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Bloggingheads 10-08-2011 01:47 AM

Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 

sugarkang 10-08-2011 09:12 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Ahh, Steven Pinker. Can a man simultaneously be bad to the bone and optimistic about world peace?

B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-Baaaaaaaaad...

badhatharry 10-08-2011 09:57 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Great interview, John. I predict this will drive a lot of traffic to the site due to Steven Pinker's popularity and cogency of thought.

rcocean 10-08-2011 12:45 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Pinker's comments about the long peace are puzzling. We've had a "Long Peace" from 1945-1990 because of nuclear weapons. Everyone knew WWW III would be a no-win war for everyone, although certain leaders like Castro (during the missile Crisis and Stalin before his death were willing to risk it).

It should be noted that most Anglo-Saxons after a century of peace between the Great Powers (1815-1913) thought war was "old fashioned" and on its way out and would be replaced by Arbitration and some sort of League of Peace.

Then came 1914-1953, which had more deaths and wars than any similar period in history. Had it not been for the invention of the A-Bomb, WWII would've been followed by WW III as Stalin attempted to "Liberate the Proletariat" in the rest of Europe.

So no, I don't think we've seen the end of war.

ML9 10-08-2011 01:19 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
rcocean, interesting response, but nuclear weapons aren't going away. if they've been such an effective deterrent till now, why do you think they'll stop being a deterrent in the future? just because smaller and less stable actors (state and non-state) will eventually get their hands on them? or because of some other counteracting effect?

Ocean 10-08-2011 03:13 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Good conversation. It's always a pleasure to have Steven Pinker discussing his work.

For many years I've had the same optimistic perspective that Steven shared with us. The progress of our civilization may appear to be slow at times, and somewhat of a zigzag, but it continues to move towards a less violent, and more cooperative society, with increased awareness and humanitarian concerns. It's true that unexpected events can occur at any time, but that doesn't negate the trend towards less violent solutions. Unfortunately there are parts of the world that are lagging behind. Their relative lower development, greater survival problems and overall less education and availability of resources probably sets their historical clocks back. I wish there had been a bit more discussion about that.

John asked about the idea that wars/violence are fought due to competition for resources. Steven seemed to minimize that factors and talked about rivalries between groups, and affronts to national honor and the like. I was a little surprised. It seems that the same has been true in certain areas, for example many of the wars in Europe may be traced to such disagreements. But there's also plenty of other reasons. Fights seem to have been over independence, territory, oppression, or natural resources, including the war-ridden Middle East. I wonder what others here think.

Also, towards the end John brought up the idea that democracy is a "double edged sword" because there have been wars initiated against authoritarian regimes in order to obtain democracy. Steven graciously clarified the obvious. The problem doesn't reside in democracy but in lacking it.

Great non-science discussion!

cbjones1943 10-08-2011 03:44 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Possible alternate explanations: (1) Switch from damaging to non-damaging aggression over time/space (eg switch to "bourgeois" strategies, conventions such as treaties, negotiations and the like) as per GA Parker 1974 JTB--costs of damaging aggression too high. &/or (2) SA Frank's work (linked) on "group policing & repression of competition"--maybe some human groups have gotten better @these...

http://stevefrank.org/reprints-pdf/95Nature-Police.pdf

Blog: http://vertebratesocialbehavior.blogpost.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbjones1943

bkjazfan 10-08-2011 04:58 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
At least 3 were killed and 17 wounded which included 9 teenagers due to shootings last night and early today in Chicago, Illinois.

T.G.G.P 10-08-2011 05:17 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
I live in Chicago. As bad as things are, they were apparently worse in the past.

Ocean 10-08-2011 05:28 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by T.G.G.P (Post 227731)
I live in Chicago. As bad as things are, they were apparently worse in the past.

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:A...j-bOihl9egFpmG

Al Capone.

ohreally 10-08-2011 06:16 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
1. Western civilization is > 2,500 years old.
2. Most violent period by far occurred less than 100 years ago -- all of it caused by states.

