AuthorTopic: Daniel Dennett and Steven Pinker: Can We Become a More Peaceful Species?  (Read 2740 times)

Offline g

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This video is from a panel at the World Peace Foundation–sponsored conference, Unlearning Violence, held February 13 & 14, 2014. .

Are humans more peaceful? Do we face a future largely devoid of the endemic violence that has plagued our race for millions of years? In the opening panel of the World Peace Foundation’s Unlearning Violence conference, Dr. Steven Pinker and Dr. Daniel Dennett debated this point. Pinker, the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Decline, argued that all measurable indicators of violence have been steadily declining. According to Pinker, this trend has been driven by several factors. First, global literacy and access to information have increased. With these resources, the public is better able to educate itself, and an educated public is generally a more peaceful one. Second, we are increasing our capacity to extend access to proper nutrition and medicine every day, which decreases the probability of spontaneous violence spurred by lack of basic needs. While millions still die of preventable disease and hunger, the overall trend is positive.

Though he concurred with the premise that global violence is decreasing, Dennett reminded the audience that we have a tendency to overlook the fragility of our modern system. Pointing to the Internet as a prime example, Dennett noted that many of the systems that manage our everyday lives are inextricably linked to the Internet. Were something to happen to our Internet networks, he warned, there is no saying what manner of chaos would be unleashed. [/color]Speaking on the idea of global transparency, Dennett saw two outcomes. First, he noted that global organizations that have structured themselves around secrecy must now evolve or go extinct. While this reality is likely to improve the terms of human interaction, it is likely to be a turbulent process. Further, he warned of the dangers of cultural imperialism through the use of a hypothetical situation: Imagine a race of benign aliens visits Earth, and we engage in cultural exchange. Young humans begin to latch on to this alien culture, preferring it to our own. As they abandon their human culture, Dennett postulated, the human race would almost certainly begin to see the aliens as a threat, and react accordingly. What, then, do we expect other cultures to do when threatened by Western cultural hegemony?

Despite Dennett’s skepticism about future levels of violence, both speakers were optimistic overall. They stressed the importance of education and transparency to the future prospects for peace. Pinker noted that societies that exhibit high levels of equality and education are significantly less violent. As literacy rates climb and the standard of living improves, the cost of violence becomes much higher. Dennett outlined his fears concerning our reliance on the Internet, he also pointed to its ability to inform the populace, allowing individuals to counter propaganda and diminish the fear associated with ignorance. The transparency offered by global communications networks can also spur empathy, allowing all humans to understand the suffering of our race in a vivid and immediate fashion. Pinker concluded by noting that genetics is not playing a significant role in the unlearning of violence. Rather, he argues that our ability to progress technologically is allowing us to create systems and institutions that make violence unnecessary. If this advancement marches on, we have nowhere to go but up.





                                             <a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/NouNPmpKCGk&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/NouNPmpKCGk&fs=1</a>

Offline MKing

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This video is from a panel at the World Peace Foundation–sponsored conference, Unlearning Violence, held February 13 & 14, 2014. .

Interesting conference theme. It does appear to presume that violence can be unlearned, versus the concept that Darwin was right, and it is instead an evolutionary advantage.
Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.
-Dalai Lama

Offline g

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This video is from a panel at the World Peace Foundation–sponsored conference, Unlearning Violence, held February 13 & 14, 2014. .

Interesting conference theme. It does appear to presume that violence can be unlearned, versus the concept that Darwin was right, and it is instead an evolutionary advantage.

Hi MKing. It is my belief as well that humans are capable of great noble deeds and peaceful coexistence. My problem and visions of doom come from our apparent disregard of wasteful behavior, and our disregard of the environment.

When a younger man I had always scoffed at he idea of technology not being able to save us. As I grow older and see pictures of waste and environmental damage, especially in nations like China, my confidence in the ability of Mother Earth to withstand this sort of pillaging has made me doubtful.

I always think of the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey when this topic comes up. I was a college kid when I saw it, but  will never forget the beginning where the Ape throws that bone into the air and we are on a space ship a moment later. It gave me a youth's feeling of pride to be a member of the human race. Age turns that pride and wonder into cynicism for some of us. Some of us will make it at least, that is my opinion now, to a highly advanced future and civilization.

                                                             

                                                             

Offline Karpatok

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This video is from a panel at the World Peace Foundation–sponsored conference, Unlearning Violence, held February 13 & 14, 2014. .

Interesting conference theme. It does appear to presume that violence can be unlearned, versus the concept that Darwin was right, and it is instead an evolutionary advantage.
  Hello, MKing. Glad to see you are still posting. Thank you for your many contributions. I seem to have missed Darwin's thoughts on violence being an evolutionary advantage. Could you point me in the right direction? Thanks. Karpatok

Offline MKing

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Interesting conference theme. It does appear to presume that violence can be unlearned, versus the concept that Darwin was right, and it is instead an evolutionary advantage.

Hi MKing. It is my belief as well that humans are capable of great noble deeds and peaceful coexistence.

Oh, I would certainly agree with you. But that idea isn't mutually exclusive to the human ability to accelerate from peace, love and hope to massive and unrestricted violence upon others in as short a period of time as possible, being an evolutionary advantage.

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My problem and visions of doom come from our apparent disregard of wasteful behavior, and our disregard of the environment.

