The Beaten Angels of our Nature. Is Steven Pinker right?


Could we affirm that we have become more peaceful than people from some centuries ago? Some renowned scientists say that we have become indeed more peaceable and they have some apparently good explanations for their statements. The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, a notorious scientist, one of the most influential contemporary thinkers, claims that human aggression was reduced from one age to another and, at the beginning of the 21 century, humanity has entered the most peaceful period in its entire history. Pinker advanced his theory in the book „The Better Angels of our Nature”, and his main arguments rely on the statistics that show the homicide rate throughout historical ages.

Pinker claims that, from prehistoric times and throughout antique and medieval ages, throughout Renaissance and the closer we get to our times, the percentage of homicide became smaller, as related to the total population of the world. If, for example, every seventh earthling died a violent death in prehistoric times, in the first half of the 20th century, despite the two world wars that took place, only three percent of Earth’s population died violently; also, after 2000, less than 1.5% of Earth’s population had a violent death.

The author also makes a parallel comparison between the 50 million people that died during the Second World War and the near 40 million people that died during the Mongol expansion in the 13th century; as compared to the world’s population, these data means that during the Mongol expansion, the homicide intensity was almost 6 times greater. In the modern Europe, the chances of getting yourself killed are from 20 to 50 times smaller than 500 years ago. At the same time, the author admits that in certain states from within US, the homicide rate is as yet almost the same as in medieval Europe. However, Pinker claims that the percentage of homicide has decreased dramatically during the last decades and the impression that we live in violent times is rather induced by the way that socio-political realities are reflected in the international mass-media [Pinker, 2011].

What induced this global statistical peace? According to the scientist, we owe a great deal to the environment, not genetics, for the reduction of global degree of aggression. Especially such factors as the spread of trade, of literacy and of civilization, as well as the emancipation of women, have contributed considerably to decreasing the level of violence.

Trade benefited the mutually favorable exchanges between communities, free markets being negatively correlated with wars and genocides. The spread of literacy, the Enlightenment, the humanism and the democracy, all these have led to the formation of the civilized humans, to intercultural understanding and to the philosophy of tolerance. The emancipation of women, and by default the apparition of feminism, has benefited the ascent of social politics, of non-conflictual approaches on intra- and intergroup relations, because women are, by virtue of their instinctual nature, less aggressive and their extended presence in public affairs temper the tension that appears in the relationships between men.

Another decisive cause of the decreasing of violence lies in the state’s imposed control over the social life. Thanks to institutional hierarchies and to regulatory and judicial bodies, thanks to the operational laws and punishments, the aggressiveness is kept under control in society – the aggressors are kept in prisons and any types of conflict and violence are being punished [1]. Indeed, if, for example, we would take a look at the violence against women in the US, we could see that it dropped with more that 50% in twenty years, from 1993 up to 2012 [2]; especially if we talk about decreasing of physical violence (verbal or emotional violence is still very spread) [Kim et al., 2008]. The trend is encouraging and it shows the efficiency of some social politics and judicial measures.

In 2014, a group of British and American scientists have reached similar conclusions regarding the impact of the judicial system and of the monopoly that was imposed on violence by the state. The judicial documents that were found in Great Britain showed that, starting with the 18th century, the society became less tolerant for violent acts, due to the way in which the judicial system functioned. A clear distinction between non-violent and violent acts was made, the latter being more severely punished. The change in the institutional perception of violence was also accompanied by a swing of the pendulum as regarding violence in society [Klingenstein et al., 2014].

As a result, the fear of being a subject of public opprobrium, of being punished by law, as well as the control of the authorities over the social life altogether made many potential violent individuals mitigate their impulses. The limits created thrift. “Good fences make good neighbors,” as an old saying says. Accordingly, the fear of punishment and imprisonment has allowed for the antisocial and violent manifestations to be dramatically reduced. The same correction mechanisms work on an international level; the collective structures like UN, NATO, The Council of Europe and so on succeeded in bridling the frustrations and warlike or vindictive impulses of an impressive number of states from around the globe.