That alone would render dubious the conclusion that we've suddenly become less violent and we have states to thank for that. But to compound the error, it so happens that nukes have changed the entire calculus of warfare -- and that alone might explain the 60-year lull. Wherever nukes have not been an option, the violence has been horrific, from the cultural revolution to Rwanda to Pol Pot to America's mass slaughter in Vietnam, etc. Also, in a 2500 year period, can a 60-year sequence measure anything of statistical significance.

Finally, are we lAmericans less violent or are we doing it differently? If you imprison everyone who might engage in violence, your society will look less violent, but isn't unjust incarceration another form of violence? Aren't we transferring violence from one mode to another? Our incarceration rate is the same as the Soviet Union during the worst Stalin years. There's less crime and less violence as a result... Or have we just redefined the word violence as "whatever harm the state does not cause directly"?

Last point: Pinker applies scaling laws wrongly. When 10% of the males in a village die in a neighborhood brawl is in no way comparable to having one million men die in a 20-million pop. country at war. That's because the intentionality and modality of violence must be entirely different in the two cases. I am not saying scaling should not apply: only that LINEAR scaling is wrong.

rcocean 10-08-2011 07:17 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ML9 (Post 227717)
rcocean, interesting response, but nuclear weapons aren't going away. if they've been such an effective deterrent till now, why do you think they'll stop being a deterrent in the future? just because smaller and less stable actors (state and non-state) will eventually get their hands on them? or because of some other counteracting effect?

Its quite possible some great power will gamble that war could be waged with neither side resorting to nuclear weapons - or possibly some future dictator may think like Stalin or Mao & be willing to use them as a last resort.

It should be noted that nobody in WWII used Biological or gas on a *large scale*. With the Soviets, Japanese, and Nazi's this reluctance was based on purely practical considerations. We Anglo-Saxons could have easily drenched Germany and Japan with Gas or Anthrax and won the war more quickly, but refrained from moral reasons, although Churchill was suggesting it in response to the V1 and V2 attacks.


Should some small unstable power use them millions would be killed in an instance. So much for their being less violence.

Sulla the Dictator 10-08-2011 07:25 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Lulls between great wars have been the norm, rather than exception, since the mass levee. There's about a forty year gap between the Napoleonic wars and the Crimean War, and a century between the Napoleonic Wars and the First world war if you analyze on the basis of scale. Sixty years in that context isn't all that surprising. We've actually seen nuclear powers willing to exchange fire, with the Indians and Pakistanis. And beyond that, the Russians and Chinese.

ohreally 10-08-2011 07:41 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rcocean (Post 227735)
We Anglo-Saxons could have easily drenched Germany and Japan with Gas or Anthrax and won the war more quickly, but refrained from moral reasons.

You can't be serious. We refrained because it's mostly ineffective. Carpet bombing Dresden and firebombing Tokyo caused maximum devastation: in fact, worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Moral reasons? Wow, the brainwashing has been thorough.

rcocean 10-08-2011 07:49 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227737)
You can't be serious. We refrained because it's mostly ineffective. Carpet bombing Dresden and firebombing Tokyo caused maximum devastation: in fact, worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Moral reasons? Wow, the brainwashing has been thorough.

You're wrong. Read some WW II history.

Or don't, I don't care.

JonIrenicus 10-08-2011 07:56 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227733)
1. Western civilization is > 2,500 years old.
2. Most violent period by far occurred less than 100 years ago -- all of it caused by states.

It seems to me previous centuries were far bloodier than he 20th century. What was the American death toll in WWII? 50k?

The US lost over half a million the previous century during the civil war alone. Casualties seem to be falling dramatically over time.

AemJeff 10-08-2011 08:05 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JonIrenicus (Post 227739)
It seems to me previous centuries were far bloodier than he 20th century. What was the American death toll in WWII? 50k?

The US lost over half a million the previous century during the civil war alone. Casualties seem to be falling dramatically over time.

