we're living in the best time ever in the history of mankind.

Let's look at you points:

> Hannah Montana is over here on TV showing her cooter to the world and you wanna talk about degradation of moral values?

Has that happened? Has Miley Cyrus been nude on TV? But that's not important. Almost 70 years ago, people were saying "Marilyn Monroe is showing her cooter!" (who talks like that anyway?).

> We got people running up and knocking out elderly people in a 'game'.

Horrible, or course. But not new. Remember when people used to drag people behind their truck until they were dead?

> We have entire generations of people not working and living off of the government

Not true, but poverty isn't new.

You can't be older than me, and I'm not even close to "kids these days" as you are. Here's a relevant quote:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Who know who said that? Socrates. 2500 years ago.

You've asserted a lot in this thread. You've proved yourself incompetent in your attempts to support any of it.

by IFartWhenICry   2019-11-17

>A predicted a couple of things when I posted my previous reply. One was that you would only respond to my last point. And the other was that that point would trigger you to no end.
>
>Look, you're just one of those people who thinks their views are universal. The things your pointing out as evidence of a morally degrading society aren't anything new. There is evidence that we're living in the best time ever in the history of mankind.
>
>Let's look at you points:

You probably thought Hillary would win the election too, because of all the scientific polls done to prove she would win..

There is no arguing that we live in the best time to be alive, the entire point of my post, was that as we lose sight of religion we lose the actions that provided all of the prosperity you are pointing to. What is the source?

You are tearing down the building, then trying to use the bricks of that building to make a house..on sand....

>Has that happened? Has Miley Cyrus been nude on TV? But that's not important. Almost 70 years ago, people were saying "Marilyn Monroe is showing her cooter!" (who talks like that anyway?).

Have you seen any of her live performances at award shows? She might as well be fully naked...I mean come on could you be any more pedantic?

>Horrible, or course. But not new. Remember when people used to drag people behind their truck until they were dead?

I won't need to remember, because I will be seeing it again in this lifetime the way things are going...

>Not true, but poverty isn't new.
>
>You can't be older than me, and I'm not even close to "kids these days" as you are. Here's a relevant quote:
>
>“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
>
>Who know who said that? Socrates. 2500 years ago.

You know the funny thing about Socrates right? He didn't have Jesus either! So funny the problems he was encountering then in a rational advanced society without Jesus, is the same things happening to us as we lose Jesus! Super cool point thanks for making that.

Great thing all those Greek people converted to....Christianity!!! here is a wonderful excerpt from the Urantia book. The Greek Scholar Rodan of Alexandria. I suggest you read the entire chapter on him in the book, and then the next chapter titled "Further discussions with Rodan"

But the greatest of all methods of problem solving I have learned from Jesus, your Master. I refer to that which he so consistently practices, and which he has so faithfully taught you, the isolation of worshipful meditation. In this habit of Jesus’ going off so frequently by himself to commune with the Father in heaven is to be found the technique, not only of gathering strength and wisdom for the ordinary conflicts of living, but also of appropriating the energy for the solution of the higher problems of a moral and spiritual nature. But even correct methods of solving problems will not compensate for inherent defects of personality or atone for the absence of the hunger and thirst for true righteousness.

160:1.11 (1774.3) I am deeply impressed with the custom of Jesus in going apart by himself to engage in these seasons of solitary survey of the problems of living; to seek for new stores of wisdom and energy for meeting the manifold demands of social service; to quicken and deepen the supreme purpose of living by actually subjecting the total personality to the consciousness of contacting with divinity; to grasp for possession of new and better methods of adjusting oneself to the ever-changing situations of living existence; to effect those vital reconstructions and readjustments of one’s personal attitudes which are so essential to enhanced insight into everything worth while and real; and to do all of this with an eye single to the glory of God—to breathe in sincerity your Master’s favorite prayer, “Not my will, but yours, be done.”

You know I predicted a few things too.

  1. You wouldn't be able to see any sense in anything I say because your reality is crooked.
  2. You would argue even the most basic simple obvious worldly truths, or try and conflate them to meet your narrative.

Edited to reference who was talking in the quote.

by iowanaquarist   2019-08-24

This book is a great read on this topic to help gain perspective.

by iowanaquarist   2019-08-24

The book and statistics specifically reference violence: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/0143122010.

by Eureka22   2019-08-24

The world is undeniably on a consistent path of less violence, better health, and higher standards of living. Even when the conflicts and problems we see. The key is that you are just aware of much more of it than anyone in history had ever been. Also, you didn't live at that time, so you have nothing to compare it to first hand. Everyone thinks they are living in the worst or end times, spoiler, they weren't, and most likely we aren't either.