In the same boat with Pinker, as concerning the tendencies for global pacification, rows a study made by Norwegian scientists that was published in “International studies Quarterly” in 2013. The authors of the study have analyzed the evolution of a number of factors like the population size, the infant mortality rate, the demographic composition, the level of education, the oil dependency, the ethnical cleavages, the regional characteristics etc. and, based on these trends, made a prediction for 40 years ahead. According to them, from 2009 up to 2050, the number of countries involved in conflicts would be reduced by 50%. More precisely, if, in 2009, approximately 15% of the world countries were involved in internal armed conflicts, by 2050 only 7% of these countries would wage wars. The decline of armed violence is going to be more pronounced in the Middle East and Northern Africa, but outbreaks of armed conflicts will keep appearing in eastern, central and southern African countries, as well as southern and eastern Asia. The scientists think that the war has become too expensive nowadays, and the governments and people got used to the economical comfort and won’t venture into wasteful wars [Hegre et al., 2013].

However, a year later, the same Norwegian scientists said, in a clarifying article, that although they reaffirm their thesis, they had understood that they should be more reserved as regarding their optimism. This time, they mentioned that drastic climate changes, slumps, demographic discrepancies in some regions around the world or the outbreak of a new Cold War between great powers could create social imbalances, and the decrease of violence wouldn’t be so acute. However, overall, they go with Steven Pinker and subscribe to his arguments and his opinion that the world will be more peaceful in the future and that this is the way the world is going to function from now on [Hegre, Nygård, 2014].

At least partially, we can’t but agree with Pinker (as well as with his supporters), because, besides his brilliant talent of explaining his theses, he comes with an evidential scientific material that is very well selected and argued. Truly, the economic and cultural relationships, a higher general degree of people’s education and the tolerance promoting politics have had an auspicious effect on a large part of contemporary societies. But these factors would have been insufficient and inefficient from the first jump without a strict control coming from the authorities and without a discipline done by justice.

We can draw the following conclusion from Pinker’s theses: the instinct of aggression at the level of society is inhibited by the force of other instincts, partially by those that imply abidance by authorities and higher courts. Therefore, if desired, one could suppress agonistic relationships and violent manifestations by means of hierarchical relationships, for a considerable amount of time. Some studies upon the role of hierarchies could reveal the decisive impact of these on the consolidation of social relationships and on the annihilation of instant aggressiveness. Accordingly, it’s also the hierarchical influences that can easily lead to large outbreaks of conflicts.

We know from recent history that, notwithstanding the advantageous economic changes and the high culture of the citizens, some apocalyptical genocides were possible. Therefore, the hierarchical control has two facets and it largely depends on who owns it (we do know how easily the masses can be manipulated by warlike and charismatic leaders). Pinker himself admits that the decrease of violence in modern age is due not to biological changes in human beings, but rather to the social fireworks and the political will that accompanied the progress of civilization. The human beings are governed by the same instincts of aggression and xenophobia as in ancient times and it’s only the commercial interests, the social environment and the wary eye of control institutions that prevent the escalation of violence, isolating those who are extremely aggressive and encouraging the decent and obedient behavior.

It is due not only to the frailty of the factors that are concerned with the keeping of social peace, but also to the contestable methodology that Pinker used in order to calculate the degree of violence on earth that his optimism regarding the “constant decrease of violence” aroused serious criticism. He was signaled that it’s inaccurate, under methodological aspect, to make a comparative parallel between the homicides of the Second World War (which lasted for six years) and the homicides of the Mongolian expansion, which lasted for more than a century (more per capita kills because the slaughters were more extended in time). As regarding the influence of ideologists, the 20th century has proven that great ideologists would rather instigate violence that call for peace and union [3].

The British political philosopher John N. Gray reproached Pinker, firstly, with the mistake that he focused, in his assessments, predominantly over the situations of advanced countries, while barbarians and wars are frequent and shocking in peripheral areas of the civilized world and the trends from out there are alarming; very little space in the book was devoted to the analyze of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Secondly, Pinker was criticized by Gray for the high stakes he offers to the idealistic peacekeeping concepts of humanity. As it has been proven repeatedly, the ideas and things which targets human rationality do not much influence the irrational realm; and violent impulses have their shrine namely in the unconscious, in the irrational. Racist stereotypes and ideas, for instance, proved to be extremely resistant and contagious, despite the efforts made to suppress it onto the rational path; usually, the instincts defy the rational and it seldom occurs the other way around.

