The Better Angels of Our Nature – Part 7

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The following is the last part of our critical review of Steven Pinker’s theory of a historical decline in violence, in which we further address his claim of a decline in violence towards nonhuman animals, and the ways in which he struggles to “massage” reality to fit his grand theory.
Violence towards nonhuman animals was of course in the center of all of our reviews, however in the former post and in this one, we specifically address his specific relation to the issue. Continue reading

The Better Angels of Our Nature – Part 6

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Unfortunately but unsurprisingly Pinker dedicates only a tiny part of his extensive book about violence to nonhuman animals. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, he decided to call this chapter Animal Rights and the Decline of Cruelty to Animals, that is despite that the book’s claim is for a decline in violence. Pinker knows there is no decline in violence towards animals, so he changed the term to a more conceivable one. Still wrong, but more defensible. Continue reading

The Better Angels of Our Nature – Part 4

The Better Angels of Our Nature - Part 4

In the former posts regarding the former chapters of The Better Angels of Our Nature we tried to show how wrong Pinker’s main argument is regarding the decline of violence mainly since in some cases his data is partial and since the most important figures are totally absent.

However, with the 8th chapter of the book called Inner Demons, where Pinker broadly details how naturally violent humans are, unfortunately we largely agree. We find it important, so we bring extracts from this chapter here, along with our remarks. Continue reading

The Better Angels of Our Nature – part 3

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The following is the third part of our critical review from an animalistic perspective of Steven Pinker’s theory of an historical decline in violence.

The strongest blow that the enlightenment ideas received, regards to their significant role in the horrors of the first half of the 20th century. As a great henchman, Pinker is particularly eager to prove that the enlightenment project didn’t fail despite the 20th century. Therefore he devoted a substantial part of his book to claim that the 20th century doesn’t stand out of the historical decline of violence he argues for.

As mentioned in the first part of this book review, most of Pinker’s critics focused on the 20th century, mentioning colonialism, post colonialism, western imperialism, the not so cold war, the arms race and etc. So we prefer to focus on different areas. If you are interested, we highly recommend the following critiques:
Steven Pinker on the alleged decline of violence by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
Or their long version: Reality Denial: Steven Pinker’s Apologetics for Western-Imperial Violence by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
Peace in Our Time by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Precious Steven Pinker by David Bentley Hart

However we do want to address 3 issues regarding these parts of the book: The role of personal responsibility during the atrocities, his choice to work with relative numbers and not absolute numbers, and his general conclusion regarding violence regardless of his statistical approach.

Continue reading

The Better Angels of Our Nature – Part 2

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As part of our series about violence we made a critical review of Steven Pinker’s book – The Better Angels of Our Nature. For the previous post please click here.

Pinker argues that violence is biologically intrinsic, evolutionarily logical and historically habitual, so what according to him made it decline?
Pinker has a few explanations along the book. The first one is the old thesis of the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who also recognized that humans are naturally violent. Therefore the only way to avoid the natural state, which is according to Hobbes war of all against all, is by establishing an absolute sovereignty political figure he called the Leviathan. Continue reading

The Better Angels of Our Nature – Part 1

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As opposed to the former thinkers in this series about violence, the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker doesn’t think humans are naturally peaceful and non-violent. Along his extensive book about violence The Better Angels of Our Nature he thoroughly specifies how violent humans are and how violent humans can be. With numerous statistical evidences, examples and explanations, from the murder rates of non-state societies, through ancient wars, to the earliest known writings which are still canonical cultural elements such as Greek mythology and the Bible (substantially fictional as they are, both probably reflect human life and the values of that era, at least to some extent), corporal punishments, heretics torture, modern wars and up to psycho-evolutionist analysis of violence and brain parts and function specification, Pinker doesn’t really leave room for doubt that humans are naturally violent.

However, another difference between him and the former mentioned thinkers, is that he persistently argues that despite humans’ natural tendency to violence, despite its abundance through history and despite public image (Pinker blames the modern media for that false perception) violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era of our species’ existence.

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Will War Ever End – Another View about Human Aggression

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In the former posts of this series about violence we addressed The Seville Statement on Violence and the book The Nature of Human Aggression by the anthropologist Ashley Montagu who bases many of his claims on hunter-gatherers’ allegedly non-violent lifestyle.
Our last representative of the thinkers who argue that humans are not naturally violent is Paul Chappell, a captain in the U.S. army who writes and lectures about violence, war and peace.
The following post mainly regards his book Will War Ever End? as well as some of the claims he often argues in his lectures and articles.

Like the former thinkers, he argues that humans are not naturally violent without even mentioning (not to mention considering), humans’ daily and worst expression of violence.
And like the former thinkers he also argues about violence and human nature but refers only to wars as if they are the only expression of violence, and despite that they are not even the worst expression of violence.

Continue reading

The Non-Violence Myth of Pre-State Societies

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Intraspecies Violence

One of Montagu’s theory’s main foundations is hunter-gatherer societies which he writes about:
these people live, more or less clearly approximately the way our ancestors lived during a great part of human evolutionary history, and they afford us some insight into the basic questions of human nature and human culture.

