Everything all the time

This is awesome. It applies to most of the topics here

I’m curious, what about it do you find awesome?

(In case you are wondering, yes, I listened to it.)

Normally, when i post lectures, i have a highlight or two, and i quote those. This one is all highlights.

Steven Pinker is good at that. I hope to watch this soon- like this weekend.

Here’s what I heard.

Among Time magazines 100 most influential people.

A Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, psycholinguist, popular science author, and public intellectual

“Availability Heuristic”

7:00 Decline of Violence

Parade of historical graphs

(Rather Euro-centric)

Literacy matters. - (okay)

The great powers war graph

Great powers never go to war anymore.

The long peace

Dismisses Ukraine as an anomaly - as he does other recent conflicts

(No mention of mega corporate crimes against humanity,

Rise of Democracy = decline in wars

“Wealth no longer comes from land, depends less on natural resources” (19:57)

Growth of commerce, excellent, all good

Growth of globalism, makes wars decline

The long peace.

Pacifying causes that were inoperative in Russia

Enlightenment humanism

Putin’s problem is that he embodies Romantic nationalism

West’s (America) Right’s Revolution, end of lynching.

Hate crimes in decline

Racism attitudes in decline

24:15 Women’s Right revolution

Rapes declined

(Not a word about women’s rights, or reproductive right, nothing to see here move along)

Children’s Right’s revolution

What about our biosphere? Not a mention, guess it doesn’t matter, we are discussing matters of the mind. Aren’t we?

27:15“We take great pleasure in vicarious violence"

“Understand the Brain Systems for Violence and Nonviolence.

5 systems

“Other things going on in our skull”

Our Better Angels 39:00

Moral Sense


44:00 - Bringing together history and psychology

Which historical developments are of bringing out our better angels

  1. The Leviathan - The State with monopoly on violence

Judicial, Police.

  1. Gentle Commerce - plunder zero-sum

Trade, everyone wins,

Cheaper to buy than steal.

  1. Expanding the Circle (of familiarity)

Human sympathy is elastic, …

  1. The Escalation of Reason - Literacy education, public discourse

Think more abstractly and universally,

Violence through the eyes of game theory 48:00

Everyone is better off if we could all just learn to get along.

How to get the other guy to agree?

49:00 "We have solved pestilence and hunger” (Really??)

49:25 “The decline of violence is part of a larger historical trend of human progress:





Human Rights”

A quick ad for “Enlightenment Now - The case for reason, science, humanism and progress.”

Followed by a Q/A.

I’m curious, what was your feel-good take-away from the talk?
Gotta be more than simply ALL OF IT WAS WONDERFUL.

Do you think critics are being fair when they say Steven Pinker does a lot of cherry picking and that he’s somewhat rhetorically manipulative.

Namely, that his sourcing is weak, and that he leaves an awful lot of important factors unsaid, and ignored.

I think he meant that we have the technology but we don’t have the political will


Does it detract to know that Pinker does an hideous job of cherry-picking in order to establish his thesis of human’s violent nature?

“Pinker constructs his account of steadily more peaceful human existence starting not at the raising of the curtain, not even in the middle of the play, but only in the final act.”
Douglas Fry

Or is that sort of disingenuous cherry picking, simply “trivial”?

Feb 26, 2021 - Then & Now

In The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker argues that human violence has declined across history. One part of this argument is that life in a state of nature – before civilization – was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Amongst other things, Pinker argues that hunter-gatherers, tribal societies, were – and are - much more violent than later more civilized societies.

Both Pinker and Thomas Hobbes argue that the state and its monopolisation on force and authority have pacified our darker human nature.

This is a common trope: In the 1996 book War Before Civilization, for example, archaeologist Lawrence Keeley argues that prehistoric violent deaths probably ranged from around 7-40% of all deaths.
He says: ‘there is nothing inherently peaceful about hunting-gathering or band society’. In 2003, Steve LeBlanc and Katherine Register claimed in their book Constant Battles that ‘everyone had warfare in all time periods’ Biologist Edward Wilson ‘Are human beings innately aggressive?’ Yes. Coalitional warfare is ‘pervasive across cultures worldwide’ John Tooby and Leda Cosmides declare that ‘Wherever in the archaeological record there is sufficient evidence to make a judgment, there traces of war are to be found. It is found across all forms of social organization—in bands, chiefdoms, and states.’

