Video of the Day: The Surprising Decline in Violence

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Rebecca Goldstein
Steven Pinker

Conventional wisdom states that when you take the long view, the arc of history is brutal. We live within a weird historical blip, some aberrant time of relative luxury and safety. But is this really the case? In his 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, multi-disciplinary researcher Steven Pinker argues against this despairing view of history and human nature.

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Contemporary Western society didn't emerge from a vacuum fully-formed, he notes. Instead, Pinker argues that history demonstrates a long and gradual reduction in violence, due to fundamental changes in social and cultural norms, psychology, philosophy, and institutions. In a time marked by terrorism both foreign and domestic, protracted wars, and inner-city violence, Pinker's argument may seem counterintuitive, even heretical. Upon the book's publication, his theory received strong critiques in the august pages of the New Yorker and Prospect, but Pinker responds that history -- and research -- are on his side. At this seminar, he makes the case for his optimistic, if controversial, view.

Steven Pinker speaks October 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $10.

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Herbst Theatre

401 Van Ness, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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