Steven Pinker

Challenge a person’s beliefs, and you challenge his dignity, standing, and power. And when those beliefs are based on nothing but faith, they are chronically fragile. No one gets upset about the belief that rocks fall down as opposed to up, because all sane people can see it with their own eyes. Not so for the belief that babies are born with original sin or that God exists in three persons or that Ali is the second-most divinely inspired man after Muhammad. When people organize their lives around these beliefs, and then learn of other people who seem to be doing just fine without them–or worse, who credibly rebut them–they are in danger of looking like fools. Since one cannot defend a belief based on faith by persuading skeptics it is true, the faithful are apt to react to unbelief with rage, and may try to eliminate that affront to everything that makes their lives meaningful.

1 thought on “Steven Pinker

  1. shinichi Post author

    The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

    by Steven Pinker

    The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is a 2011 book by Steven Pinker, in which the author argues that violence in the world has declined both in the long run and in the short run and suggests explanations as to why this has occurred. The book uses data simply documenting declining violence across time and geography. This paints a picture of massive declines in the violence of all forms, from war, to improved treatment of children. He highlights the role of nation-state monopolies on force, of commerce (making other people become more valuable alive than dead), of increased literacy and communication (promoting empathy), as well as a rise in a rational problem-solving orientation as possible causes of this decline in violence. He notes that paradoxically, our impression of violence has not tracked this decline, perhaps because of increased communication, and that further decline is not inevitable, but is contingent on forces harnessing our better motivations such as empathy and increases in reason.

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