So only violence that kills Americans is relevant?

ohreally 10-08-2011 08:10 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rcocean (Post 227738)
You're wrong. Read some WW II history. Or don't, I don't care.

That's it. That's your rebuttal. Wow!

Now why don't you go and read up on Bomber Harris and Curtis LeMay and then come back with your tales of Anglo-Saxon warmaking morality. Just for a good laugh.

Sulla the Dictator 10-08-2011 08:28 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227737)
You can't be serious. We refrained because it's mostly ineffective. Carpet bombing Dresden and firebombing Tokyo caused maximum devastation: in fact, worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Moral reasons? Wow, the brainwashing has been thorough.

I suggest you examine the war more carefully, and consider the context of actions within the conflict. The German crimes are well known. Perhaps investigate how the Soviets engaged in an organized campaign of rape and plunder as they moved West (Even in their own former territories); and the fact that the Japanese were engaged in Rwandan like atrocities throughout their entire occupation of China.

WWII was a total war; a war to the knife. In the context of that conflict, the United States acted with amazing restraint; and did so out of moral considerations.

ohreally 10-08-2011 08:50 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator (Post 227743)
I suggest you examine the war more carefully, and consider the context of actions within the conflict. The German crimes are well known. Perhaps investigate how the Soviets engaged in an organized campaign of rape and plunder as they moved West (Even in their own former territories); and the fact that the Japanese were engaged in Rwandan like atrocities throughout their entire occupation of China. WWII was a total war; a war to the knife. In the context of that conflict, the United States acted with amazing restraint; and did so out of moral considerations.

I see, so because we were not nearly as abominable as the Soviets (GIs were convicted of raping "only" 3,500 French women after D-Day), that alone meant we acted out of moral considerations. That takes moral relativism to new heights. Why do I call Curtis LeMay a war criminal? Because that's what he called himself! That the US acted with amazing restraint is simply laughable. Makes you sound like the idiots of the IDF who call themselves the most moral army in the world. Maybe you'd like to change our national anthem to "I feel pretty."

rcocean 10-08-2011 08:58 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227742)
That's it. That's your rebuttal. Wow!

Now why don't you go and read up on Bomber Harris and Curtis LeMay and then come back with your tales of Anglo-Saxon warmaking morality. Just for a good laugh.

Rebut what? You never made an argument. You also don't seem to understand the difference between using Anthrax or poison gas and dropping HE and firebombs.

Or maybe you're just upset that I asserted - correctly - that the Anglo-Saxons restrained themselves in WWII for moral reasons.

In any case, I don't care enough to continue. Adios.

Hume's Bastard 10-08-2011 09:13 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 227700)
Great interview, John. I predict this will drive a lot of traffic to the site due to Steven Pinker's popularity and cogency of thought.

I agree, that bh.tv will benefit from Pinker's appearance. I diagree, that Horgan offered a great interview. I've read other reviews of Pinker's book, which I've not read yet, and watched him do a TED Talk. I'm excited about the book, but skeptical.

First of all, if Pinker is doing a interdisciplinary stud of war, he needs to be a bit more respectful of the traditions. At least in this interview, he offers a horrible melange of sociobiological, sociological, economic, and political theories. He never defined "war", and both he and Horgan flipped back annoyingly between civil war, interstate war, violence, terrorism, etc.

Pinker also is clearly making a liberal argument. Not only did he identify with the liberal enlightenment tradition from Hobbes through Kant explicitly, but his argument seems to be related to Kant's "On the Perpetual Peace", where Kant argued that republican government, a pacific federation of states, and freedom of immigration would ensure peace, but not necessarily any time soon or in a consistent pattern.

