Steven Pinker, the duplicitous liar.

There has been a lot of articles written about Steven Pinker’s lying manipulation of data for his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, a pro-State, anti-anarchy book. He also promotes evolutionary psychology and deserves to be blasted for his aggressively anti-scientific lies. This article from First Things summarizes the case against Pinker’s “Better Angels” rhetoric:

Pinker’s method for assessing the relative ferocity of different centuries is to calculate the total of violent deaths not as an absolute quantity, but as a percentage of global population. But statistical comparisons like that are notoriously vacuous. Population sample sizes can vary by billions, but a single life remains a static sum, so the smaller the sample the larger the percentage each life represents. Obviously, though, a remote Inuit village of one hundred souls where someone gets killed in a fistfight is not twice as violent as a nation of 200 million that exterminates one million of its citizens. And even where the orders of magnitude are not quite so divergent, comparison on a global scale is useless, especially since over the past century modern medicine has reduced infant mortality and radically extended life spans nearly everywhere (meaning, for one thing, there are now far more persons too young or too old to fight). So Pinker’s assertion that a person would be thirty-five times more likely to be murdered in the Middle Ages than now is empirically meaningless.

In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more exorbitant demographic explosion. Well, not to put too fine a point on it: So what? What on earth can he truly imagine that tells us about “progress” or “Enlightenment”—or about the past, the present, or the future? By all means, praise the modern world for what is good about it, but spare us the mythology.

One thought on “Steven Pinker, the duplicitous liar.

  1. Michael February 14, 2014 at 05:22

    Important post. Optimists reference his book a lot.

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