And my visions of Doom come from the young being raised by hollywood, two or three mommies and daddies, and pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Quote from: Golden Oxen
I always think of the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey when this topic comes up. I was a college kid when I saw it, but  will never forget the beginning where the Ape throws that bone into the air and we are on a space ship a moment later. It gave me a youth's feeling of pride to be a member of the human race. Age turns that pride and wonder into cynicism for some of us. Some of us will make it at least, that is my opinion now, to a highly advanced future and civilization.

                                                             

                                                             

I think becoming more conservative, or doomerish (just do a demographics on age around this place, and I'm betting we are generally older rather than younger) comes naturally with age.  It has some corollary to the "good old days" effect, don't you think? 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosy_retrospection

The passage of time changes our perspective...I know when I think back, I don't recall the days of being hungry, but of winning a cross country race, bringing home food for family with a single well placed shot, I don't recall the injuries sustained, but the youthful glory attained. But I DO remember wanting to get the hell outta there...and I try and remember WHY every time I wax nostalgic for "the good old days".

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.
-Dalai Lama

Offline MKing

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This video is from a panel at the World Peace Foundation–sponsored conference, Unlearning Violence, held February 13 & 14, 2014. .

Interesting conference theme. It does appear to presume that violence can be unlearned, versus the concept that Darwin was right, and it is instead an evolutionary advantage.
  Hello, MKing. Glad to see you are still posting. Thank you for your many contributions. I seem to have missed Darwin's thoughts on violence being an evolutionary advantage. Could you point me in the right direction? Thanks. Karpatok

Call it applied science K.  :icon_sunny:

Darwin didn't catalog the traits of evolutionary advantage for all species, he put words to the theory and enunciated the principle. It then behooves those of us who think about these things (versus just nodding vigorously as the naked emperor goes by) to ask these types of questions.

Lay me say it in a way more conductive to conversation on the topic.

I hypothesis that the human ability to commit violence upon others is an evolutionary advantage. If I was asked how MUCH of an evolutionary advantage, I would say a substantial one.

Do you disagree, and if so, why?


PS: It seems to me that this is how folks are supposed to discuss things, if they carry the ideals of critical thought to their natural conclusion. To be honest, I have no stake in the outcome, I have no professional experience in evolutionary biology, and am prepared to defend my side of the equation as best I can until I have LEARNED something.

Only your enemy can teach you where you are weak (Ender's Game, the book is great, the movie sucked) and when you see that idea in action during, say, a PhD dissertation, you understand why some flourish in such an environment, and others become petty dictators of web forums in order to make sure it never happens in their world.

I call it learning. Want to give it a fling and teach me how I am wrong? I'm game.
Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.
-Dalai Lama

Offline Surly1

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Lay me say it in a way more conductive to conversation on the topic.

I hypothesis that the human ability to commit violence upon others is an evolutionary advantage. If I was asked how MUCH of an evolutionary advantage, I would say a substantial one.

Do you disagree, and if so, why?

Not for nothing did H. Rap Brown famously observe, "Violence is as American as cherry pie." But it seems to be more universal than just the story of the Americas. Just posted an interesting article on this theme else where here:
http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php/topic,785.msg47889/topicseen.html#msg47889

I would very much like to believe otherwise. But couple such referenced archaeological evidence with the mass of studies on mammals and overcrowding . . . and I cannot make that argument.

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline jdwheeler42

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I hypothesis that the human ability to commit violence upon others is an evolutionary advantage. If I was asked how MUCH of an evolutionary advantage, I would say a substantial one.

Do you disagree, and if so, why?
I'm with Nietzsche on this one... I suggest reading Beyond Good and Evil if you want the full argument.  In a nutshell, if you look at violence in the natural world, between predator and prey violence is ruthless.  When it comes to things like mating rituals, however, the violence between competing males tends to be restrained, so that neither truly gets injured; as soon as one proves he is stronger, the weaker moves off.  Nietzsche argues that the whole concept of morality derives from the idea of avoiding the consequences of violence among evenly matched opponents.  While I think there is more to it that that, I think he makes an excellent point.

If we were not moving away from violence, the planet would already be a radioactive husk from all the exploded nuclear weapons.  That is where violence is not an evolutionary advantage.
Making pigs fly is easy... that is, of course, after you have built the catapult....

Offline MKing

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If we were not moving away from violence, the planet would already be a radioactive husk from all the exploded nuclear weapons.  That is where violence is not an evolutionary advantage.

Well...violence within the human species also has another evolutionary advantage going along with it. Brains. So it becomes a battle of two urges, to inflict violence to accomplish something, and understanding that if everyone ramps up to the appropriate level of violence, neither side wins.

Wasn't there a movie about just this concept, Beautiful Mind with Russel Crowe? Cooperation can achieve an optimum result rather than pure competition (violence)?
Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.
-Dalai Lama

Offline Ashvin

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I hypothesis that the human ability to commit violence upon others is an evolutionary advantage. If I was asked how MUCH of an evolutionary advantage, I would say a substantial one.

Do you disagree, and if so, why?

How do you define "violence"? Is a predator hunting and eating its prey an act of violence?

If so, then certainly "violence" of that sort confers a survival advantage at limited scales (but so does peaceful and cooperative behavior).

The burden is on you (and Daniel Dennett and whoever else) to show that this survival advantage can somehow produce macro-scale ("evolutionary") changes in the biosphere, and that it has in fact produced such changes.

There is no evidence whatsoever that human beings, let alone any other species, have evolved through the natural selection for traits such as violent behavior.

It should go without saying that neither the existence nor prevalence of violent behavior is sufficient to establish that violence is an evolved feature of life.

 

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