Tuesday, May 29, 2007


A Harvard psychologist is claiming that humanity is becoming less and less violent. His article was in the New Republic, and www.edge.org, where I found it at

Really interesting article. Toward the end he provides some possible reasons:

1. The decreasing sense that life is cheap. "As technology and economic efficiency lengthen and improve our lives, we place a higher value on life."

2. The more we realize that two people can come out ahead if they cooperate (trade, division of labor, sharing peace), the more we'll want the other person to stay alive.

3. Evolution bequeathed us a bit of empathy. Let me quote this part:

"Through the centuries people's moral circles have expanded to encompass larger and larger polities: the clan, the tribe, the nation, both sexes, other races, and even animals. The circle may have been pushed outward by expanding networks of reciprocity,...but it might also be inflated by the inexorable logic of the golden rule: The more one knows and thinks about other living things, the harder it is to privilege one's own interests over theirs. The empathy escalator may also be powered by cosmopolitanism, in which journalism, memoir, and realistic fiction make the inner lives of other people, and the contingent nature of one's own station, more palpable. "

What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article in the Washington Post makes a nice companion piece to the New Republic article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/27/AR2007052701056_pf.html)