In a review of the book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker, John Derbyshire, in his book review, relates some salient points presented by the author. In essence, humanity is becoming more civilized and less prone to murder each other.
John summarizes Pinker’s finding:
“The first thing it shows is a huge drop in one’s probability of being killed by someone else as humanity passed from pre-state — that is, hunter-gatherer or early-agricultural — societies to those organized in cities and nations. Archeological sites and studies of surviving hunter-gatherer peoples tell the tale. In a pre-state tribe, your chance of a violent death averaged 15 percent. By contrast, even in pre-Columbian Mexico, a rather crude state structure, your chance was a mere five percent. Some similar figure applied to the first Eurasian civilizations.”
Then as civilization advanced:
“What Thomas Hobbes called Leviathan — organized state power — was therefore the first agent to damp down the violent-death rate, even as it allowed great increases in population. If you go from the early civilizations to recent centuries, the numbers drop further. Even under modernity at its worst, in the 17th century and the first half of the 20th, the overall rate of death during Europe’s wars was no more than two or three percent. Homicide rates in the largest American cities today match those in the least violent pre-state societies.”
Taking war out of the equation, just looking at a stable society, we see an even further drop:
“It was civil homicide rates that first caught Pinker’s attention. The seed that grew into this book, he tells us, was a graph produced by political scientist Ted Robert Gurr in 1981. Gurr had combed English records going back to the early 13th century in order to plot the change in homicide rates over time. The results were striking. By the 20th century, homicide in England had fallen by 95 percent from the earlier figure. Similar datasets have since been compiled for other European countries. They show the same decline, from high double digits per 100,000 people per year around A.D. 1300 to low single digits today. (The averages for pre-state societies are in high-ish triple digits.) Following the pioneering German political scientist Norbert Elias (1897-1990), Pinker claims this decline as part of the “Civilizing Process” that came with the consolidation of modern states — Leviathan 2.0, as it were — and the spread of literacy and “gentle commerce.”
Hence, contrary to what he see on TV or read on Internet or play on YouTube the human race is making progress. From a pre-civilization chance of meeting your end by violence of around 15% to less than 3% today. See, forty thousand years of multiple reincarnations is doing its job!
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