But, aside from a few lines about honor and fear, Pinker never discusses Thucydides or the the realist tradition in political science that starts with Thucydides as honorary realist, but traditionally with Hans J. Morgenthau and E.H. Carr. rcocean's comment about nuclear weapons recalls Mearsheimer's comments about bipolarity and nukes as reasons for why the post-WW2 system was "peaceful". Generally, though, Pinker never talks about structure, as Kenneth Waltz did, and about the role power, or threats (Walt), or alliance structure, or polarity could play. The few other names he drops seem to be alternative theorists in political science, of whom I'm unaware, but it's customary to start with realism and liberalism before pointing out how non-traditional theories like Marxism, constructivism, or gender theories provide what the first two can't.

As for resource wars, again, Pinker made a trifle of a complex debate that's been going on for decades. Again, he never defines his terms. There's a great database for war, the Correlates of War (COW) that compiles lists of various military events from 1806 to 2007. It has useful definitions for all military events from two border guards throwing rocks to nuclear war. I disagree, that resource extraction is causing less conflict, based on this database. perhaps states have negotiated treaties, but that doesn't mean they haven't clashed. There is a continuum of ordinary words most people use when talking about military events, like clashes, or war, or incidents. Two examples: China hasn't started wars lately, but it has been involved in more clashes in the same period; and, some people argue that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fundamentally a contest over water. These are empirical claims based on real events and the definition of those events are important. Pinker made a huge muddle of it.

On apes and violence, Pinker again dips his toes very lightly in the water. Generally, I think it's simplistic to talk just about competition or cooperation in apes, because complex military behavior requires both behaviors. I also would point out the Rousseauian argument, that it was society and the resulting organization it provided that allowed groups of disinterested humans to join together to make war and also gave them interests to justify that behavior. I was listening to Mark Lynas talk about how homo sapiens might have interacted with Neanderthals, which provides a speculative argument about how two different species might have co-existed with war, and yet one species became extinct.

Don't get me wrong: I really want to read this book and I really enjoyed the talk - technical glitches aside. But, it really sounds like Pinker cherry-picked his arguments. Thank you, John Horgan for a provocative talk!

Wonderment 10-08-2011 10:31 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
I have not read the book, but I think Pinker's claims are actually considerably more modest than John wants them to be, and less than the jacket blurb proclaims.

I was expecting this conversation to be more disturbing because I don't buy the thesis that war is declining dramatically, especially the "New Peace" part, but I thought Pinker provided plenty of caveats concerning how fast things can go south, given nukes, GW and "unknowns" (black swans?).

John wanted to push Steven into accepting the notion that war is not very old (relative to the age of Homo Sapiens), but Steven refuted that idea well, I thought. What he didn't mention is that John's position is based largely on semantics. Of course, there has always been organized human aggression, but certain conditions must emerge for that aggression to meet the definitional criteria of war.

Also, John was trying to dispute chimpanzee raiding. I was happy to see that Steven pushed back, since all our ape relatives are wired for inter-species male violence, including infanticide, "murder" and rape.

Wonderment 10-08-2011 10:47 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 227721)
Good conversation. It's always a pleasure to have Steven Pinker discussing his work.

Yes, I enjoyed it too. I have a lot of respect for Pinker, since his book on language was so well done. Linguistics is my field of graduate study, and Pinker did an amazing job of explaining the discipline to non-specialists; so he has a lot of credibility with me.

I was, however, skeptical of the way his book on war/peace was being promoted. I was happy to see that his actual claims are more modest than the hype.

I also think Pinker was smart not to take on policy. If he did, the book would get blasted by conservatives and be reduced to a polemic. Particularly, not saying a word about Bush, Obama or Israel is prudent.

What I wished he had discussed more is how individual citizens can organize for peace.

There's nothing wrong with pointing out positive long-term trends, especially when it refutes conventional doom-and-gloom wisdom, but I think the big problem with the long view is that Pinker makes it sound that "anomalous" events like the Iraq War are just bumps on the road to world peace and global governance.

Also, the long-term trend view make activism seem superfluous or futile: we might as well just relax and let peace emerge over the next couple of centuries.

Finally, trend lines can reverse, as Pinker conceded. When you have variables like nukes, global warming, over-population, lingering religious fanaticism and failed states in the mix, there's no reliable trend line.