Furthermore, Pinker is also criticized for the fact that he argues against himself – being a convinced Darwinist, who has eloquently proven in his other books the evolutionary essence of the human nature, the limits and largely the predetermined character of the human mind and our dependence on instincts and innate behavioral programs, he now starts, driven probably by the impulse of some personal, moral endeavours and the duty of a scientist, to overrate the influence of humanist progress and of civilization on the evolutionary conservatism of human mind and behavior [Gray, 2011].

The professor of political sciences at the Utah State University, Bradley Thayer, agrees, in general terms, with the statistic data presented by Pinker, but he has, in his turn, a series of objection as regarding the general conclusions of the book. He says that the fact that the Occident was analyzed is quite irrelevant, because these values of tolerance are not nearly accepted in the rest of the world, as is in the modern democracies. The Western societies are not themselves so secure, as long as the “inner demons” of people are just tamed and never entirely eradicated. Any change of the living conditions could cause the escalation of egoism and xenophobia.

Thayer emphasizes the important role of political leaders, who are much more dominated by “inner demons”, as compared to most people; as a rule, a political career is craved by selfish people who have an assertive character and want to dominate. They engage in competitions and power struggles, which can corrupt them on a moral level and forms a combative behavioral style – it augments their thirst for affirmation at any cost, prompting them to resort to people’s emotions and to get involved in actions that could destabilize the social peace.

The political ascent of such politicians can’t be excluded from the rows of democrats. The competition between leaders can be extrapolated to the level of competition between the great powers of the world, to the struggle for spheres of influence. In conclusion, Thayer claims that the regularities of national and international competitions leave little chance for the affirmation of the “better angels of human nature” because it creates contexts that stimulate militancy, not peacefulness in people. The peace from the last decades is an epiphenomenon, due to a constellation of ideas and political forces that left a footprint on the social processes in the Occident, but we should be pessimistic as regarding the durability of this peace; once the force balance will change on a global level, the “demons” of the human nature will surpass the influence of our inner “angels” [Thayer, 2013].

Steven Pinker assigns a great role for the reduction of violence to the social environment. It is true that there is an important influence in this regard and a more comfortable living conditions predisposes to a more temperate behavior. But yet the social environment has so many variables, that while some factors reduce the level of aggressiveness, others increase it. Let us take, for example, the conditions of market economy; they can encourage competition and rivalry, propitious for the developing of the combative spirit and, consequently, of the aggressive one. If humans’ instinctual nature is immutable, counting on the role of the environment and on the pacifism is not the best choice. Both the social environment and the institutions could indirectly encourage the violent character of individuals. Even in highly economically developed and socially stable countries, the innate inclination of humans towards violence or conflict find ways of manifesting itself; and an augmentation of these inclinations being recorded in some contexts.

The results of a sociological study which was made in 2011 in the US shows that about 30% of the country’s youth had been arrested at least one time before reaching the age of 23 for infringements more serious than, let’s say, road aggression. One could also mention that, according to the statistic data from 1965, only 22% of the country’s youth had been arrested before reaching the age of 23. Therefore, in a period of 45-50 years, notwithstanding the socio-economic progress and the reinforced justice measures, the number of young delinquents isn’t decreasing. It doesn’t even remain on the same level. It rises. And the expanding of the poorer suburban areas and of ghettoes would contribute to a continual and dangerous grow of this trend [4].

Speaking of trends, I shall also mention the remark about wars that the German sociologist and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm made in his book “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”; he take into attention the ascending trend of number of wars along with the civilization of humanity [Fromm, 1973/1983]. Therefore, according to Fromm’s statistics, the incidence of wars in the modern age was as follows:

Years Number of wars
1480 – 1499 9
1500 – 1599 87
1600 – 1699 239
1700 – 1799 781
1800 – 1899 651
1900 – 1940 892

With all the methodological drawbacks that such a “sociology of war” implies (geographical and historiographical deficiencies), the fact that the incidence of wars, along with the progress of civilization, has increased, not decreased, is however obvious.

