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Violence and Evolution: Where Do We Stand?

Science & Tech  (tags: concept, discovery, history, humans, investigation, research, science, society )

- 2363 days ago -
The question has come up because of recent studies by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, featured on TED, among other venues, which seem to show that, contrary to common opinion, violence has been steadily decreasing by a number of measures-->

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wolfNoFwdsPls a (135)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 5:22 pm
> Where Do We Stand?
imho we stand at the very edge, and --despite much apologism-- at the peak of violence: We (ie. humankind) are gangraping & killing Earth('s biosphere) ((most of the violence admittedly being better hidden & repressed nowadays -- very convenient for the perpetrators -- and no help at all for the visctims. ))

90+% of the large fish in Earth's ocean are gone.
200 species PER DAY (according to *conservative* esimates) being driven extinct.
Cutures & languages being exterminated even faster.


Kit B (276)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 5:56 pm

True enough, Wolf. This article and study does focus on human violence against humans.

Terrie Williams (798)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 6:23 pm
I understand what he's getting at but I know human nature. (One cannot work in prison systems and NOT intimately know human nature when it comes to violence). I have seen what happens and how fast it can happen when human beings are reduced to their basic animal instincts. We are not evolving, we are de-evolving. The more technology we possess the more savage we become. It is our present tech advances and the insidious ways our society has used that technology that has isolated us from each other, and therefore, hardened our hearts and minds to other's sufferings. And yet, within that technology, i.e., the internet, has allowed people from all over the world to come together and express themselves. That is but one small light in the darkness. I hope we can foster it and help it grow so that we do not become the complete and utter inhumane creatures that lurk within us all. We have to reconnect with our humanity and soon or it will be lights out for our species.

Past Member (0)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 6:26 pm
Gandhi once said, "it little matters to me whether you shoot a man or starve him to death by inches."

Well, I'm not Gandhi and I have no desire to be Gandhi. I'd rather admire that saint from afar.

It does make a difference to me whether you shoot a man or starve him to death by inches. The shooting is quick and it's over. The starving generates much greater pain for a much longer period of time. Would you rather suffer for five minutes or 41 days?

I am an iconoclast. I destroy religious images and oppose their veneration. I attack established beliefs and institutions. Webster knows me well.

Neither am I courteous to cliches. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

Well., I can!
I'll feed him salt.

Kit B (276)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 6:40 pm

I think our break down is not just in the technology, but rather in the break down of community interaction. Children rarely play outside, parents do not know the other parents, people do not know their neighbors. Watch the comings and goings in your own neighborhood, few even wave at one another. When we are so isolated, we do grow more agitated, that too can be a tipping point to violence. Fortunately, Terrie what happens in prison is the extreme negative of human behavior. However, one has to wonder what would happen given any set of unusual circumstances. A few days without water, food or plumbing? How would those strangers next door react? What if it was more then a few days? How would you react?

Robert B (60)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 6:49 pm
If you look at the Big Picture and back into history, you'll see that violence is decreasing. The more education and awareness humans achieve, the less violence is tolerated. We are entering a new age.

pam w (139)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 6:50 pm
Eliminate tribalism from the human psyche and you'll solve much of the violence problem.

Tribalism displays itself in many ways--gangs, religions, nationalities, languages....all those things we hold dear. Tribalism kept us alive, educated us and gave us comfort.

We won't give it up easily....if at all.

LeMoyn Salmonsen (88)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 7:26 pm
I wish, and I can wish until I turn blue, but Wolf nailed it. Once we drive our Picket Pins you can count on more violence then your mind can conger. The crazies, for a buck, will see to it, and their numbers are far greater they the normal brained person can imagine. They will kill, maim and butcher to keep the statuesque, because it favors them. Plus they see themselves as and are sufficiently psychopathic enough to believe their obviously superior beings, with the guns and the gold, they see as the proof. making rational thinking people as the lesser and disposable. See acceptable collateral damage, it’s everywhere around you. Not to fear, since no body gets our alive, so spend it wisely with purpose. A future for our kids and grandkids is good. Occupy something - because hiding won’t save you anyway!

lee e (114)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 7:55 pm
This is an interesting subject and one that I have many times considered. With regard to weapons, it's curious that we as a nation will punish a man for shooting to death a dog or bear that wanders into his property, while great expense will be made to stun such animals and release them into their habitat - we don't do the same for intruders - with the advance of technology it bewilders me that we cannot make sophisticated weapons for personal safety that tranquilize perps, or stunthem long enough to clear your family take your belongings and/or wait for the police! But no - we make more sophisticated bullets that will either wreak physical damage or death. Our prisons produce more violent people - they don't create an atmosphere for rehabilitation, and then of course, you have the greed that is privatizing our prison systems making them even worse - but they're making a mega-buck - finally you have some of the worst perpetrators of all - Industry that will destroy the earth for the sake of greed with no regard for humanity or wildlife or environment - which ultimately creates the most violent culture of all - we're reaping this violence now far more than ever!!!

pam w (139)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 8:23 pm
In "Our Inner Ape," Frans De Waal proposes that our biggest problem as a species is balancing our bonobo heritage with our chimp heritage.

