Steven Pinker, John Gray and the End of War - Scientific American "words and rules" is also the title of an essay by pinker outlining many of the topics discussed in the book. suggests another possibility: that the critical variable in the indulgence of violence is an overarching sense that life is cheap. in any case, human nature has not changed so much as to have lost its taste for violence. on the debate around the blank slate, pinker called thomas sowell's book a conflict of visions "wonderful", and explained that "the tragic vision" and the "utopian vision" are the views of human nature behind right- and left-wing ideologies. pinker is the johnstone family professor in the department of psychology at harvard university. the book's topic, the english past tense, is in yang's view unglamorous, and pinker's attempts at compromise risk being in no man's land between rival theories.^ "professor stephen pinker", new college of the humanities, accessed 4 november 2014. the stuff of thought (2007), pinker looks at a wide range of issues around the way words related to thoughts on the one hand, and to the world outside ourselves on the other. other major challenge posed by the decline of violence is how to explain it. other books, how the mind works (1997) and the blank slate (2002), broadly surveyed the mind and defended the idea of a complex human nature with many mental faculties that are adaptive (pinker is an ally of daniel dennett and richard dawkins in many disputes surrounding adaptationism). the small picture is very bad, but the big picture of violence around the world is about as good as it’s ever been. gladwell replied, disputing pinker's comments about the importance of iq on teaching performance and by analogy, the effect, if any, of draft order on quarterback performance in the national football league. the image is used by pinker in the better angels of our nature, with the comment "as the housebook illustrations suggest, [the knights] did not restrict their killing to other knights".
Steven Pinker on Language, Reason, and the Future of Violenceas long as violence has not vanished from the world, there will always be enough incidents to fill the evening news. the great american crime decline of the 1990s, which flattened out at the start of the new century, resumed in 2006, and, defying the conventional wisdom that hard times lead to violence, proceeded right through the recession of 2008 and up to the present. in his 1996 book impossible minds, the machine intelligence researcher igor aleksander calls the language instinct excellent, and argues that pinker presents a relatively soft claim for innatism, accompanied by a strong dislike of the 'standard social sciences model' or sssm (pinker's term), which supposes that development is purely dependent on culture. the intense media coverage of famous athletes who have assaulted their wives or girlfriends, and of episodes of rape on college campuses, have suggested to many pundits that we are undergoing a surge of violence against women. pinker is also noted for having identified the rename of phillip morris to altria as an "egregious example" of phonesthesia - with the company attempting to "switch its image from bad people who sell addictive carcinogens to a place or state marked by altruism and other lofty values". and they could consult the analyses of quantitative datasets on violence that are now just a few clicks away. many countries have implemented laws and public awareness campaigns to reduce rape, forced marriage, genital mutilation, honor killings, domestic violence, and wartime atrocities. 1982 until 2003, pinker taught at the department of brain and cognitive sciences at mit, and eventually became the director of the center for cognitive neuroscience, taking a one-year sabbatical at the university of california, santa barbara, in 1995–96. the great american crime decline of the 1990s, which flattened out at the start of the new century, resumed in 2006, and, defying the conventional wisdom that hard times lead to violence, proceeded right through the recession of 2008 and up to the present., style and writing in the 21st century: with steven pinker, royal institution, october 2015. and it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of violence and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to reduce it.” this past fall, michael ignatieff wrote of “the tectonic plates of a world order that are being pushed apart by the volcanic upward pressure of violence and hatred.. bureau of justice statistics’ victimization surveys (which circumvent the problem of underreporting to the police) show the opposite: rates of rape or sexual assault and of violence against intimate partners have been sinking for decades, and are now a quarter or less of their peaks in the past.
he outlines six 'major historical declines of violence' that all have their own socio/cultural/economic causes:. in the 2007 interview with the point of inquiry podcast, pinker states that he would "defend atheism as an empirically supported view.. general assembly adopted a declaration on the elimination of violence against women, and polling data show widespread support for women’s rights, even in countries with the most benighted practices. most measures of personal violence are correlated over time, so the global decline of homicide suggests that nonlethal violence against women may be falling on a parallel trajectory, though highly unevenly across regions. it is not a license for complacency: we enjoy the peace we find today because people in past generations were appalled by the violence in their time and worked to end it, and so we should work to end the appalling violence in our time. and it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of violence and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to reduce it. trends are seen in other industrialized countries, and international declarations have made the reduction of violence against children a global concern. the phenomenon does force us to rethink our understanding of violence.'s notable talk, along with his essay, is one more example of how ideas forthcoming from the empirical and biological study of human beings is gaining sway over those of the scientists and others in disciplines that rely on studying social actions and human cultures independent from their biological foundation. it also aroused criticism on a variety of grounds, such as whether deaths per capita was an appropriate metric, pinker's atheism, lack of moral leadership, excessive focus on europe (though the book covers other areas), the interpretation of historical data, and its image of indigenous people. in a review of the literature on violence against children in the united states published earlier this year, the sociologist david finkelhor and his colleagues reported, “of 50 trends in exposure examined, there were 27 significant declines and no significant increases between 2003 and 2011. this change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most underappreciated trend in the human saga: violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth. pinker criticizes several widely held ideas about language – that it needs to be taught, that people's grammar is poor and getting worse with new ways of speaking, the sapir–whorf hypothesis that language limits the kinds of thoughts a person can have, and that other great apes can learn languages.
. general assembly adopted a declaration on the elimination of violence against women, and polling data show widespread support for women’s rights, even in countries with the most benighted practices. many criminologists believe that a reduction of global violence by 50 percent in the next three decades is a feasible target for the next round of millennium development goals. far too many of these horrendous crimes still take place, but we should be encouraged by the fact that a heightened concern about violence against women is not futile moralizing but has brought about measurable progress—and that continuing this concern can lead to greater progress still. it has undone the progress of the last dozen years, but the rates of violence are still well below those of the 1990s, and nowhere near the levels of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s. pinker argued that language depends on two things, the associative remembering of sounds and their meanings in words, and the use of rules to manipulate symbols for grammar. and, today, violence continues to fester in zones of anarchy, such as frontier regions, failed states, collapsed empires, and territories contested by mafias, gangs, and other dealers of contraband. the decade of darfur and iraq, and shortly after the century of stalin, hitler, and mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. that does not mean that the violence is acceptable, only that it should not be a cause of fatalism or despair. correctness from the other end of the ideological spectrum has also distorted many people's conception of violence in early civilizations—namely, those featured in the bible.^ "steven pinker: the mind reader" by ed douglas the guardian accessed 3 february 2006. another major theme in pinker's theories is that human cognition works, in part, by combinatorial symbol-manipulation, not just associations among sensory features, as in many connectionist models. further, aleksander writes that while pinker criticises some attempts to explain language processing with neural nets, pinker later makes use of a neural net to create past tense verb forms correctly. the recurring outbursts of violence between israel and the palestinians, including the incursion into gaza last summer that killed 2,000 people, have obscured two facts that come into view only from a historical and quantitative vantage point.