Ocean 10-08-2011 11:02 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 227752)
Yes, I enjoyed it too. I have a lot of respect for Pinker, since his book on language was so well done. Linguistics is my field of graduate study, and Pinker did an amazing job of explaining the discipline to non-specialists; so he has a lot of credibility with me.

I was, however, skeptical of the way his book on war/peace was being promoted. I was happy to see that his actual claims are more modest than the hype.

I also think Pinker was smart not to take on policy. If he did, the book would get blasted by conservatives and be reduced to a polemic. Particularly, not saying a word about Bush, Obama or Israel is prudent.

Yes, I thought that the suggestion that Pinker should have expressed some ideas regarding policy was off.


Quote:

What I wished he had discussed more is how individual citizens can organize for peace.
That's also beyond the scope of his book (I think).

Quote:

There's nothing wrong with pointing out positive long-term trends, especially when it refutes conventional doom-and-gloom wisdom, but I think the big problem with the long view is that Pinker makes it sound that "anomalous" events like the Iraq War are just bumps on the road to world peace and global governance.
I guess he can argue that some extreme events (Hitler's participation) are anomalous. However, it seems that we have parallel lines with different time frames in different parts of the world and that progress is rarely a straight line, so that wars breaking up in various places aren't anomalies but rather part of the process. It's the quantitative trend that counts.


Quote:

Also, the long-term trend view make activism seem superfluous or futile: we might as well just relax and let peace emerge over the next couple of centuries.
I don't agree. I don't think his work suggests anything of that sort. On the contrary, whatever progress has been made is a product of an active process of transforming our culture. There's nothing pre-determined or external to explain a course towards less violence, but our own active doing. It seems that his work is, at least indirectly, supportive of activism.

Quote:

Finally, trend lines can reverse, as Pinker conceded. When you have variables like nukes, global warming, over-population, lingering religious fanaticism and failed states in the mix, there's no reliable trend line.
Yes, that's definitely the case. The conditions for this trend to continue have to be favorable. Like anything else, an extraordinary amount of stress in the system can cause this particular line of development to stop or revert.

Sulla the Dictator 10-09-2011 03:20 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227745)
I see, so because we were not nearly as abominable as the Soviets (GIs were convicted of raping "only" 3,500 French women after D-Day), that alone meant we acted out of moral considerations.

When you flood millions of young men into a place filled with horrific combat, you will have crime. That isn't the debate. The difference is that the US Army prosecuted criminals, while the Red Army command staff and NKVD detachments on the ground ignored rape as a matter of course; believing it to be the due of Axis civilian populaces.

Quote:

That takes moral relativism to new heights.
Ummm no. A state isn't accountable for individual actors; it is accountable for policy. Thus the amount of rapes, illegally committed and punished when discovered, perpetrated by US personnel are not an indictment of the US Army, while rapes on the Eastern front are attributable to the Red Army.

Quote:

That the US acted with amazing restraint is simply laughable.
You're talking about a war where the Germans exterminated around six million Jews, three million Poles, and possibly ten million Soviet citizens, along with many others. Even their small allies, like the Croatians and the Romanians, are responsible for millions of deaths. The Japanese engaged in atrocities which rivaled the Germans, killing upwards of ten million Chinese, a million Filipinos, and likely a million Koreans. Civilians, mind you. The Soviets used their own civilian populace as human shields in both Leningrad and Stalingrad, engaged in millions of rapes in Poland, Germany, Romania, and Hungary, and ethnically cleansed swaths of Eastern Europe. Not to mention the fact that they often simply disappeared Axis POWs to the GUlag, and engaged in a ruthless anti-partisan campaign in the Baltic and Belarussia.

Against this you're going to do what, wave Dresden around? Give it a rest. The simplistic, child like moralizing of the modern left is so very tedious. The lengths you people go through to denounce Western powers is really astonishing.