The book Demonic Males argues that ‘"neither in history nor around the globe today is there evidence of a truly peaceful society’. Pinker has written that ‘Hobbes was right, Rousseau was wrong.’ Are – and were – hunter-gatherers really that violent?

Brian Ferguson and Douglas Fry argue no. Looking at chimpanzees, bonobos, Otzi – the iceman – and a range of much more insightful ethnographical and archaeological evidence is the best way to find out.

Then & Now is FAN-FUNDED! Support me on Patreon and pledge as little as $1 per video: http://patreon.com/user?u=3517018


This article is an interesting look at the complexity of this question, that Pinker’s treatment sidesteps, in his zeal to elevate the Western Ideal.

Revisiting hunter-gatherer war with Azar Gat

… Interestingly, as with Keeley and Pinker, if you pay attention to Gat you realise he’s actually not wholly fighting the corner that popular discourse places him in. He clearly states: ‘People habitually assume that if widespread deadly violence has always been with us, it must be a primary, irresistible drive that is nearly impossible to suppress. Many find in this reason enough to object to the idea that human fighting is primordial; others regard it as compelling evidence that war is inevitable. Both sides are wrong. Contrary to fashionable 1960s notions, traced back to Freud’s latter-day theorizing about a death drive or instinct, violence is not a primary drive that requires release, like hunger or sex.’8 >
Keeley and Pinker also concede that culture is more important than biology when it comes to organised violence.9 So to some extent — at least as it’s popularly framed in terms of what’s ‘natural’ — the debate is a red herring. Just as no one really believes in an entirely peaceful past, no one really believes that group conflict is ‘innate’. As with most debates, the magnetism of polarisation warps perspectives like iron filings, and work is needed to sift them into their original pattern: less ordered, but more edifying.

As with Pinker and Keeley, Gat contributes some useful points to the debate. But too often, at important junctures, he’s either disingenuous or a little blinkered.

Overall, once you accept the debate’s polarised friction, and allow it, absorb it, the debate seems to be in good health. The main recent development for me comes from the related debate about the origins of social hierarchies. David Graeber and David Wengrow’s recent work on this indicates that inequalities may have ebbed and flowed seasonally during the Palaeolithic, as festive gatherings coalesced then dispersed. …


Another closer look at the games Pinker is playing at.

Contrary to Reason

Posted on 9th March 2018
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th March 2018

One of the curiosities of our age is the way in which celebrity culture comes to dominate every aspect of public life. Even the review pages of the newspapers sometimes look like a highfalutin version of gossip magazines. Were we to judge them by the maxim “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”, they would not emerge well. Biography dominates, ideas often seem to come last. Brilliant writers like Sylvia Plath become better known for their lives than their work: turning her into the Princess Diana of literature does neither her nor her readers any favours.

Even when ideas are given prominence, they no longer have standing in their own right; their salience depends on their authorship. Take, for example, the psychology professor Steven Pinker, who attracts the kind of breathless adulation that would seem more appropriate in the pages of Hello magazine.

I am broadly sympathetic to his worldview. …

It’s all about death:

It’s all about us.

Self Absorbed
Self Serving

Guess that’s what comes from believing we are God’s special gift to Earth.

How differently outlooks would be, had we actually absorbed the lessons that evolution lays out for us. We are animals. Our thinking and knowledge comes from within our own bodies interacting with the physical biological reality we are immersed in. Period.

In my mind Pinker greatest sin and failing is that he can’t think beyond the human experience, and only from the smug western mindset at that. It’s all about us and everything else out there is trivial in comparison to that.

But, but, our Earth created us people, just like it created our relatives the bugs, et al. Until we truly wake up to that, we’ll continue downward spiral, as we play dog chasing tail. Even as we acquire the powers of Gods, it can only lead to despair, since we’ve trivialized the need for some wisdom to temper our greedy Godly powers.

No for two reasons. 1) the evidence that he is cherry picking is scant. As witnessed by your selection of quotes, as opposed to data, and a study that concludes he did not cherry pick. You might want to slow down on your bias confirming google searches. 2) I have some evidence-evaluating skills so pick through Pinker like I do anyone. I haven’t bought the book and don’t plan to work through it, but I have absorbed other sources for the topics he covers and do my best to intergrate all of it.