More convincing seems to be the chart presented by the American scientist Peter Brecke, who made a study for Peace Science Society in 1999 in which he illustrated the dynamics of the armed conflicts from the last half of the millennium. It’s curious that the most peaceful period in modern history of humanity was the 18th century, a period that coincided with the Enlightenment in Europe; the incidence of conflicts started to rise dramatically beginning with the 19th century [Brecke, 1999].

conflicts per decade

Source: Brecke, 1999.

Therefore, the feeling that nowadays we live in a period of relative decrease of the number of wars shouldn’t arouse too much optimism, for it may be that the humanity has only “taken a break” as regarding this matter and subsequently it will trip into a fusillade as vast and devastating as the one from the first half of the 20th century. Bear Braumoeller, a professor of political sciences at Ohio State University claims that the modern trend of the relative decline of wars’ number is more some kind of a “statistical anomaly” than a historical fact. Braumoeller published in 2013 a vast study as a reply on Pinker’s book. “Is War Disappearing?” is the question that the author asks in the title of his book and he claims that, despite the general pacifistic expectations, there is an augmentation of readiness for military conflicts in the world, not a diminishment of it (he also introduces the term of “warlikeness,” which, as he says, means “readiness/ appetency for war”) [Braumoeller, 2013].

In an explanatory interview he gave about his study, Braumoeller claims that it isn’t accurate for us to go by the incidence of really great wars (like the two World Wars) in assessing the conflict situation in the world. Great wars are a rare phenomenon, for they take place only once or twice in a century and if 70 years have passed since the last great wars, that doesn’t mean that the world is peaceful, for numerous small wars keep happening and a couple of other great wars could happen in an indefinite future. Braumoeller says that some 150 years should pass without a great war for us to have the certainty that the humanity has truly mollify itself.

According to him, the fact that presently less global wars take place is not due to a more peaceful human nature, but to the international peacekeeping instruments. First of all, a lot of countries are simply afraid to get involved into conflicts because of the hazard of provoking a response which would involve nuclear weapons (nevertheless, the fear is not a stable ground for peace). Secondly, many countries can’t afford, on an economical ground, a war that would not meet the contemporary military standards.

When speaking about the percentile decrease of the number of violence victims, we must take into consideration the spectacular demographic trend of the last century; statistically, the mortality caused by violence falls nowadays behind the general birth rate on the planet. Therefore, Braumoeller claims that a more objective indicator would be not the percentile number of war victims, but rather the number of conflicts which took place during the last centuries and decades. He analyzed the numbers from the database of international conflicts – the Correlates of War and he found out that, from the beginning of the 18th century up to 2012, the number of conflicts, except some fluctuations, remained invariable. In fact, the number of conflicts multiplied after 1914 because of the collapse of empires and the struggles for independence of different nations.

According to Braumoeller, there is no general trend of pacification and mutual relationship, the predisposition towards military conflicts being the same as a couple centuries before and it’s only the lack of resources or favorable circumstances that stops major wars from happening. And if such circumstances should occur, if a climate change or some sort of an authoritarian leader should trigger the appearance of conflicts, will people prove themselves to be enough peaceful as not to reply violently? Braumoeller reminds us that, during the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, it was only due to the decision of a superior officer of a soviet submarine, whose name was Vasili Arkhipov, that an atomic all-destructive war was prevented; then, the international political and psychological context was not exactly peaceful and only the will of a man stopped the disaster [5].

Today, just like in 1960s, some potential conflicts are bridled only due to the fear of starting a nuclear war and thanks to the will of some conscientious people. But can we possibly talk about a pacifist and non-confrontational majority in most parts of the world? For the moment, the probability of starting a world war is smaller than in the past centuries, but all of us understand the fact that the damage caused by such a war could be inestimably higher. Millions could be wiped out in just a couple of minutes.

Probably one of the most consistent criticism toward Pinker’s measurements came from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a renowned statistician and essayist ( the bestselling author of ”The Black Swan”). According to Taleb, the statistical discussions in Pinker’s book are disturbingly amateurish; the “long peace” is a statistical illusion; and the world is more “fragile” than we imagine [6].