Florian 10-09-2011 06:20 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Good post, HB. Let me just add to your judicious criticisms:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hume's Bastard (Post 227748)
I agree, that bh.tv will benefit from Pinker's appearance. I diagree, that Pinker also is clearly making a liberal argument. Not only did he identify with the liberal enlightenment tradition from Hobbes through Kant explicitly, but his argument seems to be related to Kant's "On the Perpetual Peace", where Kant argued that republican government, a pacific federation of states, and freedom of immigration would ensure peace, but not necessarily any time soon or in a consistent pattern.

Exactly. In fact, Kant thought that a federation of states would only come about as a result of war, in the same way as the state--according to Hobbes---comes about as an inevitable result of "war" between men in the "state of nature." Pinker knows this. He clearly understands the connection between pacification and the existence of the "sovereign" (Leviathan), so it is a bit puzzling to hear him adopting the liberal "enlightenment" vision of peace emerging through trade-- the so-called "doux commerce" theory of Montesquieu, Adam Smith and Condorcet e tutti quanti.

This is one of the most persistent delusions of a certain kind of liberal. In 1913, on the eve of one of the worst wars in history, the English liberal Norman Angell predicted that war was obsolete because unprofitable and destructive. The title of his book? The Great Illusion!

Quote:

Generally, though, Pinker never talks about structure, as Kenneth Waltz did, and about the role power, or threats (Walt), or alliance structure, or polarity could play. The few other names he drops seem to be alternative theorists in political science, of whom I'm unaware, but it's customary to start with realism and liberalism before pointing out how non-traditional theories like Marxism, constructivism, or gender theories provide what the first two can't.
Pinker has been shadow-boxing with Marxism, cultural constructivism, gender theories (SSSM = standard social science model) for years. He seems to think that either you are a good Darwinian, like him, or you are an idiot. Well, there are other possibilities.

Finally, let me say that it is odd to hear Pinker talking about World War II as if it were nothing but an aberration, an accident--- summed up by the name of Adolf Hitler. Leaving aside the "final solution", which was indeed the obsession of one man, the military objectives of the leaders of the Third Reich on the Eastern Front were exactly those of their barbarian forefathers one thousand years earlier: the settlement of new territories and the extermination and enslavement of native populations.

Florian 10-09-2011 08:05 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227733)
1. Western civilization is > 2,500 years old.
2. Most violent period by far occurred less than 100 years ago -- all of it caused by states.

That alone would render dubious the conclusion that we've suddenly become less violent and we have states to thank for that. But to compound the error, it so happens that nukes have changed the entire calculus of warfare -- and that alone might explain the 60-year lull. Wherever nukes have not been an option, the violence has been horrific, from the cultural revolution to Rwanda to Pol Pot to America's mass slaughter in Vietnam, etc. Also, in a 2500 year period, can a 60-year sequence measure anything of statistical significance.

I think that's right, but were we just lucky? Even if nuclear weapons have changed the calculus of warfare, we shouldn't forget that there were prominent American figures during the Cold War, like the madman Curtis LeMay you mention above, who contemplated the use of nuclear weapons with complete sang froid (LeMay during the Cuban Missile Crisis and in Vietnam). Cooler heads prevailed, but there is no assurance in politics that cooler heads will always prevail.

Ocean 10-09-2011 09:40 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
I would appreciate if you would address commenters you're interacting with directly instead of attributing that commenter's opinions to the "modern left".

eeeeeeeli 10-09-2011 11:19 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227733)
1. Western civilization is > 2,500 years old.
2. Most violent period by far occurred less than 100 years ago -- all of it caused by states.

That alone would render dubious the conclusion that we've suddenly become less violent and we have states to thank for that. But to compound the error, it so happens that nukes have changed the entire calculus of warfare -- and that alone might explain the 60-year lull. Wherever nukes have not been an option, the violence has been horrific, from the cultural revolution to Rwanda to Pol Pot to America's mass slaughter in Vietnam, etc. Also, in a 2500 year period, can a 60-year sequence measure anything of statistical significance.

