- Tapa blanda: 802 páginas
- Editor: Penguin LCC US; Edición: Reprint (1 de septiembre de 2012)
- Idioma: Inglés
- ISBN-10: 0143122010
- ISBN-13: 978-0143122012
- Valoración media de los clientes: 3 opiniones de clientes
- Clasificación en los más vendidos de Amazon: nº1.628 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros (Ver el Top 100 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros)
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The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Inglés) Tapa blanda – 1 sep 2012
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"If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this--the most inspiring book I've ever read."
--Bill Gates (May, 2017)
"The majesty of Pinker's theories is only one side of the story. The other side is the modesty of how he built them. It all makes sense, when you look at it the right way."-- The New York Times Book Review"Packed with information, clear, witty, attractively written."--The New York Review of Books
"Engaging and witty ...Everyone with an interest in language and how it gets to be how it is--that is, everyone interested in how we get to be human and do our human business--should read THE STUFF OF THOUGHT."-- Science
Praise for THE BLANK SLATE "An extremely good book--clear, well argued, fair, learned, tough, witty, humane, stimulating."--Colin McGinn, The Washington Post
"Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read...also highly persuasive."--Time
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A controversial history of violence by the best-selling author of
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Extending the concept of violence to include the global long term consequences of replication of someone’s genes, and having a grasp of the nature of how evolution works (i.e., kin selection) will provide a very different perspective on history, current events, and how things are likely to go in the next few hundred years. One might start by noting that the decrease in physical violence over history has been matched (and made possible) by the constantly increasing merciless rape of the planet (i.e., by people's destruction of their own descendants future). Pinker (like most people most of the time) is often distracted by the superficialities of culture when it’s biology that matters. See my recent reviews of Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest of Earth’ and Nowak and Highfield’s ‘SuperCooperators’ for a brief summary of the vacuity of altruism and the operation of kin selection and the uselessness and superficiality of describing behavior in cultural terms.
This is the classic nature/nurture issue and nature trumps nurture --infinitely. What really matters is the violence done to the earth by the relentless increase in population and resource destruction (due to medicine and technology and conflict suppression by police and military). About 200,000 more people a day (another Las Vegas every 3 days, another Los Angeles every three weeks), the 12 tons or so of topsoil going into the sea/person/year etc. mean that unless some miracle happens the biosphere and civilization will largely collapse in the next two centuries and there will be starvation, misery and violence of every kind on a staggering scale. People's manners, opinions and tendencies to commit violent acts are of no relevance unless they can do something to avoid this catastrophe, and I don't see how that is going to happen. There is no space for arguments, and no point either (yes I'm a fatalist), so I'll just make a few comments as though they were facts. Don't imagine I have a personal stake in promoting one group at the expense of others. I am 73, have no descendants and no close relatives and do not identify with any political, national or religious group and regard the ones I belong to by default as just as repulsive as all the rest.
Parents are the worst Enemies of Life on Earth and, taking the broad view of things, women are as violent as men when one considers the fact that women's violence (like most of that done by men) is largely done in slow motion, at a distance in time and space and mostly carried out by proxy -by their descendants and by men. Increasingly, women bear children regardless of whether they have a mate and the effect of stopping one woman from breeding is on average much greater than stopping one man, since they are the reproductive bottleneck. One can take the view that people and their offspring richly deserve whatever misery comes their way and (with rare exceptions) the rich and famous are the worst offenders. Meryl Streep or Bill Gates and each of their kids may destroy 50 tons of topsoil each per year for generations into the future, while an Indian farmer and his may destroy 1 ton. If someone denies it that's fine, and to their descendants I say "Welcome to Hell on Earth"(WTHOE).
The emphasis nowadays is always on Human Rights, but it is clear that if civilization is to stand a chance, Human Responsibilities must replace Human Rights. Nobody gets rights without being a responsible citizen and the first thing this means is minimal environmental destruction . The most basic responsibility is no children unless your society asks you to produce them. A society or a world that lets people breed at random will always be exploited by selfish genes until it collapses (or reaches a point where life is so horrific it's not worth living). If society continues to maintain Human Rights as primary, that's fine and to their descendants one can say with confidence "WTHOE".
"Helping" has to be seen from a global long term perspective. Almost all "help" that's given by individuals, organizations or countries harms others and the world in the long run and must only be given after very careful consideration. If you want to hand out money, food, medicine, etc., you need to ask what the long term environmental consequences are. If you want to please everyone all the time, that's fine and again to your descendants I say "WTHOE".
Dysgenics: endless trillions of creatures beginning with bacteria-like forms over 3 billion years ago have died to create us and all current life and this is called eugenics, evolution by natural selection or kin selection (inclusive fitness). We all have "bad genes" but some are worse than others. It is estimated that up to 50% of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion due to "bad genes". Civilization is dysgenic. This problem is currently trivial compared to overpopulation but getting worse by the day. Medicine, welfare, democracy, equality, justice, human rights and "helping" of all kinds have global long term dysgenic consequences which will collapse society even if population growth stops. Again if the world refuses to believe it or doesn't want to deal with it that's fine and to their (and everyone’s) descendants we can say "WTHOE".
