Steven Pinker

  • Aired:  10/18/11
  •  | Views: 22,005

Steven Pinker believes the world is increasingly nonviolent and that this may be the most peaceful time in human existence. (5:30)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,

EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST HAS A NEW BOOK CALL

"THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR

NATURE: WHY VIOLENCE HAS

DECLINED."

MAN, I'D REALLY LOVE TO SEE TWO

ANGELS FIGHTING.

(LAUGHTER)

PLEASE WELCOME STEVEN PINKER.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

NICE TO HAVE YOU.

ALL RIGHT, SIR, WELCOME BACK,

THIS IS YOUR THIRD TRIP TO THE

RODEO.

(LAUGHTER)

JUST BECAUSE I'VE INVITED YOU

BACK TWICE DOESN'T MEAN I'M

IMPRESSED WITH YOUR C.V., OKAY?

YOU'RE A HARVARD ELITE, ARE YOU

NOT?

>> INDEED.

>> Stephen: OKAY, SO YOU'VE GOT

A NEW BOOK.

IT IS CALLED "BETTER ANGELS OF

OUR NATURE: WHY VIOLENCE HAS

DECLINED."

WHAT DO YOU MEAN VIOLENCE HAS

DECLINED?

THERE'S VIOLENCE EVERYDAY.

TURN ON "REAL HOUSEWIVES."

(LAUGHTER)

>> YES, BUT THERE USED TO BE

MORE.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, VIOLENCE HAS

BEEN IN DECLINE FOR THOUSANDS OF

YEARS.

WE MAY BE LIVING IN THE MOST

PEACEFUL ERA IN OUR SPECIES'

EXISTENCE.

>> Stephen: REALLY.

WE SHOULD PAINT THAT ON SOME OF

OUR BOMBS.

(LAUGHTER)

>> WELL, VIOLENCE HASN'T GONE

DOWN TO ZERO BUT IT HAS

DEFINITELY GONE DOWN.

PREHISTORIC TRIBES KILLED EACH

OTHER AT A RATE OF ABOUT 15%.

DURING THE KINGDOMS IT WENT DOWN

TO 3%.

TODAY IT'S MUCH LESS THAN A

PERCENTAGE POINT.

THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE BEING

KILLED BUT AN AWFUL LOT MORE NOT

BEING KILLED.

>> Stephen: IT'S GONE DOWN TO

LESS THAN A PERCENTAGE POINT?

WE KILL LESS THAN A PERCENT OF

EACH OTHER?

>> THAT'S RIGHT.

>> Stephen: SO WE'RE SUPPOSED TO

HIT LIKE SEVEN BILLION BY

HALLOWEEN?

SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE ON EARTH BY

HALLOWEEN.

SO HOW MANY OF EACH OTHER WILL

WE KILL ABOUT?

>> EVERY YEAR?

>> Stephen: YEAH.

>> IN THE TENS OF THOUSANDS.

>> Stephen: THAT'S IT?

THERE ARE 10,000 HANDGUN DEATHS

IN THE UNITED STATES EVERY YEAR.

>> OH, I'M SORRY.

I'M TALKING ABOUT IN WARFARE.

MANY MORE PEOPLE ARE KILLED

BY... IN HOMICIDES THAN IN

WARFARE.

>> Stephen: SO YOU'RE TAKING

HOMICIDE OUT OF THIS?

>> WELL, YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER

THEM SEPARATELY.

BUT HOMICIDE HAS DOWN BY A ABOUT

A FACTOR OF 35 SINCE THE MIDDLE

AGES.

SO IN THE MIDDLE AGES HE WAS 35

TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE MURDERED

THAN YOU ARE TODAY.

>> Stephen: WELL, THEY DON'T

TELL YOU THAT WHEN YOU GO TO

MEDIEVAL TIMES.

(LAUGHTER)

NOW, WHEN DO YOU SAY, LIKE,

MODERN NOT KILLING EACH OTHER

STARTED?

LIKE THE GOLDEN AGE OF NOT

KILLING EACH OTHER?

>> IT MIGHT BE NOW.

>> Stephen: REALLY?

>> IN STATISTICAL TERMS.

>> Stephen: QUOTE YOU USE TO

TITLE YOUR BOOK IS "THE BETTER

ANGELS OF OUR NATURE."

THAT'S LINCOLN FROM THE SECOND

INAUGURAL ADDRESS.

