January 3, 2012
Why the Decline of Violence?
For years I've been saying that people are very sensitive to "incoming rounds." When a mortar round, real or metaphorical, lands in your fire-base, it spreads death and destruction. But outgoing rounds are different. You fire a shot in the air, and who cares where it comes down? Now I learn from Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature that this is a highly advanced notion in social psychology, related to the Moralization Gap, self-serving biases, and the "myth of pure evil." We humans like to think of ourselves as good and reasonable. But when victimized, it's only a skip and a jump to judge our tormentor as pure evil. Given how we humans are wired not to worry too much about the harm we do others, it's remarkable that the killing rate has declined from 500 persons per 100,000 per year in the good old days of the Noble Savage hunter-gatherers to the present rate in Europe of 1 per 100,000, or the U.S. rate of 4.8 per 100,000. That is the...(Read Full Article)