Beware the utopian scenarios that suggest doomsday can be avoided by judicious application of technologies. As they say you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't fool mother nature any of the time. I leave you with just one example. Famous scientist Raymond Kurzweil proposed nanobots as the saviors of humankind. They would make anything we needed and clean every mess. They would even make ever better versions of themselves. They would keep us as pets. But think of how many people treat their pets, and pets are overpopulating and destroying and becoming dysgenic almost as fast as humans (e.g. feral cats alone kill perhaps 100 billion wild animals a year). Pets only exist because we destroy the earth to feed them and we have spay and neuter clinics and euthanize the sick and unwanted ones. We practice rigorous population control and eugenics on them deliberately and by omission, and no form of life can evolve or exist without these two controls—not even bots. And what's to stop nanobots from evolving? Any change that facilitated reproduction would automatically be selected for and any behavior that wasted time or energy (i.e., taking care of humans) would be heavily selected against. What would stop the bots program from mutating into a homicidal form and exploiting all earth's resources causing global collapse? There is no free lunch for bots either and to them too we can confidently say "WTHOE".
This is where any thoughts about the world and human behavior must lead an educated person but Pinker says nothing about it. So the first 400 pages of this book can be skipped and the last 300 read as a nice summary of EP (evolutionary psychology) as of 2011. However, as in his other books and nearly universally in the behavioral sciences, there is no clear broad framework for intentionality as pioneered by Wittgenstein, Searle and many others. I have presented such a framework in my many reviews of works by and about these two natural psychological geniuses and will not repeat it here.
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I started reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined with the attitude that Pinker needed to first convince me violence had declined before getting into explaining why. To be perfectly honest, given the world we currently live in, it's hard to imagine that violence has declined.
While I finished the book convinced that violence has declined, I felt like the explanations for why seemed more hypothetical than proven. Pinker explored violence quite thoroughly beginning his book at the beginning of human existence and moving to modern times in the almost 700 pages of The Better Angels of Our Nature. He explored historical myths as well as historical documents to arrive at his conclusions. He used archaeological finds to disprove mythical battles. He described how the development of etiquette and the creation of government helped quell violence and change our norms about violence. He used a combination of statistics, anecdotal evidence, and archaeological studies to present his case.
Yet, the more I read, the more my college corrections statistics professor's words haunted me. He always warned our class to be careful when writing papers not to allow our biases and our desires to prove our points to affect the weight we gave the studies we used as evidence.
Pinker seems less objective in some areas of The Better Angels of Our Nature than in other sections. He seemed to excuse violence against some people while unequivocally condemning it against others. This bias felt incredibly out of place in a book on why violence has declined.
For example, when talking about things like the FBI's crime report and other such studies on crime, Pinker never mentions the effect of police discretion and biased court results on crime rates or how the statistics for individual areas are sometimes skewed by reporting or not reporting data. My assumption is he believes the numbers wouldn't be enough to skew the overall results, and a simple paragraph could have addressed that issue. Maybe even just a few sentences; however, if those sentences existed I couldn't find them.
His inconsistent handling of anecdotal evidence and research surveys deemed certain groups of people more credible than others without giving a clear reason why.
As I read The Better Angels of Our Nature, I found myself wanting it to be better than it was yet I still think it's a book worth reading. Pinker obviously studied violence in great depth. He explains the statistics in an easy to understand, straightforward method, and he tells the story of violence quite well. He makes violence the main character, for better or worse, in a story that is ongoing and relevant and important. In fact, Pinker tells the story so well and brings up such important points, facts, and conclusions, that I am tempted to dismiss the things that bothered me about the book. Yet, I can't do that in good conscience. Pinker drives home the fact that violence is much less acceptable than it used to be for a variety of reasons and that unacceptability has come about as humans have developed civilization and sought out ways to live together more peacefully. The Better Angels of Our Nature left me hopeful that we can continue to rise above violence and find nonviolent solutions in spite of my skepticism about certain sections of the book.
I would also like to mention that if you buy the paperback version, towards the beginning, the text on the pages is uniformly at an angle, and not entirely horizontal across the page.
However, I had to dock a star for a few reasons. First, I believe Pinker uses excessively obsolete and/or "advanced" vocabulary throughout the entirety of the book. The vast majority of people reading this book, I believe, will have a very difficult time reading the book without a dictionary nearby (or of course, an app on your smartphone, which I admittedly used). I have a college background in writing, and was proficient in writing throughout my schooling days, but Pinker's vocabulary is advanced to the point of being frustrating and annoying; I found hundreds of words throughout the ~ 700 pages that I hadn't a clue as to their meaning. Eventually, it became frustrating enough that I downloaded the Merriam-Webster dictionary app for the sole purpose of having it on hand while reading this book! Never had that problem with any other book.
Second, Pinker tends to run off on tangents on a consistent basis, and you will often forget you are even reading a book on violence. Many of these tangents are relatively interesting, but at times I thought perhaps he was just stroking his own ego rather than staying on topic. The book could have been much more concise and delivered the same message.
As a whole, however, the book is excellent and definitely worth a read, if you are up for a challenge. Or hey, maybe I'm not as great a reader as I thought I was! I found it a challenging but rewarding read and I came away from the experience with a great deal of knowledge and insight.