I hvert fall ikke i lengde.
Saken blir ikke mye bedre av at alle som har en annen vinkel enn Pinker tydeligvis lider av den farlige sykdommen ideologi.
Unfortunately, Pinker too readily encourages us to see history through the lens of a transparent ideology (free market libertarianism aligning itself with neo Darwinism). This situation is made all the more transparent by the fact that he prefers to use the term ideology when describing belief systems other than his own. Indeed, “ideology” is included on his list of “inner demons” (p.xxv). Pinker’s description of history is thereby reverse engineered to ensure that it reflects a world view that would ideally be called higher “intelligence”, instead (p. 663).Hva så med kjernen? Er vi virkelig bedre moralske i dag enn i middelalderen eller gode gamle Mesopotamia?
Pinkers vinkel er altså å sammenligne slike ting med befolkningsstørrelse. Dermed kan han sette opp kurver som viser det relative voldsnivået i ulike tidsperioder. Dette ser jo tilforlatelig ut (og få tviler på at det er tryggere i Norge i 2012 enn i London i 1012), men hvor holdbart er dette som analyse av tidsånd og moral - og hva forteller det oss mest om?
Pinker allows himself to extrapolate from scant archaeological evidence and compares different civilizations as if they all belonged on the same moral continuum. He attempts to draw a moral equivalence between distinct historical periods and/or (estimated) occurrences of violence. He’s able to do this by relativising (adjusting and ranking) the data according to estimated population sizes. Instead of measuring violence in absolute terms — such as how many people might have died violently per annum — he attempts to measure estimates of people killed relative to estimations of the world’s population at given times.
The sleight of hand is evident in the way the violence is measured over time — since there are many more people alive today, there are now less people being killed (relatively speaking). Conversely, since there were less people alive back then, there were more people being killed (relatively speaking). Either way, the ratio between a violent and peaceful death becomes a measure of moral progress.Og det hele ender fort i det absurde.
Perhaps the best way to highlight the problem of relative measurements is via the moral equivalence that eventuates. To quote lodore from the comments section of Guardian’s interview with Pinker:At Pinkers data over dødsfall og befolkningsstørrelse også er av blandet kvalitet, hjelper ikke. Det gjør heller ikke hans grunnleggende feillesning av middelalderen, eller mangelfulle analyse av atomtrusselen og maktbalansen som årsak til den lange "freden" etter 1945.
By defining the effects of a violent act (or series of acts) in relative terms, Pinker allows for all sorts of absurd reductios. Imagine that I’m trapped on a desert island with a companion and, in a dispute, I kill him. By Pinker’s logic, I am thereby morally equivalent to a dictator who has killed 3.5 billion people in current population terms. Without a doubt, Pinker is correct to say a randomly selected individual is less likely to die a violent death now; but this merely means the population has increased, not that the rate of absolute violence has dropped off.
Many nation states spend huge sums on the presumed principle that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and will actively try to deter others from being in a similarly powerful position. And yet it’s this mutual desire for safety that simultaneously puts billions of people at risk and creates potential conflict situations. The possibility of their possession and/or use merely becomes another pretext for war (see the invasion of Iraq, the current tensions between Israel and Iran, India and Pakistan, etc ) and illicit trading practices in the form of a nuclear black market.
The advance of reason, then, brings with it two contradictions: the long peace remains contingent upon the threat of nuclear war and/or a nuclear exchange (however unlikely) threatens to return civilization to the stone age within a flash of light.Noe som garantert vil få det relative voldsnivået til å stige.