In the Face of Violence, Do Societies Turn Inward to Evolve?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Egyptians gather for a protest in downtown Cairo to denounce the military's attacks on women and to call for an immediate end to the violence against protesters on December 20, 2011. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images/Getty)

During periods following brutal acts of violence or unthinkable devastation, it is easy for our brains to run wild with worry. We worry about our worldly maladies and what often feels like the deteriorating moral fiber of mankind.

But as we look down the road towards a new year, there is an argument to be made that things perhaps aren’t as bad as they seem. Violence has declined worldwide, so is there any evidence that chaos to some extent is the catalyst for reflection and change? When societies face a crisis, do they increasingly look inward to evolve?

Steven Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.”



Steven Pinker

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman

Comments [2]


Steven Pinker has some interesting ideas. I hope he is right- that violence is declining in our world and that human life and human rights are increasing in value. What disturbed me about this interview was a flippant comment that Professor Pinker made toward the end of the interview, "...the Bible had no problem with rape." This is totally wrong and unfounded. In the Old Testament, King David's son Absalom killed the man that raped his sister Tamar. In the New Testament, Jesus demonstrated compassion and kindness to many women, including the outcasts of society. Christians are taught to follow his example, which certainly in no way condones the wretched, violent act of rape.

Jan. 08 2013 11:41 PM

You are about Five-hundred-million times more likely to be killed by your own government, than by an average individual you meet.
In the 20th Century:
10,000,000,000 individual people who spent time on Earth in the 20th Century killed 18,000,000 = average 0.0018 murders per person.
Aprox. 200 national governments killed 180,000,000 of their own people = average 900,000 per government;
900,000 / 0.0018 = 500,000,000 times
An average government is 500,000,000 (Five-hundred-million) times more dangerous to its own people, than is an average individual.

Jan. 01 2013 04:02 PM

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