Essentially, homo sapiens split away from the common ancestry BEFORE chimps and bonobos, so we carry elements of both within our nature.

Chimp society is male-led, often violent, territorial and constantly shifting as males jockey for power. Groups of males will patrol their territory and commit atrocious violence against individuals from other "tribes." Castrations and mutilations are common. (Certainly there is empathy and warmth within the group but the constant struggle for "lead male" status brings much tension and violence.)

Bonobo society is female-led, peaceful, empathetic and social interactions are initiated and ended with some form of sexual contact...same-sex, different-sex, adult-child, child-child, etc. (Naturally it's peaceful--they're full of endorphins!)

If you think of humans as either chimps or bonobos, you can draw some interesting conclusions.....Obama? Bonobo. Bush? Chimp. Bin Laden? Well....we know.


Past Member (0)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 10:12 pm
:-(((((( Thank you Kit for sharing...
& Viele Danken für deine Gedanken, Wolf A. :-(((((

james larkin (18)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 10:23 pm
I find this quite interesting because recently I heard a respected opinion that humans were in fact generally getting crueller. Certainly when I look at my lifetime things have become much more violent, even in everyday life. We use to think that the future would be better but it's got worse. Very many younger people now don't have the same moral and ethical values and are quite cold hearted. I think there are several reasons and technology is one of them. A philosophy of greed is another. Unfortunately I don't think there is any going back. We are past the point of no return and our values are lower than zero. The future does not look good.

Eli H. (0)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 11:18 pm
It is good to know that the evolution of human civilization on this planet is taking us in a less violent direction. However, I do not believe we should be under the delusion that we will someday cease to b a violent species all-together or that somehow it is our destiny to be a pacifist society. I support non-violent activism and a turning toward a sustainable society froma cultural perspective, but the very nature of everything we are and do as a species has some sort of violence or destructive process from which springs the process of recreation or fertilization.

Ultimately, it is a high minded, admirable, and desirable goal to become a more humane, sustainable, peaceful, and fastidious civilization and being such will improve our standard of living and quality of life, but we should not forget that this has its limits. For instance, we live in a planet of molten rock and metal that recycles itself constantly, which is just a nice way of saying that it regularly kills everything on it that it sustains to recreate it, and this planet is violently spinning on an invisible axis at thousands of miles per hour circuling an even hotter and more violent molten rock that fuels itself by a perpetual process of internal cumbustion of sorts that will someday blow up as it finishes consuming itself and destroy everything we now imagine is sustainable. Even the process by which we create human life requires the death of millions of living little things called spermacide that if you have never seen in a microscopic environment you would not realize how almost human like these suckers are in their journey to a place where they will all die. The same is true for the woman's eggs, most of which are not fertilized so the violently die. And once again if you do not understand this process aas violent it is because you have not seen it in a microscopic environment. There are some good documentaries out there that show the process. In any case Violence, like almost everything else about the human experience and environment is elementally violent. But it does not have to be cruel or senseless.

Harshita Sharma (137)
Thursday December 29, 2011, 11:34 pm

John C (75)
Friday December 30, 2011, 3:37 am
I don't think mankind has changed a bit over the last 5,000 years of recorded history. We have become more clever in a technical way but have not matured emotionally one little bit. In fact I think we have become more childish as a species. Maybe we focus on evolving to the point that we can't see our needs in the light of what it takes to live and be content.

As far as the statistical argument that crime is diminishing.......well figures never lie but liars have been known to figure.

Past Member (0)
Friday December 30, 2011, 9:06 am
Something to ponder.

Yvonne White (229)
Friday December 30, 2011, 2:47 pm
I don't see how they measured the decrease in violence for "several millennia" to begin with.... the last millenia (1000-2000 AD.) saw the Invasion & conquest of two "new" Continents, all the European Wars, all the American Wars (and I would argue that the Civil War was NOT fought by soldiers, but by civilians dressed like soldiers), both World Wars, Revolutions, etc., etc., and the continual genocides in Africa as well as our Native American genocides in both Americas, and with all of the the continual evolution of Weapons which gave rise of unhloy weapons of mass destruction - including nuclear bombs AND biological weapons..Way to Evolve Violence!:(

Fred Krohn (34)
Friday December 30, 2011, 4:02 pm
All this evolution and we have the tools in our hands. 3 millennia ago the Greeks invented the Olympiad to give the city states a way to compete without depleting the soldiers necessary to stand off the Persians. Modern sports are quite capable of replacing war; some, such as paintball, pro wrestling, rugby, and hockey, are themselves little more than contained fights.