THAT'S RIGHT TOWARD THE END OF

THE BLOODIEST WAR IN U.S.

HIRSTRY AND RIGHT BEFORE HE GOT

SHOT IN THE HEAD.

(LAUGHTER)

ISN'T THAT THE MOST IRONIC

HOPEFUL STATEMENT EVER MADE?

(LAUGHTER)

>> WELL, HE DID NOT LIVE TO SEE

MANY OF THE DECLINES OF VIOLENCE

THAT TODAY WE'RE ENJOYING.

I BORROWED THAT PHRASE TO REFER

TO THE PARTS OF HUMAN NATURE

THAT HELPED DRIVE VIOLENCE DOWN.

NOW, WE DO HAVE INNER DEMONS, WE

HAVE A LOT OF MOTIVES THAT CAN

ERUPT ANY TIME.

NEWSPAPER RIGHT.

I'M FIGHTING THE URGE TO PUNCH

YOU RIGHT NOW.

(LAUGHTER)

>> BUT THE FRONTAL LOBES OF YOUR

BRAIN ARE EXERCISING

SELF-CONTROL WHICH IS WHY YOU'RE

NOT DOING IT.

>> Stephen: I'VE ALSO HAD A LOT

OF TATER TOTS.

I'M FEELING KIND OF LAZY RIGHT

NOW.

LET ME SAY, OKAY, STALIN KILLED

20 MILLION PEOPLE.

MAO KILLED 70 MILLION PEOPLE.

HITLER RACKED UP, YOU KNOW, SIX

MILLION JEWS ALONE AND THEN LIKE

A CLUSTER OF MILLIONS OF

EVERYBODY ELSE HE DIDN'T CARE

FOR.

PLUS ALL THE STUFF ON THE

BATTLEFIELDS.

SO HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT THIS IS

A PEACEFUL STEN WHICH YOU ARELY.

>>

>> TWO THING.

SOMEONE THAT A CENTURY LASTS FOR

A HUNDRED YEARS, NOT JUST 50.

>> Stephen: DON'T PATRONIZE ME.

(LAUGHTER)

>> AND THE LAST 55 YEARS OF THE

20th CENTURY HAD UNUSUALLY LOW

RATES OF DEATH AND WARFARE.

SO AFTER THAT SPIKE OF WAR

BETWEEN 1914 AND 1918 AND '39 TO

'45, THE RATE OF KILLING AND WAR

WENT DOWN.

IT WAS A PART OF AN ESCALATING

TREND WHICH IS WHAT EVERYONE

PREDICTED AT THE TIME.

EVERYONE THOUGHT WELL WORLD WAR

I SEVEN AND A HALF MILLION,

WORLD WAR II MAYBE 15 MILLION ON

THE BATTLEFIELD.

WORLD WAR III IS GOING TO BE

EVEN WORSE BUT IT DIDN'T TURN

OUT THAT WAY.

FIRST THE POWERFUL GREAT POWERS

AND THE DEVELOPED STATES STOP

GOING TO WAR WITH EACH OTHER AND

MORE RECENTLY THAT LED TO THE

REST OF THE WORLD.

IF YOU LOOK AT DEATH AND WARFARE

SINCE WORLD WAR II IT'S A BUMPY

DOWNHILL DECLINE AND IN THE LAST

FEW YEARS AS A PROPORTION OF THE

WORLD'S POPULATION WE'RE AT AN

ALL TIME LOW SINCE THE SECOND

WORLD WAR.

>> Stephen: SO WE MAY BE KILLING

MORE PEOPLE BUT AS A PROPORTION

OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION IT'S

LESS.

>> MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE NOT

BEING KILLED, THEY'RE DIAGNOSE

OF NATURAL CAUSES.

>> SO IF YOU KILL A MILLION

PEOPLE IN A COUNT WRITE TWO

MILLION PEOPLE, THAT'S... THAT'S

PRETTY BAD.

BUT IF YOU KILL A MILLION PEOPLE

BUT THERE ARE 40 MILLION PEOPLE

IN THE COUNTRY, THAT'S PROGRESS.

(LAUGHTER)

STATISTICALLY.

>> YES.

>> Stephen: BECAUSE HUMAN LIFE

HAS SUFFERED FROM INFLATION.

(LAUGHTER)

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING.

I HOPE NO ONE KILLS YOU

VIOLENTLY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

STEVEN PINKER THE BETTER ANGELS

OF OUR NATURE.