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Decrease of Violence

Date: 10-25-11
Host: George Noory
Guests: Steven Pinker, Peter Davenport

One of the world’s foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature, Prof. Steven Pinker, shared his thesis, that contrary to media impressions, the world we live in today is much less violent than it's been in the past. Violence, while certainly not eliminated, has radically decreased over the years and centuries, at different scales-- "everything from war and genocide, to the way we bring up our kids and the way we treat our animals," he said. One of the factors in decreasing violence is government-- a well functioning police and judicial system punishes aggression, and acts as a deterrent to violent crime, he noted. While stories like school shootings and workers going "postal" garner a lot of news, the overall statistics show a big drop in homicides, he continued.

Interestingly, Pinker has not found an association with video games and violence, as the popularity of gaming over the last 15-20 years has corresponded to a time when the rate of violent crime has gone way down. Earlier time periods, such as the Middles Ages were far more violent than today's society, he said, citing that an Englishman in the 1300s had a 35 times greater chance of getting murdered than an Englishman today. Prior to the 18th century, methods of punishment were particularly brutal and sadistic-- "there were hundreds of ingenious ways in which people would torture each other to death," he stated.

Looking at violence in terms of human nature, Pinker cited dueling impulses of the mind, in which a person's aggression is typically tempered by their sense of morality, empathy or rationality. When people do become violent, he cited three different reasons why:

  • pure tactical violence-- where the attacker has a specific goal, such as getting rid of a romantic rival.
  • drive for dominance-- fighting off other people to prove one's power in the pecking order.
  • revenge-- in which the attacker feels perfectly justified in committing violence because of slights or insults, sometimes over very trivial things.

Alien Footage & UFO Update

First hour guest, Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Ctr. commented on purported alien footage recorded in a region of the Amazon rainforest. The 43 second clip shows an object in the background which resembles a 'grey' alien that appears to move, yet the children in the foreground don't seem to be paying any attention to it, he noted. Further analysis of the footage is posted here. Davenport also spoke about his own recent UFO sighting in Harrington, WA, in which he saw a bizarre purplish light streak across the sky.

News segment guest: Mitch Battros

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