Suggested reading: Better Angels of Our Nature

by vibrunazo   2019-07-21

I recommend reading the book Better Angels of our Nation by Steven Pinker.

https://www.amazon.com.br/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/0143122010

It's the most extensive research on the topic and he goes into very in depth details with massive historical evidence on why most of what you said above is incorrect.

by aarondigruccio   2019-07-21

Steven Pinker wrote a book about exactly this!

by vibrunazo   2019-07-21

For anyone who is serious about this topic, I recommend reading Steven Pinker's book "Better Angels of our Nature". It's a very lengthy book, but it became a reference in the subject and is certainly the most in depth and serious research on the topic.

https://www.amazon.com.br/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/0143122010

The answer is, as many of you'd guess, it's complicated. It's a combination of several different things that lead to increase or decrease of violence.

But applying what I learned from that book to the reality of my country. By far the biggest low hanging fruit is our police force. Steven Pinker identifies strong and functional police as one of the many must-haves of countries where violence is declining. And the police force in Brazil is anything but that. They're underpaid, under-trained, under-equipped and often out-numbered by criminal. Our judicial system is so broken that even the ones that do get arrested, often get released anyway. Our country is known by Brazilians (and often by foreigners) as the land of impunity. The place where you can get away with any crime.

So the first most obvious starting point in my country would be a reform of the judicial system and more investment in our police force.

by curiously_clueless   2019-07-21

Not sure if /s? This sub thumps the better angels of our nature as it's bible.

by B3de   2019-07-21

I highly recommend you read Pinker's book "The Better Angels of our Nature."

​

https://www.amazon.com/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/0143122010

by douglaswlance   2019-04-15
Step away from "news" and read Better Angels of our Nature by Stephen Pinker: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/...

Not only is the world better than ever, it is getting better faster than ever, and it's accelerating.

The news is getting more negative as the world gets better. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2018.1...

This is happening because as subscription revenue dries up, the media is incentivized toward click-bait, and the human brain is biased toward negativity. As a hunter-gatherer, a negative incident can have much worse consequences than can a positive one, so we've evolved toward a negative bias for survival reasons.

by bloomindaedalus   2019-01-13

Yeah i wasn't being snarky. just dorkily name-dropping. (cause im uncool like dat)

In fact, as somebody who almost seriously went to graduate school for linguistics and/or cognitive science, I can attest that though Pinker is an old hero of mine, when he started getting all positive about the world i wasn't all in at first..

But he is persuasive.

.

For those playing "life sucks but i want to believe it is getting better" along at home here's a start:

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[https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0143122010)

​

[https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0525427570)

​

[https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/1487001681)

​

​

by vgSelph   2019-01-13

Please don't take this post from me as aggressive, I just wanted to point out a few things about your post.

You make a few mistakes early in your post. One is you're making the No True Scotsman argument. Essentially you're arguing that the bad Christians you assume we've met or are the cause for us leaving the church, aren't real Christians anyway. I think we need to trust people. If they say they're a Christian, I believe them.

Also, things aren't that bad here on the Earth. We've got some issues, but the things you mention are actually better now than at any point in history. Allow me to point you toward a great, great book about this, Steven Pinker's Better Angels of Our Nature . It's a great book about this exact topic, I think it may allay some of your fears.

Also, why is this life not enough? Why do you deserve more than this life? You're saying that unless you have the potential at eternity, this life isn't worth living. Why not? I've got an amazing wife, and I choose to spend some of my limited time with her. She's so great, that makes it worthwhile. I've got two great kids, my daughter is going to turn 5 in a few weeks and she's super fun to be around. I've got a 1.5 year-old son. He's crazy, no fear, always wants me to pick him up and throw him around through the air. I like to do woodworking and make really, really nice pieces for my family and friends that I just give away. I love looking at the beauty in the world. There's no intent behind it, but that doesn't make it any less beautiful and awesome. Why is that not enough? Why do you need more?

You also forget that your third option also includes a place of eternal torment for people like me. You sincerely believe that I am going to burn in Hell forever. I try to be a good person, I put a TON of effort into thinking about ethics and philosophy. I like to help people, give away my time, and just generally do what I can. But as I'm sure you know, the Bible says that we aren't saved by works. So in spite of all my efforts, because I am unable to have faith, I have eternal torment to look forward to.

It isn't Christians that made me an ex-Christian. They were largely just people where I grew up. It's the religion that I reject and everything about it. Just food for thought.

by life_of_phi   2019-01-13

May I recommend this book ?

by HappierShibe   2018-11-10

Nope!
Far far less often.
Immediacy, more comprehensive reporting, and the complete lack of any kind of geographic filtration just make it seem like things are getting worse, when it is in fact the exact opposite. There's plenty of good statistical analysis to back it up, but the easier solution is to just pick up a copy of 'Better angels of our nature' by Stephen Pinker. It does a good job of breaking down the trends on different comparative perspectives, analyzing different interpretations of the data, and highlighting the most compelling conclusions we can draw from it: https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0143122010

When I was growing up, we didn't really hear much about most murders or other violent crimes any further away than the next town over...

by matthewdreeves   2018-11-10

Hello and welcome! Here are some recommendations for de-indoctrinating yourself:

Take some time to learn about the history of the bible. For example, you can take the Open Yale Courses on Religious Studies for free.