About how deceiving the actual peace in the world can be tells us Ian Morris, a historian and archeologist at Stanford University. He draws a very relevant historical parallel. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815 and up to the First World War from 1914, Great Britain had global military and financial primacy. Almost no conflicts could take place without its consent and the world found itself in a period of relative international peace – the so-called Pax Britannica. When the imperial power of Great Britain weakened, the world engaged into numerous local and continental wars. Later on, during the Cold War between USSR and US and especially after 1989, the lion’s share in influencing the international processes went to US. During the last decades, US imposed some kind of Pax Americana on a global level, but would it last? What will happen when various regions of the world would get their “freedom” to fight according to their own interests once again? Will the history of 1914 repeat itself? [7].

Many other scientists drew parallels with 1914. The 20th century started on a background of a great optimism as regarding the power of reason and of progress. To the situation of 1912, Europe had four decades of peace behind; the Greco-Turkish war in 1897 lasted only for 30 days; the frequency of civil wars decreased by 50%; the European leaders had the complete conviction that any kind of dispute could be solved via amiable dialogue. Despite this favorable conjuncture, it didn’t take long for the First World War to take place inside Europe. This example proves the fast rate with which the external, political, cultural and social factors can induce a state of animosity between nations [Levy, Thompson, 2013].

Margaret MacMillan, a historian from the University of Cambridge, forewarns us that the current state of affairs resembles the political atmosphere before the First World War, but it’s only the geopolitical hotbed that differs. It was only a spark (an assassination) that started the war back then, and it could be only an extremely provocative act of terrorism or another critical incident that could cause an “explosion” in the Middle East today. There are other resemblances with the situation from 1914 – just like then, today the nationalist forces reawaken and there is a power shift from one political pole to another (from US to China). And, just like back then, humanity fancies that the progress of civilization and the peace have definitely put an end to great wars. ”Now, as then, the march of globalisation has lulled us into a false sense of safety”, says MacMillan [8].

The events that took place in Ukraine in the spring of 2014 fitted like a glove on the predictions made about the fragility of world peace. All these extremely dramatic and intense events – the homicides made during Euromaidan, the bloody battles and slaughters from the eastern Ukraine, the taking over of Crimea by Russia and the acute diplomatic crisis on the Moscow–EU–Washington axis have shocked Europe and the whole world so much, that even the most optimistic people started seriously considering the probability of a great continental war. If we add here the Israeli-Palestinian armed conflicts, the chaos from Syria, the reawakening of the Armenian-Azerbaijani animosity (from Nagorno Karabakh), the tensions from eastern Asia, the picture will acquire worrying shades. It was during those times that various experts, political scientists and leaders, have suddenly realized that the peace and stability are more fragile than ever and the term of “The Third World War” was uttered as often as during the Cuban Missile Crisis from 1962.

“Yes, It Could Happen Again”, the title of an article from the “Atlantic” magazine says, signed by the columnist Roger Cohen. He, just like other analysts, draws a parallel with 1914 and rightly notes at the beginning of his article that “Pessimism is a useful prism through which to view the affairs of states. Their ambition to gain, retain, and project power is never sated” [9]. In the context of events that suddenly started taking place across the globe, idealism is irrelevant. It is true that more hypotheses must fulfill and more circumstances should align for a global warfare to arise, but, as the French expert in geopolitics, Pierre Veluise, said, “After two World Wars, you don’t have to be a genius to realize that someday there will be a Third World War” [10].

Meanwhile, the The Bloomberg News agency published a report suggestively entitled: “A Guide Pessimistic the World 2015” (“A Pessimist’s Guide to the World in 2015”), which provides a list of the worst scenarios that could be realized in different regions of the world in 2015. Obviously, in geopolitics the things are becoming less and less predictable, especially after insidious year 2014. Some scenarios are realizable, some not, but what matters is change of optics and attitude related to global trends. From now on, the world is seen again in dark colors. West again began to live in fear of a war, and social riots and ethno-racial conflicts not cease in some African and Asian countries. On the threshold when it seemed that world became more peaceful, it has gone crazy again [11].

