[Marxism] Fwd: The Precious Steven Pinker by David Bentley Hart | Articles | First Things

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 31 07:08:10 MST 2017

Even so, the numbers do not add up. Pinker’s method for assessing the 
relative ferocity of different centuries is to calculate the total of 
violent deaths not as an absolute quantity, but as a percentage of 
global population. But statistical comparisons like that are notoriously 
vacuous. Population sample sizes can vary by billions, but a single life 
remains a static sum, so the smaller the sample the larger the 
percentage each life represents. Obviously, though, a remote Inuit 
village of one hundred souls where someone gets killed in a fistfight is 
not twice as violent as a nation of 200 million that exterminates one 
million of its citizens. And even where the orders of magnitude are not 
quite so divergent, comparison on a global scale is useless, especially 
since over the past century modern medicine has reduced infant mortality 
and radically extended life spans nearly everywhere (meaning, for one 
thing, there are now far more persons too young or too old to fight). So 
Pinker’s assertion that a person would be thirty-five times more likely 
to be murdered in the Middle Ages than now is empirically meaningless.

In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity 
actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant 
increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more 
exorbitant demographic explosion. Well, not to put too fine a point on 
it: So what? What on earth can he truly imagine that tells us about 
“progress” or “Enlightenment”—or about the past, the present, or the 
future? By all means, praise the modern world for what is good about it, 
but spare us the mythology.

full: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/01/the-precious-steven-pinker

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