In the OP video, he comments more than once that there is not a steady reduction of violence through history, that it is full of ups and downs, and that the data offers no support for a conclusion that the reduction will continue. I don’t call that a sidestep.

This is where I start to lose your thesis. This quote is about how this is a debate, ongoing, something Pinker says. I agree that we should keep discussing it.

And, then a deeper look into the data, something I wish had the time to do. That author concludes:

After this assessment of Pinker’s data, I did not find any reason to assume that he cherry-picked. He included all the data that his sources included. – Max Roser

If by “evolution”, you mean the Theory of Evolution, then I agree, that tells us that we came from the same place, the same process, as all other creatures. But that knowledge of that theory came from observations of our environment and thoughts and ideas passed on and accumulated and built upon over generations. If it’s the knowledge you are talking about then I don’t know what you mean by it “comes from within our own bodies”.

I have no sense, and can identify no instinct that tells me my thoughts are created by a nervous system with millions of neurons firing at a rapid rate. Somebody told me that, and they knew because generations before them figured it out. And all of them still can’t agree on exactly how it all works. In a larger sense, a sense of eons and billions of interactions, sure, the only place knowledge comes from is bodies interacting with physical reality. But if you want to discuss how to create a more peaceful world, how does that inform the conversation?

My answer to that was recently included in the Vervaeke thread, with a mention of Ursula Goodenough’s work. Put aside the narrative view of history, of a timeline of kings and progress leading to some better place, and instead plumb the depths of our abilities to understand who we are. (See the bottom of that post)

How ironic considering that Steven Pinker is a cognitive psychologist, psycholinguist. Turned popular science author, and public intellectual with a decidedly pro-business apologist spin.

Go figure, he has no expertise in statistics, let alone world history, or climate science or any kind of physical scientists. It’s all about his marvelous human mind within the framework of his own biased opinion.

You talk about bias confirmation, listen to Pinker, it’s all about the human condition and how we think about things, and about our historical ages, with not so much as a footnote about the natural physical Earth that’s helped dictated these historic human events and trajectories.

Brings us right back to that problem of not explicitly recognizing our human mind ~ Physical reality divide, . . .
with its unavoidable realization that we are products of Earth’s processes, . . .
we inhabit an animal body,
and most importantly coming to grips with the fact that our mind, that is all it’s thoughts and constructs, are the product of one’s own living body interacting with our circumstances.

With it’s cascading implication,
Biological body being the product of Earth’s evolutionary processes,
Our Mind being the product of our living body/brain interacting with the world and all of its experiences.

Actually, it’s his focus on murders and wars, to the exclusion of other indicators of societal health, that I find the real cherry picking going on here.

So far as I can tell, Pinker side-steps the rising disparity between rich and poor.
Pinker side-steps the cascading consequences of disappearing wild lands upon indigenous peoples.
What about the rising tide of people desperately trying to escape their homelands - isn’t that an indictment of modern “progress” and where it’s taking us?

Or this little problem that also seems to be rising as we produce more global billionaires, any connection, or just another triviality?

Pinker uses extreme numbers to show that poverty is dropping, yet ignores the plight of those who are just above the poverty, yet belong to the have-nots, with no hope of getting out. None of all that seems to exist in his rosy vision.

Some with more knowledge than I have point out that Pinker’s rosy graphs about decreasing poverty and violence are superb examples of biased cherry picking,

Graph 1: Overshoot

… Pinker claims to respect science, yet he blithely ignores fifteen thousand scientists’ desperate warning to humanity. Instead, he uses the blatant rhetorical technique of ridicule to paint those concerned about overshoot as part of a “quasi-religious ideology… laced with misanthropy, including an indifference to starvation, an indulgence in ghoulish fantasies of a depopulated planet, and Nazi-like comparisons of human beings to vermin, pathogens, and cancer.” He then uses a couple of the most extreme examples he can find to create a straw-man to buttress his caricature. There are issues worthy of debate on the topic of civilization and sustainability, but to approach a subject of such seriousness with emotion-laden rhetoric is morally inexcusable and striking evidence of Monbiot’s claim that Pinker “insults the Enlightenment principles he claims to defend.” …
Graphs 2 and 3: progress for whom?