In light of these considerations about the insecurity of national and international peaceful coexistence, even before the armed conflicts in 2014, Steven Pinker had to answer to the following hint question: “Have you heard the one about the turkey who, on the eve of Thanksgiving, remarked on the extraordinary 364-day era of peace between farmers and turkeys he is lucky enough to be living in?”. The sarcasm of this question is obvious once we already understand that the “peace” ended the next day and the turkey was sacrificed. Pinker was also reminded of the British journalist and politician Normal Angell, who said, in 1909, that the age of wars was over and that they are part of the historical museum, because they are not economically convenient; it wasn’t more than five years later since these uninspired “forecasts” that the First World War started.

In an article he dedicated to answering the criticism he received, Pinker made the following parenthesis: “As for myself, I’m not predicting that large wars will never happen in the future, only that they haven’t taken place in the recent past – a phenomenon which needs to be explained. (…) As to whether violence might increase in the future: of course it might. My argument is not that an increase in violence in the future is impossible; it’s that a decrease in violence has taken place in the past” [12]. Well, this is more revealing and conciliatory position.

In another article, published in 2013, Pinker comes with a couple of clarifications as regarding the human nature; he admits that people are equipped with a set of innate predispositions towards hatred, revenge, dominance and violence, predispositions that can’t be expunged from our genetics over the course of several peaceful generations. But besides the predisposition towards violence, humans also retain native inclinations towards empathy, altruism, cooperation and affection; we also have enough reason that would allow us to analyze the causes and consequences of our actions. The manifestation of some or other predispositions is, in a considerable extend, facultative, meaning that it depends on the living conditions of individuals. In an environment of exploitation, dominance, revenge and imbued with a fundamentalist ideology, people will behave themselves violently; in a protected, stable and secure environment, people won’t have reasons or contexts that would encourage them to be aggressive [Pinker, 2013, p. 401].

Now, as Pinker emphasizes, if our native reactions are sensitive to circumstances, it is important for us to be careful as to create and maintain social conditions that lead to the manifestation of empathy and cooperation and to avoid the conditions that would lead to a violent behavior. Pinker uses the following analogy: we are born with an innate fear for snakes, but this fear could never manifest itself, if we would never see a snake [ibid., 403]. This is pretty much how the stimuli that cause aggressiveness work: there will be fewer acts of aggressions without them. And the elements that could help us shape a stable, non-conflictive and peaceful lifestyle is reason, the power of thought, which will ultimately find ways of eradicating violence from human society and the wars between them [ibid., 404-405].

Due to all these rigorous specifications, Pinker’s theses and aspirations appear more logical and pertinent. Thanks to our reason, we could indeed build everlasting and prosperous societies. We could ensure the peaceful behavior of a huge number of individuals on an immense territory for a long period of time. However, our biggest problem is that we cannot procure peacefulness for all individuals, for all societies and, more important, we cannot control the evolution of living conditions on the entire globe. Therefore, it is enough for a society to have a critical mass of extremely aggressive people, it is enough for a single warlike, extremely charismatic leader to appear, it is enough for one of the neighboring countries to behave militaristically and, eventually, it is enough for the weather conditions to change unexpectedly for the whole pacifist construction that we have raised rationally and carefully over the decades to melt away as a sand castle. In our human nature, anger is stronger than empathy, and even today the world, globally, is more bitter than sweet.

Despite these obvious risks and evidences, Pinker, as we see, is forced to maintain its position once assumed. In a more recent article in ”The Slate Magazine”, Steven Pinker with some sarcasm says that we should not draw too much attention to the titles of news about violence and wars around the globe: ”News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a reporter saying to the camera, “Here we are, live from a country where a war has not broken out” – or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up. As long as violence has not vanished from the world, there will always be enough incidents to fill the evening news”. Pinker, again, comes with a suite of statistics that show the decline of violence and the fact that the world ”is not falling apart” [13].

Of course the world will not fall apart. Such thing never has happened to it. Even in the darkest times. But violence, in all its peculiarities, and even magnitude, however, has not disappeared; nor is clear how it can disappear. The preconditions and trends for violence in the world speak louder and more convincing than temporary statistics. It’s better for us to be concerned about turbulent present and future, than bathed in illusions. Long time passed since the world was on the threshold of such serious climate challenges and economic and geopolitical earthquakes as now. We are a still furious and aggressive species and, unfortunately, these features could repeatedly beaten the ”angels” of our nature.

