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Men are to blame,
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This review is from: The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes (Hardcover)Steven Pinker is one of the 21st Century's greatest public intellectuals, extending his expertise from language to human nature. His latest book is his most adventurous, and for the most part succeeds brilliantly at demonstrating the dramatic decline in violence over the last 3,000 years. Using sharp, readable prose and endless graphs, Pinker demonstrates his counter-intuitive point till the reader has no choice but to agree. And he is unafraid to blame those who cause violence - men - and those who stop it from happening - women. No wonder Pinker credits Rebecca Newberger Goldstein with being his greatest influence at the end of the preface, for shaping his worldview - she his third wife (he learned nothing from the first two)!
The remorseless progress of humanity towards less violence followed first from the change from hunter-gather societies to agricultural ones - a decline of over 500%. Pinker is a believer in reason, and as reason progresses over the centuries, death rates plummet. Not only does he chart the decline of violence, he charts the benefits of peace, the rights revolution, the growth of empathy and the rise of our intellects (!) due to exposure to reason in society.
He hardly puts a foot wrong, balancing his facts and observations. But he fails to exert the same discipline over men's dominance, rape and violence towards women. Where is the evolutionary biological explanation so evident in every other chapter? How did men evolve to become this way? For Pinker, women play no role in society except as victims and punch bags of men. I get no sense of a two way struggle between the sexes - were men just too violent to compete with? For equals, it's like they never existed until the second half of the 20th Century. Suddenly then, macho men are made look foolish - feminism crushes these rape hungry fiends in a matter of a few decades and brings world peace. He relentlessly pummels men, blames them for burning witches, battering and raping millions of women. He also speaks up so often about men hounding homosexuals that you'd think some of his best friends are gay - and you'd be right - his personal tutor was gay!
Yet he is fearless in showing the higher murder rates in the macho 'red' states compared to the pacific 'blue' Northeast. He shows how blacks out-kill whites (not civilized by women, and pursuing their own justice). He reveals how a small number of criminals with violent histories commit a huge percentage of violent crimes and murder. He calls bigots of past times 'morally retarded' - Winston Churchill sounds like a beast when he describes India. Best of all, he makes the amazing and true claim that as a result of access to schooling and reason over the last 100 years, IQ rates have rocketed, and that reasonable people are MUCH less violent. Some of these points are worth the 700 page slog alone.
I am a great admirer of Pinker,who like Richard Dawkins, brightens our world with a clear, rational light. This book, not flawless, is wonderful, easy to access, full of brilliant discoveries and observations, and repays the effort of reading. It is, however, tinged with misandry, and this can affect how you accept or reject the book as a whole.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jan 2012 12:08:34 GMT
Gregory Connor says:
Incidentally, Rebecca Goldstein is no intellectual slouch herself -- her book on Godel and the logical positivists is inciteful and entertaining.
In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jan 2012 19:41:09 GMT
The Outsider says:
Apparently, she has written many more books than young Pinker and is held in high esteem by many others. I think he loses credibility when he writes about men and women - he is happy to offend on any issue except feminism, which he accepts lock, stock and gynocentric barrel. It would be interesting to see him really apply himself to men/women evolution. It would be more exciting than the Vagina Monologues.
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