Which brings us to another fundamental issue in Pinker’s narrative of progress: who actually gets to enjoy it? Much of his book is devoted to graphs showing worldwide progress in quality in life for humanity as a whole. However, some of his omissions and misstatements on this topic are very telling.

Graph 4: A rising tide lifts all boats?

This brings us to one of the crucial errors in Pinker’s overall analysis. By failing to analyze his top-level numbers with discernment, he unquestioningly propagates one of the great neoliberal myths of the past several decades: that “a rising tide lifts all the boats”—a phrase he unashamedly appropriates for himself as he extols the benefits of inequality. This was the argument used by the original instigators of neoliberal laissez-faire economics, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, to cut taxes, privatize industries, and slash public services with the goal of increasing economic growth.

Graph 5: Measuring genuine progress.

One of the cornerstones of Pinker’s book is the explosive rise in income and wealth that the world has experienced in the past couple of centuries.

Graph 6: What has improved global health?

Graph 7: False equivalencies, false dichotomies.

As we can increasingly see, many of Pinker’s missteps arise from the fact that he conflates two different dynamics of the past few centuries: improvements in many aspects of the human experience, and the rise of neoliberal, laissez-faire capitalism. Whether this is because of faulty reasoning on his part, or a conscious strategy to obfuscate, the result is the same. Most readers will walk away from his book with the indelible impression that free market capitalism is an underlying driver of human progress.

This is the great irony of Pinker’s book. In writing a paean to historical progress, he then takes a staunchly conservative stance to those who want to continue it. It’s as though he sees himself at the mountain’s peak, holding up a placard saying “All progress stops here, unless it’s on my terms.”

In reality, many of the great steps made in securing the moral progress Pinker applauds came from brave individuals who had to resist the opprobrium of the Steven Pinkers of their time while they devoted their lives to reducing the suffering of others. …


Pinker’s response,

From Pinker’s introduction:

Not sure why I should be the one to defend the consensus on global economic development against a Marxist ideologue enabled by the Guardian— I’m just a cognitive scientist who cites data from the real experts— …

Of course, caveat emptor, remember the famous word, lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics.
And finishes with:

The political agenda of Hickel and other far leftists is obvious: it’s humiliating to their world view that the data show massive improvements due to markets and globalization rather than an overthrow of capitalism and global redistribution (see the quote by David Graeber in “Enlightenment Wars,” and the back story on Hickel’s radicalism in this article, originally published in The Telegraph ).

This is all politics for Pinker, oh and selling books and booking events and making apologies for the status quo. Fine and good for what it is, but intellectually, it offers nothing new, it simply justifies us.

Yes, I do have a bias against folks who are trapped within their own mindscapes, but pretend to see beyond, when the don’t.

You get quite the endorphin rush from cutting down smarty pants authors don’t you?

You didn’t address anything I said, other than my initial statement, which had a few points of evidence supporting it.

Well there you go, the easy “externalization”.
Technology is science fiction without “political will” and economic direction - it’s another example of the what-if games of the mind, that put’s physical realities on hold.

I think it also showed the complexity, and limited scope of these statistics?
Not to mention touching on Pinker’s lack of real expertise, he’s sharing feelings and telling his story, then defending against enemies real and imagined with arguments that don’t impress and an attitude that’s …

Why no mention of the increasing humanitarian crisis that are driving the refuge crisis?

Death & War,
What about skyrocketing the disparity between rich and not just the poor, but the one time middle class?
What about war refugee, and its lasting after shocks?

No looking at the health of our global biosphere, or the increasing damages we humans continue inflicting upon creatures and landscapes? The health of landscapes that provide us with our life support system? And that our survival depends on…

Oh and his global warming related pronouncements are an insult to the science and the reality!

You talk about my bias, I think we need to care about the damages that all our wonderful technological economic progress is inflicting. My bias is an expectation that we look at the dark side of our many Modern Marvels stories, and that we ought to recognize the horrendous price our western way of life has inflicted upon so much of the world and on every level imaginable.

