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Thu Mar 1, 2018, 02:11 PM

A Harvard professor explains why the world is actually becoming a much better place

In his bestseller “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker described the decline of violence in the world. In his new book, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress,” Pinker builds a persuasive case that life is getting better across a host of measures.


Here's an interview in the Washington Post with him:

Looking at the news, we often think things are getting worse and worse. However, in your book, you make the powerful and deeply researched argument that things are actually getting better. Can you please explain this conundrum?

Pinker: Think about it: If you arrived in a new city and saw that it was raining, would you conclude, “The rain has gotten worse”? How could you tell, unless you knew how much it had rained before that day? Yet people read about a war or terrorist attack this morning and conclude that violence is increasing, which is just as illogical. In fact, rates of war have been roller-coastering downward since 1946, rates of American homicide have plunged since 1992, and rates of disease, starvation, extreme poverty, illiteracy and dictatorship, when they are measured by a constant yardstick, have all decreased — not to zero, but by a lot.

But even if civilization is improving from a birds-eye view over the long-term, things can get still worse for many years in the short-term, right?

Pinker: Progress is not the same as magic. There are always blips and setbacks, and sometimes horrific lurches, like the Spanish flu pandemic, World War II and the post-1960s crime boom. Progress takes place when the setbacks are fewer, less severe or stop altogether. Clearly we have to be mindful of the worst possible setback, namely nuclear war, and of the risk of permanent reversals, such as the worst-case climate change scenarios. … Of course life is bad for those people with the worst possible lives, and that will be true until the rates of war, crime, disease and poverty are exactly zero. The point is that there are far fewer people living in nightmares of war and disease.


Whole interview here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2018/02/13/a-famed-harvard-professor-explains-why-the-world-is-actually-becoming-a-much-better-place/?utm_term=.a6a47c727a75&wpisrc=nl_optimist&wpmm=1

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Reply A Harvard professor explains why the world is actually becoming a much better place (Original post)
FSogol Mar 2018 OP
democratisphere Mar 2018 #1
FSogol Mar 2018 #3
Caliman73 Mar 2018 #2
Faux pas Mar 2018 #4
hunter Mar 2018 #5
Orsino Mar 2018 #6
logosoco Mar 2018 #7
QC Mar 2018 #8
GeorgeGist Mar 2018 #9

Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 02:15 PM

1. We have a disease in the WH that is affecting the entire world.

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Response to democratisphere (Reply #1)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 02:23 PM

3. After the elections of Reagan, W, and Trumpy, I had periods of depression. I always believed

that the world was on a forward path to become more kind, just, advanced, etc. The election of those clowns proved that the path forward wasn't straight. Were the FDR, Kennedy, Carter, and Obama admins just a high point? Hunter S Thompson believed that the 60s were the high crest of a wave that would never return. For me, I think I'll agree with the professor: "There are always blips and setbacks, and sometimes horrific lurches." Trumpy and the modern GOP are horrific lurches. We will prevail.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 02:20 PM

2. I agree.

We can always regress a ways and that can be horrific, but the trend is typically progress and improvement.

Stupid analogy alert!

There is a myth that shaving makes your beard grow back thicker and worse. It has been proven that it is a myth, but people still perpetuate it because when you shave, you are shaving away the thinner hair above the skin surface. The thicker root hair is just below and makes it appear that the hair is thicker so people see the thicker hair and think that it will stay that way, but as hair grows out, it thins and you have the same thinner hair at the top with a thick base at the follicle.

We think we live in a more violent society because there is more concern about the violence and more access to see it regularly with the proliferation of news. We in California hear about a mugging in New York with some regularity whereas in the past, local crime reports would stay local and there was a different sense about crime and violence. I am sure we will never get to a place where no crime or violence exists, but I expect as we get closer to far fewer crimes and less violence, the violence that does exist will be more and more highlighted.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 02:24 PM

4. Lol I thought the 'professor'

would be carter page.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 03:01 PM

5. Well, not so much if you are a right whale, orangutan, etc...

Bad Breeding Season Spells Trouble for Endangered Whale

Left unchecked, human activity killing the North Atlantic right whales could make them go extinct in 20 years, experts say.

--more--

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/north-atlantic-right-whales-calving-season-extinction-spd/


It's not as if we're the only sentient species on the planet.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 03:26 PM

6. If you squint, and don't look closely...

...at looming climate crises, worsening pollution, dying oceans and the population explosion that will make feeding us all impossible.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 03:32 PM

7. Thats nice for society

But what about the actual planet? From what I hear and understand, climate caused migration and access to clean water are looming problems.
Maybe if we were able to make things better as societal beings we will be able to handle these things okay. But surely not with folks like trump and the republicans in charge!!

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 03:50 PM

8. I see that Dr. Pangloss is at Harvard now. n/t

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2018, 04:24 PM

9. Dr.Pinker didn't see ...

Trump coming.

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