In February 2015, the famous british physicist Stephen Hawking was asked which human shortcoming he would most like to change, and which trait he’d enhance. “The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression”, answered Hawking and added: “It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or a partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all.” We need to replace aggression with empathy, which “brings us together in a peaceful loving state” he said.

In main, his dream is that ”the long-term future of the human race must be space and that it represents an important life insurance for our future survival, as it could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonizing other planets” [14]. Beautiful vision, indeed, but to which should be added, however, that people will not let aggression on Earth, they will take aggression with them into space…

© Dorian Furtună, ethologist

Photo: Fallen Angel (Angel Caido) / Flickr /

1. Steven Pinker: Humans are less violent than ever // by Ferris Jabr. New Scientist. 21 October 2011 /
2. Violence Against Women Is on the Decline—but We Can Still Do More // by Chris Uggen. Pacific Standard. June 04, 2014.
3. Peace In Our Time. Steven Pinker’s history of violence // by Elizabeth Kolbert. The New Yorker. October 3, 2011 /
4. 30% of Americans arrested by age 23, study finds // The Seattle Times. December 19, 2011 /
5. Is War Really In Decline? Wait 150 years after the last major war to know for sure. Interview with Bear Braumoeller // By Kelsey D. Atherton. Popular Science. 09.05.2013 /
6. The “Long Peace” is a Statistical Illusion // by Nassim Nicholas Taleb /
7. Once and Future Warfare // By Ian Morris. The American Scholar. Winter 2014 /
8. Is it 1914 all over again? We are in danger of repeating the mistakes that started WWI, says a leading historian // by Ian Johnston. The Independent. 05 January 2014 /
9. Yes, It Could Happen Again. Instability in Ukraine, chaos in Syria, conflict in the East China Sea—the trigger points for World War III are in place // by Roger Cohen. The Atlantic. Jul 29, 2014 /
10. Factorii care ar putea declanşa un Al Treilea Război Mondial în 2014 // de Viorica Marin. 2 august 2014 /
11. A Pessimist’s Guide to the World in 2015 //
12. Frequently Asked Questions about The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined //
13. The World Is Not Falling Apart. Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in such peaceful times // by Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack. Slate. Dec. 22 2014 /
14. Stephen Hawking Warns That Aggression Could ‘Destroy Us All’ // by Ed Mazza. The Huffington Post. 02/23/2015 /

• Braumoeller B.F. Is War Disappearing? // APSA Chicago 2013 Meeting. August 27, 2013. 28 p. /
• Brecke P. Violent Conflicts 1400 A.D. to the Present in Different Regions of the World // Paper prepared for the 1999 Meeting of the Peace Science Society (International) on October 8-10, 1999 in Ann Arbor, Michigan /
• Fromm E. Anatomia distructivităţii umane. Editura Politică, Bucureşti, 1983 / trad. din Erich Fromm, “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”. New York : Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1973.
• Gray J. Delusions of peace // Prospect. Issue 187. 21st September 2011 /
• Hegre H., Karlsen J., Nygård H.M., Strand H., Urdal H. Predicting Armed Conflict, 2010–2050 // International Studies Quarterly. Vol. 57, Issue 2. June 2013. P. 250-270.
• Hegre H., Nygård H.M. Peace on Earth? The Future of Internal Armed Conflict // International Peace Research Institute, Oslo. Conflict Trends. 01. 2014. 4 p.
• Kim H.K., Laurent H.K., Capaldi D.M., Feingold A. Men’s Aggression Toward Women. A 10-Year Panel Study // J. Marriage Fam. Vol. 70(5). Dec 2008. P. 1169-1187.
• Klingenstein S., Hitchcock T., DeDeo S. The civilizing process in London’s Old Bailey // PNAS. June 16, 2014. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1405984111
• Levy J.S., Thompson W.R. The Decline of War? Multiple Trajectories and Diverging Trends // International Studies Review. Vol. 15 (3). 2013. P. 411-416.
• Pinker S. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Viking Adult. 2011. 832 p.
• Pinker S. The Decline of War and Conceptions of Human Nature // International Studies Review. Vol. 15. 2013. P. 400-405.
• Thayer B.A. Humans, not angels: reasons to doubt the decline of war thesis // International Studies Review. Vol. 15 (3). 2013. P. 405-411.