Finally, are we lAmericans less violent or are we doing it differently? If you imprison everyone who might engage in violence, your society will look less violent, but isn't unjust incarceration another form of violence? Aren't we transferring violence from one mode to another? Our incarceration rate is the same as the Soviet Union during the worst Stalin years. There's less crime and less violence as a result... Or have we just redefined the word violence as "whatever harm the state does not cause directly"?

[I haven't listened to the dialogue yet, but am going to blunder out a comment anyway!]

It seems the question of whether we are more/less violent should be phrased as are our institutions less violent? In other words, I'm less convinced there have been any ethnic or cultural changes, and rather a variety of political, economic, military and technological dynamics that each have their own positive and negative effects on violence. Each of them will be different in each society, and untangling their causality is complex.

badhatharry 10-09-2011 11:32 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227745)
(GIs were convicted of raping "only" 3,500 French women after D-Day),

You've mentioned the rapes after D-Day several times and I've yet to find information about this. Any links?

Wonderment 10-09-2011 01:47 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Even if nuclear weapons have changed the calculus of warfare, we shouldn't forget that there were prominent American figures during the Cold War, like the madman Curtis LeMay you mention above, who contemplated the use of nuclear weapons with complete sang froid (LeMay during the Cuban Missile Crisis and in Vietnam). Cooler heads prevailed, but there is no assurance in politics that cooler heads will always prevail.
I don't think nukes have changed the calculus of war. I think we've just been very lucky, with several near misses. Sixty years is not a very long time in the great scheme of things.

Some people think that nukes are so terrible a weapon that no one will ever use them in a MAD situation, and that the only reason Truman used them was that he knew there could be no nuclear retaliation. That is an odd sort of "just so" theory, which ignores the fact that military commanders and heads of state in all nuclear nations do not share the premise that there are no circumstances under which they would use nukes. On the contrary, they prepare intensively for just such a contingency. Meanwhile, politicians everywhere bemoan the very nukes they have, claim to want to abolish them, and assert that what keeps them up nights is the worry that they might be hit by a "loose nuke." No sane person is unconcerned about proliferation.

Assuming that India and Pakistan or Israel and Iran would be as clever and lucky as Krushchev and Kennedy seems incredibly naive to me.

To his credit, Pinker did not ignore the nuclear threat and recognized it as a thesis-disabling wild card.

ohreally 10-09-2011 03:38 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 227772)
You've mentioned the rapes after D-Day several times and I've yet to find information about this. Any links?

The Bitter Road to Freedom, by Hitchcock. Beevor's D-day talks about it, too. Lilly did the research, I think. Anyway, US soldiers spent months looting the countryside and raping. The reasons are well understood. The Americans were ill-trained, lost every engagement against the Germans (who were highly experienced) whenever they didn't greatly outnumber them, and routinely panicked. Read Niall Ferguson's War of the World for an explanation why Axis soliders refused to surrender.... yes, the GIs killed most of their war prisoners. Not a great incentive for surrendering.

War is hell and armies, ALL armies, behave atrociously. All talk of moral restraint is self-serving, narcissistic horseshit.

ohreally 10-09-2011 04:33 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 227777)
I don't think nukes have changed the calculus of war. I think we've just been very lucky, with several near misses.

You say it does not change the calculus and then you proceed to explain why it changes the calculus ("Meanwhile, politicians everywhere bemoan the very nukes they have, claim to want to abolish them, and assert that what keeps them up nights is the worry that they might be hit by a "loose nuke.")

I think you're confusing calculus with risk. A different calculus might entail greater risk with a fatter tail: for example, a 60 year lull followed by the big boom! But the way nuclear powers reason about warfare has been completely changed: the US would not have attacked Iraq if Saddam had nukes. The reason the US is aggressive toward Iran is because once Iran has nukes, the US will have to renounce aggression. It's a different game altogether.

cbjones1943 10-09-2011 05:57 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
In addition to my earlier comments, the work of French & Raven (1959 etc) suggests several tactics and strategies whereby authorities might repress competition by damaging or non-damaging means (see link).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_(philosophy)

JonIrenicus 10-09-2011 07:41 PM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by eeeeeeeli (Post 227771)
[I haven't listened to the dialogue yet, but am going to blunder out a comment anyway!]