The point is that we can take the people out of the war, but we can't take the war out of some people. We can give them an acceptable outlet for their violent urges as we watch them mark each other in team paintball, run a football towards each others' goals, or pelt each other with jai-alai balls or tennis balls. We just have to grasp this substitute fully and abandon all-out war with each other and cheer on our national, regional, or local teams as they keep the actual violence among their fellow consenting participants and away from nonparticipants.

pam w (139)
Friday December 30, 2011, 4:43 pm
I thought about this thread today as I took the local Metrolink train to Los Angeles (I'm on a JURY.)

Two men were screaming obscenities/threatening violence toward one another before and during the train ride. A man seated next to me (YIKES) decided to throw HIS testosterone around and threaten one of the two--bringing racial epithets into it.

Everyone averted their eyes and they eventually lost steam but it took about ten minutes to even out.

Fred's suggestion of using athletics to dissolve conflict is fine...up to a point. But, as in the incident I saw today, the problem was mostly TRIBALISM. In this case, it expressed itself racially and one man accused the other of blowing kisses, so there was a heterosexual element, too.

These three men behaved like angry male chimpanzees, hooting, hollering, posturing, jumping up and down (well--you get the idea--we WERE on a moving commuter train) and it was diffused.

BUT...had it been on a larger scale (or in another venue)--there WOULD have been violence.


Myron Scott (70)
Friday December 30, 2011, 7:27 pm
Good point, Yvonne White. That's very subjective. Ancient humans, living closer to the mythic state of nature were violent to survive. We, it seems to me, are increasingly violent but better insulated from our violence and alienated from its victims, including nature and the poort. We kill from afar, increasingly without exposing ourselves to any immediate risk. And we do not kill to survive or even to dominate so much as to as to satisfy our greed, materialism, over-consumption and manipulated fears.

Myron Scott (70)
Friday December 30, 2011, 9:16 pm
I don't see how, either, Yvonne. Pure subjectivism, not scientific objectivism. Nor is any change in either direction "evolution" in a scientific sense. It's social evolution and subject to progress and retrogression. I just don't think one can generalize like that about social changes. Anyway, this is an old, unresolved and probably unresolvable debate.

Crystal C (7)
Friday December 30, 2011, 11:12 pm
Noted. I don't think violence has decreased at all. In fact, I believe it has increased. But, I think the deaths from violence is the thing that has decreased, because of the way medicine has evolved over the years. This is a debate people will have for a long time, and it will probally be a deadlock. I don't believe what that professor is said is the truth, by no means. I think he should have extended his research, and found a broader range of people to study, so he would get better statistics. Thanks for this!

Past Member (0)
Friday December 30, 2011, 11:31 pm
Very interesting article and discussion. Thanks, all.

KS Goh (0)
Saturday December 31, 2011, 1:12 am
Thanks for the article.

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 31, 2011, 11:51 am

Jae A (316)
Saturday December 31, 2011, 7:20 pm
Great comments and all interesting to read. Be the stats right or wrong violence is something that too many humans seem to be draw to when disputes arise. We have evolved only in our means [weapons and ease of access for having them on individual levels even] of how the violence be carried out in my opinion, I personall do not think that sports,especially those of a contact nature do anything to curve the violent nature in someone...more that they simply make them more of a skilled offender perhaps if no weapons in hand , so ta say.

pam w (139)
Saturday December 31, 2011, 7:56 pm

After 20 years at the zoo, I know this--if you overcrowd an exhibit, even the most non-territorial animals will fight. There's a limit, somehow, which exists in all of us and when that limit is pressed....WE PRESS BACK.


Past Member (0)
Saturday December 31, 2011, 8:03 pm
Thank you, gotta run!

Kenneth L (314)
Sunday January 1, 2012, 8:13 am
Wow, lots of great comments. To me, there is construction and destruction, it goes on everywhere. People have to construct or destroy things all the time and things get constructed and destroyed all the time. Every life form (life-animated matter) eventually decays and dies (to make room for new life that has altered to better survive).
Of course there is such a thing as greed and overconsumption, inrationality, bad/harmful intentions, non-survival activity, being only concerned about oneself instead of oneself plus other life forms on the planet etc. all of which can make things less than optimum.
A person also must be able and willing to handle force. .

M B (62)
Monday January 2, 2012, 3:04 pm
Nobody should "have the right to own a gun"by law. Guns are for killing, what else ? I find the license to kill pervert. Humans are the worst creatures on earth. Knowing this, it amazes me how proud Americans are of "the death sentence" as well as to own a gun. This doesn't solve problems. Or perhaps in need of another war ? That also doesn't solve problems!

Dream Colo (0)
Monday April 30, 2012, 9:37 pm
nice to know thanks
from dreamcolo
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