Interesting, you started this with “Everything all the time,” now you say you do your best to integrate all of it. But what did he say worth integrating, beyond, we’re doing fine, . . . ?

Sounds like it all starts with thoughts and ends with thoughts. Which I’m not knocking, but we ought to be able to recognize as much.

I think we need to reach through that bubble of our individual/collective thoughts, to recognize the Physical, biological, evolutionary reality our body/brain is a part of.
Gaining the awareness of our body/brains/experiences producing thoughts - quite simply, our body communication with itself.
A deep awareness of our body’s evolutionary roots and all that has to teach us.

I don’t get a hint of that in what I’ve heard and read from Pinker. Instead I see a glorification of a wester way of thinking that seems incapable of learning from its countless mistakes.

This doesn’t mean, I wish away progress, or that I’m blind to it’s countless wonders, bet I’ve spent as much time in wonder of our modern marvels as anyone. It’s about having the balls to face the tremendous human, environmental, future destroying damage that wonder flowering of mankind into true Gods. Instead of trying to find balances the western mind /avarice wants nothing but to consume. We became Gods, took control of the planet, and totally f’n blew it, yeah L.

And Pinker is trying to tell me all is fine, all we need is cheap energy and we can fix it.
As Homer would say, “Didn’t learn a thing”

Yeah, I got my biases, I’m an Earth Centrist. :raising_hand_man:

You’re missing the point, but I’m out of time . . .

I’ll admit I’m no academic, so who am I to complain?
Just me, thinking about it a long time, that is watching and listening to what people say and processing it best I can, as the years go by.

The thing is when I’ve listen to Pinker, it’s one red flag after another. Then when I go to look at what actual learned people have to say, it’s too easy to find sources that support my gut feeling with outside perspectives.

Since you first posted this thread I’ve been surfing the web and found it surprisingly easy to find articles with echos of my gut feelings. They also point out good qualities regarding his writing, so you might find them bearable.

I’ve delete most, here are the survivors


I’m surprised at how much I liked the following one consider how outside my wheelhouse it is (so to speak).

This one was, sort of eye opening, I sure am a hick, so learned a few things, I do not like the way the future is looking and billionaires’ dreams for the future make it even more frightening. I do have that bias. :wink:

That’s one thing the internet can be used for. It’s part of why you “run out of time.”

I di appreciate the work, maybe more focus would be nice. Pinker desreves critiqung. But the crotiques also need critiquing.

I started on this yesterday, but didn’t have time to finish and post it. I don’t know if I’ll get to your recent posts or not. I think I’ve reviewed enough here to see that you are just googling and repeating yourself. I pointed out that you posted an author that analyzed data and concluded Pinker didn’t cherry pick, but you presented that article without mentioning the conclusion. This lack of real engagement with the data makes me uninterested in a detailed discussion with you.
The Hickel article has problems too. It attacks some data, but argues things that Pinker isn’t arguing.

“the World Bank has repeatedly stated that the line is too low to be used in any but the poorest countries, and should not be used to inform policy.” – Hickel

What policy is Pinker recommending? Does he ever suggest that we stop raising the standard of living for the lowest income people? It’s an equivocation to say that not covering every aspect of world economics is the same as ignoring reports. I don’t see an argument against Pinker’s “the trend is the same wherever you set it” response, I see a misunderstanding of that response. Pinker never claims to have a “rosy narrative” for people who are under nourished and whose babies are dying. He doesn’t call for a celebration. He isn’t setting goals and creating metrics, he’s observing what has worked in recent centuries.

When Hickel finally gets to what Pinker is claiming, he says “neoliberal capitalism”. Where does Pinker say that or imply it? Where does Pinker say he is against social democracies? Where does he say people should stop complaining? Hickel runs the numbers and says it will take 200 years to end $7.40/day poverty, then points out that using our current systems, that would require burning the planet with climate change. So, he has no answer himself, he sees the system we have can’t fix the system we have. I think Pinker knows that.

Unfortunately, I don’t see Hickel or Pinker discussing this in any meaningful way. I don’t like that Pinker or Coyne find it necessary to smell out “social justice warriors”. It’s as useful as speaking out about “political correctness”. Neither one is real, they are perceptions, talk about what IS socially just and what is correct, or shut up.

