Re: Science Saturday: Civilized Violence (Maggie Koerth-Baker & Jessa Gamble)
Hmm...after raising an eyebrow at Pinker dredging up a lot of 'old think' that we moved beyond a generation ago, the diavloggers argue against the notion that there is any sort of progressive, continually improving knowledge/technology/society. There's some kind of disconnect there...
I appreciated the discussion of Pinker's examples being cultivating species-that was quite good, and important to know. But then they wandered into questions not of whether Pinker's thesis was *true*, but whether it would be a *good thing* were it true, as it might spawn othering, and, ultimately, violence. While an interesting question, it seemed like the diavloggers were coming dangerously close to an, "it's not true because it would have bad consequences if it were true" sort of thinking, which is exactly the problem they argue is coming from the political right on climate science.
Gamble seemed unable to wrap her brain around the possibility that one (perhaps Pinker, or myself, or herself, or even 'members of advanced societies') could see technology, rationalism, and 'modernity' as improving *our* lives as *we* judge them, while we still maintain a respect for other people as they chose to live their lives. Niebuhr had an answer for this-'my culture is better than yours by *my* criteria, but I can accept that your culture is better than mine by *your* criteria, and we have to learn to live together on that basis.'
When pressed on this, she basically responded with, 'yes, but if Pinker is right, that would mean that those cultures are more violent, and that really WOULD be worse, so therefore it must not be allowed to be considered true.' Actually, many cultures, including that of Western Europe, *have* glorified violence (at least 'violence for a good cause'). Gamble, in contrast, had no problem assuming that *of course* one should agree that violence is a bad thing.
Even as Whiggish and Western a triumphalist as Theodore Roosevelt would have disagreed with her, saying that war allows nations to renew their manly virtues, and to prevent themselves from growing soft and decadent. That Gamble, one century later, didn't even entertain that kind of position, seems to augur well for Pinker's argument.