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September 30, 2016



Only where States exist where there is strong (generally, but not necessarily) religious opposition to murder of others. Of course, where the State is strong enough that opposition can be overridden - see Nazi Germany, and any number of Enlightenment states, such as Revolutionary France, Mexico, and any number of Communist States (Russia, not just Revolution and Civil War, but collectivisation and the deliberate starving of millions of peasants, then the Great Purge, Cambodia, Red China throughout its history till the death of Mao).
The only exceptions to the Enlightenment states I can think of were Japan, and there Japan was a deeply racist state with no religious or other barriers to 'othering' Chinese and other peoples, and Turkey, which committed the genocide of the Armenians and, under the nice Enlightened secular Kemal Ataturk, ethnically cleansed Asia Minor, murdering many and deporting the rest of Greek communities that had been there for 3,000 years.

I'm not as optimistic as Pinker that the murderous impulses are not still there.

Mick H

Oh I don't think Pinker - or anyone else - is saying that the impulses aren't still there. He's simply arguing that, despite it all, things are generally, for most of us, getting better. And I think he's right.


No, that's not what he's saying.

His specific case is that as we've got more progressive we have become less violent, and attributes this to the success of Enlightenment values. You may note that I have a dim view of the Enlightenment if its progeny include the French Revolution and the unleashing of 20 years of war in Europe, the growth of nationalism, the Bolshevik and Chinese Revolutions and Pol Pot. And revanchism and nationalism found its source in the French Revolution. And what happens when 2 nationalisms clash? Ask the Serbians, the Bosnians, the Croats for an up to date comment.

It's the usual policy based evidence making approach by secuar progressives. Find a hypothesis that justifies your own pieties and then search for evidence to support it, and ruthlessly exclude evidence to the contrary. Then utter smug condescending comments about our ancestors.

And, really, is modern Chicago or Detroit, or Caracas or Joburg much safer than mediaeval England? Not according to the evidence it isn't.


And do ask Professor Pinker for his explanation for the carnage in Syria, or Darfur, or towards the Yazidis. Doesn't look like progress to me


I do like your photos

Mick H

Well thanks!


"And do ask Professor Pinker for his explanation for the carnage in Syria, or Darfur, or towards the Yazidis."

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of Pinker's thesis was WWII and the carnage that surrounded it. How could we possibly be getting less murderous when hundreds of millions of us were massacred in this fairly recent event? The reason is that there have always been spikes in violence: Syria, Sudan, DRC and Sudan represent such a spike but a much smaller one than, say, the Taiping Rebellion.

I think Pinker was persuasive when he argued that the general trend is downwards, but I also think that our modern weapons and may mean that some future spikes will be horrendous.

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