So a few weeks ago I had started reading Steven Pinker’s book ‘The Better Angels of our Nature‘ praising it for being well written unlike other writers.
So of course it was inevitable that the book then started getting a bit boring and long, so much so that I’ve decided to abandon it about half way through. (I still think that it might be a good book but that I’ve a short attention span.)
I guess also that I was reading looking to pick holes.
I wanted to be able to talk about things with my brother in law for example or to just try and understand things from a different point of view.
Maybe the hole I would pick if I was picking a hole is that I don’t really understand how from a purely evolutionary point of view someone like Steven Pinker would think that violence is necessarily a nasty thing or something we should turn our noses up at. The back cover says that this
‘myth-destroying new book reveals how contrary to popular belief, humankind has become progressively less violent, over millennia and decades’
Well that’s great news if it’s true, but if it’s all a cosmic chemical reaction is there anything ‘wrong’ with all that violence that went on all those years ago and that we’re apparently leaving behind?
You can write books appalled at how awful we were to each other in the violent old days, but hey, it worked. You’re writing books because your ancestors acted violently and proved themselves stronger and more suitable gene vehicles for the conditions than others at the time. They had traits that meant they were more adapted to conditions, the made it through to the next round.
I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say. Something like the whole book doesn’t make sense. My nephew came out with a line to his mum a few months back, something like
‘You can’t kill your ancestors or else you wouldn’t exist..’
If you’re reading this and natural selection by cold chemical reactions and physics is what brought about life, if ‘our purpose’ is to be some type of gene vehicle then all that violence was effective because it ensured that our ancestors survived and that we now exist. In a way violence was/is beneficial as our ancestors weren’t killed or murdered.