It seems the question of whether we are more/less violent should be phrased as are our institutions less violent? In other words, I'm less convinced there have been any ethnic or cultural changes, and rather a variety of political, economic, military and technological dynamics that each have their own positive and negative effects on violence. Each of them will be different in each society, and untangling their causality is complex.


The software analogy works here. We are the same basic hardware running more refined software with modern society. With the most barbarous, crude brutish societies still using something like windows ME, and more modern societies running off windows 7.

rcocean 10-09-2011 10:29 PM

Ohreally - And Cartoon WW II history
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227780)
The Bitter Road to Freedom, by Hitchcock. Beevor's D-day talks about it, too. Lilly did the research, I think. Anyway, US soldiers spent months looting the countryside and raping. The reasons are well understood. The Americans were ill-trained, lost every engagement against the Germans (who were highly experienced) whenever they didn't greatly outnumber them, and routinely panicked. Read Niall Ferguson's War of the World for an explanation why Axis soliders refused to surrender.... yes, the GIs killed most of their war prisoners. Not a great incentive for surrendering.

War is hell and armies, ALL armies, behave atrociously. All talk of moral restraint is self-serving, narcissistic horseshit.

Just to highlight his claims:

1. US soldiers spent months looting the countryside and raping.
2. Americans lost every engagement against the Germans whenever they didn't greatly outnumber them, and routinely panicked.
3. The GIs killed most of their war prisoners.

Amazing. Next he'll be telling us the Constitution legalized slavery.

ohreally 10-09-2011 11:33 PM

Re: Ohreally - And Cartoon WW II history
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rcocean (Post 227790)
Just to highlight his claims:

1. US soldiers spent months looting the countryside and raping.
2. Americans lost every engagement against the Germans whenever they didn't greatly outnumber them, and routinely panicked.
3. The GIs killed most of their war prisoners.

Amazing. Next he'll be telling us the Constitution legalized slavery.

You last wrote "In any case, I don't care enough to continue. Adios." Even your own good-byes you can't get right.

Sulla the Dictator 10-10-2011 01:23 AM

Re: Science Saturday: War and Peace (John Horgan & Steven Pinker)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 227780)
The Bitter Road to Freedom, by Hitchcock. Beevor's D-day talks about it, too. Lilly did the research, I think. Anyway, US soldiers spent months looting the countryside and raping. The reasons are well understood. The Americans were ill-trained, lost every engagement against the Germans (who were highly experienced) whenever they didn't greatly outnumber them, and routinely panicked.

Where did you pick this up, the Goebbels diaries? I think all of these claims were made by him.

Quote:

Read Niall Ferguson's War of the World for an explanation why Axis soliders refused to surrender.... yes, the GIs killed most of their war prisoners.
You are woefully ignorant about this war.

Florian 10-10-2011 05:20 AM

Re: Ohreally - And Cartoon WW II history
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rcocean (Post 227790)
Amazing. Next he'll be telling us the Constitution legalized slavery.

As a matter of fact it did. I refer you to the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court in which the supreme interpreter of the US constitution explictly says that slaves are not citizens and not protected by the constitution, i.e. slavery is legal. Slavery remained legal until the 14th amendment to the constitution made it illegal in 1868.

Quote:

Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves (or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves) were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S. citizens. The court also held that the U.S. Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories and that, because slaves were not citizens, they could not sue in court. Furthermore, the Court ruled that slaves, as chattels or private property, could not be taken away from their owners without due process..
I had an exchange with your brother-in-arms Sulla on this subject, so I know that what is common knowledge for most educated people somehow manages to escape contemporary American conservatives.


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