This from Martin Eiermann’s (The European, 30.05.2011) interview with Stewart Brand, author, biologist, and environmental activist from the 1960s onward:
Brand: Steven Pinker [materialist cognitive scientist (Harvard)] is currently working on a book about the decline of violence through human history. We like to think that we are living in a very violent time, that the future looks dark. But the data says that violence has declined every millennium, every century, every decade. The reduction in cruelty is just astounding. So we should not focus too much on the violence that has marked the twentieth century. The interesting question is how we can continue that trend of decreasing violence into the future. What options are open to us to make the world more peaceful? Those are data-based questions.
The European: It is hard to see that positive trend when the violence and injustice that we experience on a daily basis demands our attention and demands to be rectified.
Brand: And people get angry at Steven Pinker for pointing out these positive trends. But why would you be angry about good news?
Many people didn’t consider Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Darfur or the Vietnamese boat people crisis good news or a positive trend – and why forget the hundreds of millions of women who creep through life under rising Islamic fascism.
If you were born in 1971 or later, every one of those things happened in your lifetime. Some wonder how Pinker will address the Holocaust and the Ukrainian famine planned by Stalin. If you were born in 1932, those events happened in your lifetime. If a course correction is imminent, Pinker must have been the first to spot it, perhaps the last.