Would anyone here who has read.....

Read any good books lately?
nmblum88
Has More Than 8K Posts
Posts: 8137
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:28 pm

Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by nmblum88 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:18 pm

Stephen Pinker's newly published "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined." .... care to comment on it?

I actually finished reading it last night, one eye on the final pages, and one eye on the TV screen watching blood lust in Libya unfold before my eyes... a strange juxtaposition between a visual image of a solitary event and a cool dissertation on a complicated subject.
So disconcerted and in some puzzlement, I would love to hear what others have to say.....


NMB
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

User avatar
bigtim
Perpetual Poster
Posts: 4088
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 7:04 pm
Custom Title: Skeptical Berserker
Location: Miðgarðr

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by bigtim » Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:08 pm

nmblum wrote:Stephen Pinker's newly published "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined." .... care to comment on it?

I actually finished reading it last night, one eye on the final pages, and one eye on the TV screen watching blood lust in Libya unfold before my eyes... a strange juxtaposition between a visual image of a solitary event and a cool dissertation on a complicated subject.
So disconcerted and in some puzzlement, I would love to hear what others have to say.....


NMB

I have not read it. But I contend that the level of violence we have now is unchanged throughout all of human history (in a per capita sense). Perception is tained by knowledge and the news controls how much is perceived. No stories on rape then rape doesn't happen. No stories on black babies being stolen so black babies aren't stolen.
~
BigTim
"I'm not entirely convinced that ValHalla isn't real."

nmblum88
Has More Than 8K Posts
Posts: 8137
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:28 pm

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by nmblum88 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:33 pm

bigtim wrote:
nmblum wrote:Stephen Pinker's newly published "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined." .... care to comment on it?

I actually finished reading it last night, one eye on the final pages, and one eye on the TV screen watching blood lust in Libya unfold before my eyes... a strange juxtaposition between a visual image of a solitary event and a cool dissertation on a complicated subject.
So disconcerted and in some puzzlement, I would love to hear what others have to say.....


NMB

I have not read it. But I contend that the level of violence we have now is unchanged throughout all of human history (in a per capita sense). Perception is tained by knowledge and the news controls how much is perceived. No stories on rape then rape doesn't happen. No stories on black babies being stolen so black babies aren't stolen.
Of course... but the argument has been made that in an age where we are within moments informed of any kind of aberrational behavior in any nook or cranny of the world, we are by definition inundated with examples of human violence.
Awareness of it, the frequency, the intensity is unavoidable.... in Los Angeles, there are TV sets on the busses that blare out the latest assaults in case a passenger might have missed the news at home.
A missing baby in Iowa makes the informed New Yorker clutch his own child to his bosom in fear for his loved ones...and within five minutes of it happening.
Nothing stands in the way of such information reaching us with the speed of light.
There are many ways to look at the world: on the one hand that violence, particularly against women and children, and more particularly in religious environments is increasing by leaps and bounds.
On the other hand, as Pinker wishes to suggest if not prove, our numbers are huge, and juxtaposing (as one example) population to crime suggests that we are improving rather than regressing.
The weak, i.e. women and children were always victims, even as it turns out on closer examination in those halcyon days of knighthood, valor, chivalry.
Our death penalty is held up to us as less an assault on the judged, less deliberately cruel, less violent in intent than the auto-da-fé.
But is it really?
And there is also the argument that we do have more available agencies and more empathetic laws to stand between aggressors and victims...

My own, my personal "jury" is still out.... I have to give it more thought...
as any suggestion that what one accepts as true is not true demands.

NMB
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

User avatar
vanderpoel
Perpetual Poster
Posts: 4577
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 3:01 am
Location: Honolulu

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by vanderpoel » Sat Oct 22, 2011 1:01 am

As many jury trials have proven, we are easily overloaded with evidence and we become so familiar with such information that we become insensitive to the implications, including the suffering of others.

What was a shocking image yesterday is just another bloody head of state today.
What used to be hidden is now leaked. Soon we'll be so desensitized to images of war and destruction that we can't tell the God of War games from the Predator games in Colorado. Just how we like our information to be, sanitized and suspended in disbelief.
"When you put a toucan on a monkey’s ass, don’t be fooled by the brightly colored plumage, beware of the enormous bill!"

nmblum88
Has More Than 8K Posts
Posts: 8137
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:28 pm

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by nmblum88 » Fri Oct 28, 2011 12:53 am

Latest (and controversial) response to the recently published (and controvesial) Pinker book, which suggests and then provides a model to prove (albeit not all that convincingly from my point of view) that violence in our species has declined and in is the process of declining even more.... and that despite the horrendous, even barbaric examples of bloodletting and destruction in our own time.
My own feeling is that man has changed very little from his first sensate activities and failures to resolve conflict, personal and collective ... only the means of inflicting cruelty, pain, detruction and death are different..

The killing of two fellow beings in face to face combat with a club, and killing more than 125,000 impersonally, with a single atomic bomb, come from the same impulse, and unfortunately the same tendency to be easily aroused to fatal rages...and thus manipulated to act from savage impulse.
.
Very interesting, I think, especially when a non-fiction book attracts such involved attention.......and I find the reader comments that follow the review even more lively, and equally controversial......


http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/20 ... ker&st=cse

NMB
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

User avatar
Jeff D
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1132
Joined: Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:24 pm

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by Jeff D » Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:32 am

I have Pinker's book, in hardcover, and I have wrapped it in heavy plastic and I am renting it out to the airport as a wheel chock until I have time to start reading it, probably in late December.
The killing of two fellow beings in face to face combat with a club, and killing more than 125,000 impersonally, with a single atomic bomb, come from the same impulse, and unfortunately the same tendency to be easily aroused to fatal rages...and thus manipulated to act from savage impulse.
This made me think of the quote that is usually attributed to Stalin, "A single death is a tragedy; a million are statistics." If Genghis Khan didn't actually think of this one earlier, I bet he wishes he had.