Read Who Wrote the Bible by Richard Elliott Friedman

Also read A History of God by Karen Armstrong

Watch this talk from Sam Harris where he explains why "free will" is likely an illusion, which debunks the entire premise of "the fall of man" as presented by most Christian religions.

Watch this video on the Cordial Curiosity channel that teaches how the "Socratic Method" works, which essentially is a way to question why we believe what we believe. Do we have good reasons to believe them? If not, should we believe them?

Watch this video by Theramin Trees that explains why we fall for the beliefs of manipulative groups in the first place.

This video explains why and how childhood indoctrination works, for those of us born-in to a high-control group.

Another great source is this youtube series debunking 1914 being the start of the last days.

Next, learn some science. For example - spoiler alert: evolution is true. Visit Berkeley's excellent Understanding Evolution Website. Or, if you're pressed for time, watch this cartoon.

Read Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne.

Read The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins.

Watch this series where Aron Ra explains in great detail how all life is connected in a giant family tree.

Learn about the origin of the universe. For example, you could read A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

Learn about critical thinking from people like Michael Shermer, and how to spot logical fallacies.

For good measure, use actual data and facts to learn the we are NOT living in some biblical "last days". Things have gotten remarkably better as man has progressed in knowledge. For example, watch this cartoon explaining how war is on the decline.

Read The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker.

Watch this Ted Talk by Hans Rosling, the late Swedish Statistician, where he shows more evidence that the world is indeed becoming a better place, and why we tend to wrongly convince ourselves otherwise.

I wish you the best. There is a whole world of legitimate information out there based on actual evidence that you can use to become a more knowledgeable person.

You may still wonder how you can be a good human without "the truth." Here is a good discussion on how one can be good without god. --Replace where he talks about hell with armageddon, and heaven with paradise--

Start to help yourself begin to live a life where, as Matt Dillahunty puts it, you'll "believe as many true things, and as few false things as possible."

by niceloner10463484   2018-11-10

Ya know, shit like what you said is the reason many coastal liberals call the red middle America a bunch of jealous, hypocritical leeches that must be dragged forward kicking and screaming

Anyways, a positive I got from the various lip sync videos is the ever present body cameras you see on the officers. I have been pondering a lot about the status of law enforcement in this country. I do not subscribe to the polarizing thin blue line vs racist trigger happy murderers debate, the ACAB vs blue lives matter crap. I treat them as these distance but close-siblings.

When I see one I have respect for the dude/dudette. When they do good/stop violent bad guys I admire them. When they get hurt or killed on duty I mourn for them. But when they act reckless or bad, or try to cover up for each other I feel strong outrage that this happens in American law enforcement.

The body cams are a small, small example of the changes for the better humanity have close made that are written about in this book

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0143122010

by vibrunazo   2018-11-10

Se está interessado em se aprofundar no assunto de por que violência aumenta ou diminui. Sugiro ler esse livro do Steven Pinker que é referência mundial no assunto.

O livro foca mais no cenário global como um todo. Aonde a violência está diminuindo na média. Mas reconhece que em alguns focos na América latina violência está indo em direção contrária.

O livro é extremamente extenso, a explicação não é simples, são diversos fatores diferentes. Mas uma das teclas que ele bate bastante e nos parece bem familiar no Brasil, é um Estado ineficiente na área de segurança. Apesar de alguns políticos populistas estarem apelando pra sugestão de que deveria ser responsabilidade de cada indivíduo se defender sozinho. O que o livro mostra é que historicamente a evidência é bem forte de que quem faz segurança é a polícia. Os estados brasileiros aonde a polícia está mal paga, com greves, paralisações, é justamente aonde estão os piores focos de violência.

by puppy_and_puppy   2018-11-10

I'm not sure if this would work or not, but I would try redirecting people who have conservative or right-wing leaning views at least toward better thinkers than Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson and toward optimistic views of the future of society, to cull some of the us-vs-them and zero-sum thinking that plagues these discussions.

Sometimes it feels like men, especially, feel existentially threatened by other modes of thought, so being at least sympathetic to the good bits of their ideas and offering something similar but that promotes openness and liberal ideas may help.

Hans Rosling's Factfulness presents a pretty optimistic view of the world. It's all getting better! Seriously!

Jonathan Haidt (and Greg Lukianoff for the first book)

I had worried that the first book would be a reiteration of right-wing talking points around safe spaces, but I was surprised to find it a good listen so far. It mentions several cognitive distortions and how cognitive behavioral therapy can overcome them as well. The second book is sympathetic to conservative views and gives a good tour of moral psychology. Really recommend.

Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is also good. Seriously, the world is getting better! Pinker is heavier on the nature side that most lefties, so knowing that may make people more receptive if they won't receive an gender argument without some mention of biology.