What does Pinker observe as helpful in progressing?
The Leviathan – He extolls the virtue of a system to control violence. He knows the definition of Leviathan includes the dangers of state sponsored violence, but he’s talking about progress, not the dangers that come with it.
Gentle Commerce – versus plundering and pillaging, it’s a win. And, duh, we need more practical tools and fewer Doritos.
The Expanding Circle and more important, what expanded it – Maybe he could say more here about how travel and literature have been limited to a narrow class so far, and maybe he does elsewhere. Also, that class is not an elite, it’s large middle class, and it’s expanding.
The Escalator of Reason – What could wrong with that?
Overall, he’s talking about valuing people over things. He didn’t solve all the world’s problems in an hour, but he provided a focal point.

One perspective.

But there’s the blind spot - demanding that we continue raising our standards of living, even though we have way the heck over shot Earth’s ability to provide for them.

Pinker is typical, maintaining that we need cheaper energy and more of it in order to fix the world.

That may be what people want, but it’s a suicidal goal, and it has nothing to do with sane planning.

The thing that all those cherry pickers have in common is their refusal to face the fact that is about more than our expectations, we need start thinking reducing to survive into the future. It has nothing to do with opinion - it’s PHYSICAL REALITY!

Show me where Pinker discusses that, rather than fueling dreams of more, more, more.

None that I know of, seems he’s basically a fan boy expounding how wonderful progress is and refusing to look under the rock, or at the other side of the coin.

There problem is that the only hope he displays for those children, is raising them up towards our level, a physical impossibly given the limitation of our planet - rather than starting to think about how those, who already have way the heck too much, can do a better job of sharing.
GOD FORBID, it’s so much easier pretending we aren’t well past the middle stages of this malignant Anthropologic Cancer upon this body Earth - that we depend on for everything - they focus on best-guess hypothetical numbers about wars and murders - ignoring the important human stuff in between.

And I damn him for that, because it’s the dangers we should have been realistically facing, learning about thinking about then dealing with the ‘externalities’ - that in truth we depend upon.), when we still had the power to influence trajectories. We’re in end stages and Pinker still wants to ignore the need to change age old human expectations, it’s too unpleasant an intractable so ignore it.

We’ve had at least 50 years to absorb our reality (human become Gods over Earth, and humans over running our planet, like mice on Australian farms.), but the Pinkers of the world demand we praise progress, while sidestepping the clear and present dangers our expectations have created.

Pure Abrahamic Thinking!
That exactly what I’m talking about with my observation about the western mindset: Self-absorbed thinking and Self-serving actions.

That’s what I’m talking about when I say, trapped within his mindscape and incapable of appreciating his own evolved animal self and it’s origins, because he never gets past celebrating his own intellectual genius.

Until we reconnect with the reality of Earth as our Mother, our downward spiral will simply increase.

Because without that intensely personal familial connect to Earth and her creatures,
all we have is our own insecurity.

That we feed with increasing consumerist expectations and the religions & philosophies we fabricate out of our own minds/hearts.
While rarely reflecting on the consequences of our human actions.

Appreciating that Human Mind ~ Earth’s Physical Reality divide, bottom line.
It’s more than trivial !

I’ve been trying to get an that out of you since my first cautious posts at this thread? Okay, you do offer details.

Okay, thank you, nicely outlined.

Still, sounds rather superficial to my ears, feels more like jingoism, beginning in the mind, ending in the mind. Gentle Commerce vs. P & P, Expanding Circle, Escalator of Reason, those are bromides, not mental tools.

And certainly nothing that’s the least bit attuned to the reality of Earth’s physical reality.

Why not a reckoning with our insatiable greed, and hoarding tendencies - why not challenge with the realization that we need to do more with less and lower our expectations,. Instead, billionaires want to develop space tourism, and fantasy cities

If you aren’t going to engage my comments, like the ones where I critique your critiques. Where I took the time to read the articles you put up and found that what you said they said is not what they said, then just forget it. You are doing this on the fly, as shown by how you “copy quote” me, ask for specifics, then continue reading and see those specifics. Then say, “it sounds like the mind”. What else would it would sound like? Some other gas escaping an orifice? Then you switch to Elon Musk and Dubai. Go respond to yourself on a thread you started.