“It’s pretty rare for a psychologist to permanently change how we think about history, but Harvard’s Steven Pinker has done that with his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature.
The tragic view of history, he proves, is wrong; it has always been wrong.
A close examination of the data shows that in every millennium, century, and decade, humans have been drastically reducing violence, cruelty, and injustice—right down to the present year. A trend that consistent is not luck; it has to be structural.
Real ethical progress, Pinker found, has come from a sequence of institutions, norms, cultural practices, and mental tricks employed by whole societies to change their collective mind and behavior in a peaceful direction.
Humanity’s great project of civilizing itself is far from complete, but Pinker’s survey of how far we have come builds confidence that the task will be completed, and he illuminates how to get there.
“The Decline of Violence,” Steven Pinker, Herbst Theater, Civic Center, San Francisco, 7pm, Monday, October 8.” – Stewart Brand