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STUDY: The myth of declining violence: Liberal evolutionism and violent complexity
#11
Yeah, that's a good reflect, Bellamy. It's like the human nature argument — even if humans were by nature "greedy" rather than "egalitarian," we must have anarchy regardless.
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#12
Good point. Although I think Pinker would happily cop to being a defender of Leviathan.

Pinker's main argument is that the overall world wide rate of violence and warfare has generally declined over human history. There have been periods of peaks and valleys, but over the long evolutionary term, the tendency has been downwards. Pinker attributes this decline to the rise of the nation state, the values of the enlightenment, and also to general human moral progress. And while it's true that the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history in terms of sheer numbers of people killed, Pinker takes pains to point out he is talking about the rate of violence.

My problems with Pinker's thesis are:

- Is he starting his measurements from year 0 of human evolution? If so, when is year 0?
- Also, if he is measuring the rate of violence as a percentage per population, how do we know what the human population was at year 0? How do we even know what the human population was 75,000 years ago?
- And, if Pinker is deducing rates of violence from skeletal remains, how do we know that the few human skeletal remains we find with markers of violence are representative of a given population?
- Finally, Pinker cites warfare stats from contemporary hunter-gatherers as being as frequent as every two years (average), with an average fatality rate of 25%. If we also accept that most contemporary H-Gs have an infant mortality rate of approx. 50%, and we add in the fatality rate of 25% from war, then most H-G bands with an average population of say 100 members would die out in less than 50 years. Something's wrong with the math. If Pinker's stats are correct, all humans should have gone extinct from a combination of war and infant mortality eons ago.

I have toyed with the idea of creating a website aimed at critiquing Pinker's ideas. I was thinking of calling it Pinker-nocchio.
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