Despite Appearances, World is Becoming Less Violent and More Peaceful

Steven Pinker, a Canadian-born Harvard psychologist, thinks over this subject in his new book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.”

Statistics reveal dramatic reductions in war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder and all sorts of mayhem. Photo: Jabiz Raisdana/Flickr

Is it true that we live in a less violent time? We will never know about the real situation in the world. It will never be shown on TV and politicians will never speak about this point honestly.

Every year a great number of violent cases can be observed. The bloody unrest from Africa to Pakistan, while terrorists plot bombings and kidnappings. Wars drag on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Norway, a man massacred 69 youths in July. In Mexico, headless bodies turn up, victims of drug cartels. This month eight people died in a shooting in a California hair salon.

Nevertheless, Steven Pinker, a Canadian-born Harvard psychologist who studies human nature, thinks over this subject in his new book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes.” He is pretty sure: the situation today is not desperate today.

Present-day statistics shows dramatic reductions in war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder and all sorts of mayhem. According to Pinker, “the decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species.”

Although U.S. troops have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq, the number of the deadliest wars - those that kill at least 1,000 people a year - has fallen by 78pc since 1988. Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr

Experts tend to see that the reality is not showed in bloody anecdotes, but demonstrated in the black and white of spreadsheets and historical documents. They tell a story of a world moving away from violence.

Pinker has a theory that the world can become kinder, more educated and tolerant in some ways. His findings are based on peer-reviewed studies published by other academics using examinations of graveyards, surveys and historical records:

  • The number of people killed in battle — calculated per 100,000 population — has dropped by 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved. Before there were organized countries, battles killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. In 19th century France, it was 70. In the 20th century with two world wars and a few genocides, it was 60. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000;
  • The rate of genocide deaths per world population was 1,400 times higher in 1942 than in 2008;
  • There were fewer than 20 democracies in 1946. Now there are close to 100. Meanwhile, the number of authoritarian countries has dropped from a high of almost 90 in 1976 to about 25 now.

Pinker announces that modern world has become less violent because of new generations which are growing wiser year in year out.

So this year’s average kid would have been a near-genius a century ago. And that increase in intelligence translates into a kinder, gentler world, Pinker says.

“As we get smarter, we try to think up better ways of getting everyone to turn their swords into plowshares at the same time,” Pinker said in an interview. “Human life has become more precious than it used to be.”

As far as terrorism is concerned Pinker still has his good prognosis: “Terrorism doesn’t account for many deaths. Sept. 11 was just off the scale. There was never a terrorist attack before or after that had as many deaths. What it does is generate fear.”

Pinker supposes that in majority of cases humans are pessimists. We can’t bear the idea that the world is perfect, problems don’t exist and everybody is happy.

It was counted that our attention is focused on destruction and deaths. Thereby, the rating of the news carrying good information is quite low. But when something bad happens in the world people’s attention is sticked to it.

Well, it quite an interesting paradox: we try to make this life better but at the same time we are interested in violent cases. [via The Huff Post]



Share this article

We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language, all capital letters or appear to be spam, and we review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Coinspeaker Ltd.