- Dec 2021
That, Pinker tells us, is the kind of dismal fate ordained for usby evolution. We have only escaped it by virtue of our willingness toplace ourselves under the common protection of nation states,courts of law and police forces; and also by embracing virtues ofreasoned debate and self-contro
It's interesting to note that the founders of the United States famously including Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr regularly participated in duel culture which often ended in death despite its use as a means of defending one's honor and relieving tensions between people.
When archaeologistsundertake balanced appraisals of hunter-gatherer burials from thePalaeolithic, they find high frequencies of health-related disabilities –but also surprisingly high levels of care until the time of death (andbeyond, since some of these funerals were remarkably lavish).16
- Formicola, Vincenzo. 2007. ‘From the Sungir children to the Romito dwarf: aspects of the Upper Palaeolithic funerary landscape.’ Current Anthropology 48: 446–53.
It will require some investigation, but on it's face this reference to Formicola seems to be about a small number of cases and doesn't point to or back up their claim about high frequencies of societal care and support. Where is their evidence within the archaeological record.
‘What is it about the ancients,’ Pinker asks at one point, ‘that theycouldn’t leave us an interesting corpse without resorting to foul play?’
Part of their point here seems to be that Pinker is suffering from a form of bias related to the most sensational cases which will tend to heighten the availability bias. (Is there a name for this sort of sensationalism effect?)
Is there also some survivorship bias at play here as well?
We don't have access to a wide statistical survey of dead bodies from a large swath of times and places which makes it difficult to determine actual numbers.
Now, this may seem counter-intuitive to anyone who spendsmuch time watching the news, let alone who knows much about thehistory of the twentieth century.
Are they suffering from potential availability heuristic (cognitive bias) here? Are they encouraging it in us? Just because we see violence on the news every day doesn't mean it's ubiquitous.
Apparently we'll need real evidence here to provide actual indications.
Does Steven Pinker provide archaeological evidence in his book? What are the per capita rates of violence and/or death over time?
- Romito 2
- survivorship bias
- evolution of order
- Vincenzo Formicola
- indigenous critique
- civilizing process
- Alexander Hamilton
- cognitive bias
- decline of violence
- standard of care
- availability heuristic
- Aaron Burr
- Steven Pinker
- Nov 2021
Anyone who accidentally creates discomfort—whether through their teaching methods, their editorial standards, their opinions, or their personality—may suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of not just a student or a colleague but an entire bureaucracy, one dedicated to weeding out people who make other people uncomfortable. And these bureaucracies are illiberal. They do not necessarily follow rules of fact-based investigation, rational argument, or due process. Instead, the formal and informal administrative bodies that judge the fate of people who have broken social codes are very much part of a swirling, emotive public conversation, one governed not by the rules of the courtroom or logic or the Enlightenment but by social-media algorithms that encourage anger and emotion, and by the economy of likes and shares that pushes people to feel—and to perform—outrage. The interaction between the angry mob and the illiberal bureaucracy engenders a thirst for blood, for sacrifices to be offered up to the pious and unforgiving gods of outrage—a story we see in other eras of history, from the Inquisition to the more recent past.
Certainly this modern inquisition is a more gentle one than the original Inquisition of the Catholic Church.
Is this a supporting data point on the continuum of decreasing violence for Steven Pinker's decline of violence thesis?
Is the totality of what we may be giving up worth it for the greater overall comfort for society?