Yes, we still bear what Hitchens (quoting Darwin) likes to call the "lowly stamp of our origin," despite our taller stature and longer life expectancy, we human beings -- biologically / hormonally / neurochemically -- are scarcely different from our ancestors of 5,000 or 20,000 years ago . . . to the extent that either a !Kung-speaking bushman hunter-gatherer of present-day Southern Africa or (were she here) the daughter of one of the Cro-Magnon painters of the Lascaux images could be trained to fly an F-18, or do integral calculus, or fire a Stinger missile or an AK-47.

But one human trait or ability does seem to have evolved or improved over the millennia: the human capacity to apply reason more efficiently and accurately, thanks to better information that we have accumulated about our own nature and the structure and workings of the world around us. And because we always have been social animals, with capacities for bargaining and cooperation and (above all) empathy, perhaps more of us have also gotten better at these things, better at competing with less violence, better at including a widening group of other human beings within the circle that we label "not enemies" or "not strangers."
Jeff D

User avatar
bigtim
Perpetual Poster
Posts: 4088
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 7:04 pm
Custom Title: Skeptical Berserker
Location: Miðgarðr

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by bigtim » Fri Oct 28, 2011 5:39 pm

You can't really take global humankind and speak to the levle of violence and acceptance of violence in one fell swoop. We have schism across the board on this planet. And in that public violence is and can be more acceptable or normal than in other places.

When is the last time a beheading was done in a village square in the country in which you live?
~
BigTim
"I'm not entirely convinced that ValHalla isn't real."

nmblum88
Has More Than 8K Posts
Posts: 8137
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:28 pm

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by nmblum88 » Fri Oct 28, 2011 7:43 pm

The bloody head of a dead man is a bloody head of a dead man, offered up as a solution or excuse for human strife.... is it significant that the head was not impaled on a pike and displayed in my neighborhood?
That's just a question, bigtim, not a dismissal....
Rwanda, Darfur are not anywhere near my village, but they do remain as startling reminders not only of death in numbers, but more importantly what one human can do to another when effectively stirred, or manipulated to rage.
Moreover, violence takes many forms apart from the actual wielding of swords, of tangible damage or casualty lists.
Or the size of the cemeteries devoted to remembrance.

And while what emerges, for instance from Austin Texas in the form of both enforcement of the death penalty and a certain sadistic pleasure in that enforcement does not take place in MY village square... it does take place in a modern, Western nation, and a Christian nation (which is to say a nation of citizens moderated, with their savage edges honed by Christian morality and ethic) in which I live.
Which is to say that on almost every level.... hunger, homelessness, abuse of children (the defenseless, the powerless) from fear of street crime that leaves us cowering, to legal enforcement unfairly applied of vengeful laws, to military incursions against other countries, (warranted or arguable) I am witness to violence, and acquiescent to it..... violence that might or might not end in death but must certainly, when the smoke clears, and the clamor dies down, leaves its stain on our ethos, national and human.
So while I remain admiring of Pinker, and sympathetic to his aim, which is optimistic, after all, rather than yet another contribution to human gloom and doom, I am still cautious of accepting his data, and still not willing to accept, uncritically, the reasoning that he has used to reach his conclusion.
But I'm thinking about it... aware that MY village square, to the extent that it exists is NOT the world, not even a fraction of it, and every day in every way losing its significance, as do I, as either paradigm or paragon.

NMB
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

User avatar
bigtim
Perpetual Poster
Posts: 4088
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 7:04 pm
Custom Title: Skeptical Berserker
Location: Miðgarðr

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by bigtim » Fri Oct 28, 2011 7:56 pm

nmblum wrote:The bloody head of a dead man is a bloody head of a dead man, offered up as a solution or excuse for human strife.... is it significant that the head was not impaled on a pike and displayed in my neighborhood?
That's just a question, bigtim, not a dismissal....

Rwanda, Darfur are not anywhere near my village, but they do remain as startling reminders not only of death in numbers, but more importantly what one human can do to another when effectively stirred, or manipulated to rage.
that's my point really. That we cant make one sweeping statemnet to cover everyone. Death squads and public murders don't happen where I live -- but they are quite common in other parts of the world. I know about then thanks to the news media.

So, while violence may seem to be dereasing in some parts of the world, is it really? Are we as violent as we have always been or less violent? I'm not sure that's a question that can realistically be answered.
~
BigTim
"I'm not entirely convinced that ValHalla isn't real."

arthurkoch
Poster
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:43 pm
Location: via di Fabbiolle 21, Impruneta, Italy

Re: Would anyone here who has read.....

Post by arthurkoch » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:01 am

For me, Pinker is convincing in his proposal that not only violence, but the way we think about it, has changed. My objection to it is that there is a lot of overkill: 3/4 could be cut and he would still make his point. I don't understand why his data is rejected: anecdotes don't refutr data. As for "data" from newspaper articles- forget it.