If we are indeed innately violent, if we are really creatures driven by genes to murder our own kind, if we are indeed incapable of controlling the hostile forces within ourselves, we should see these characteristics demonstrated here in these people… and they are peaceful. And friendly. And cooperative. They share their food and their belonging with each other and with strangers. Their relationships with each other are close and loving. They care.”

Like many Rousseauistic romantic anthropologists, his observations of hunter-gatherers societies are extremely biased. Since similar false perceptions are sometimes heard by some animal activists, we find it important to examine these societies from a more critical viewpoint. Continue reading

The Nature of Human Aggression – A Critical Book Review

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Many Rousseauistic thinkers, such as the ones that signed the Seville Statement on Violence, which we covered in the opening post of this series regarding violence, base their arguments that humans are naturally nonviolent on the hunter-gatherers’ allegedly nonviolent life style. According to them this lifestyle was corrupted by civilization.

One of them is the eminent anthropologist Ashley Montagu, who wrote a very influential book called The Nature of Human Aggression, which in a way is an expansion and explication of the Seville Statement‘s main ideas. Montagu argues that humans are not naturally violent but are peaceful cooperative beings in a violent world dominated by an aggressive culture, and he focuses on pre-state societies (mainly hunter-gatherers) to prove that.
Since similar arguments can be heard from time to time by many environmentalists and more importantly by many animal rights activists, we find it important to address the issue specifically and expansively, through one of the most Rousseauistic modern thinkers.
Continue reading

The Seville Statement on Violence

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Last year we marked October the 2nd – the international day of nonviolence, with a series of posts about non-violence.
In the first post we argue that the allegedly historical success of non-violent struggles is a myth and a non-relevant approach when it comes to the animals’ struggle.
In the second post we argue that the allegedly non-violent approach is principally, philosophically and ideologically a violent and speciesist approach.
In the third post we argue that non-violence is even theoretically impossible, since practically there is no way to avoid violence in this world.
If you haven’t read these posts please do.

This year we ask to mark October the 2nd with a series of posts about violence.
Obviously violence is a too extensive issue to seriously cover in several posts, so our focus in this series is primarily addressing the main corner stones in the modern discussion regarding violence. A good place to start is the “scientific” statement that humans are not naturally violent. Continue reading

BACON

When arguments which are so simple and right, utterly based on solid facts and evidences, ones that nobody can confront rationally, are so easily waved off with a violent, ignorant, one word response…

 

The End of Speciesism

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Yesterday the second World Day for the End of Speciesism was held, with marches that took place in several locations in the world calling to end speciesism.

Unfortunately what seemed on the face of it as a more radical version of advocacy (especially in light of the rise of consumer oriented approaches, and the notorious reductionism trend) was found to be not much more than more of the same.
As usual, activists are asking humans to stop consuming animal derived products, and “urge parliaments and the courts to create and enforce a new legal status for animals that stops them from being considered as property and recognising them as sentient beings whose interests must be protected by the law”.
As we broadly explained in the posts Non-Violence Approach and Reclaiming the Power We Should Have Never Given to Humans, the mere position of asking the abusers to stop abusing is in itself speciesist. It’s perpetuating the speciesist reality in which one species makes all the calls for all the other species, especially when the case is of systemically exploiting them. The self-evident frame of thought is that it is humans’ decision how to treat the rest of the species. And when humans leave the conversation about their abuse and choose to keep abusing, as most humans do, that’s what will happen. Merely asking them to stop abusing is letting them continue to torture.
Continue reading

One Small Step for Mankind, One Giant Leap for Its Self-Image

One Small Step for Mankind

Ever since the image of the first man landing on the moon was taken, 47 years ago today, it is widely considered as the most iconic image of the human race.

The moon landing legacy that humans wish to maintain is of an astonishing scientific, technological and organizational achievement, an inspiring demonstration of mankind’s ability to leave its origin planet, travel to another body in the solar system and return safely.
What they consistently tend to omit are the motives behind the expedition, at what cost the achievement was gained, and mostly what could be achieved alternatively. Continue reading

Acoustical Violence

Acoustical Violence

Today is Fourth of July, the day millions of animals are attacked by Americans who commemorate the independence of their country. Millions of them in the form of the notorious and most blunt violence attack – the barbeque (which all of you already know very well), and millions of others by acoustical violence in the form of dozens of thousands of deafening explosions in the sky.
The use of fireworks is of course worldwide and year round, but with more than 100 million humans attending more than 14,000 fireworks displays in a single day, The Fourth of July is the symbolical day of this acoustical torture. Continue reading

Beneath Rock-Bottom

Usually “solutions” offered by humans end up hurting more animals or hurting animals more severely, and in many cases both. One of these cases is fish farming.
In the last post we discussed how as a consequence of the reduction in marine animals capture from the oceans in the last few decades, humans hurt marine animals even more severely by intensively farming billions of them. A lifetime of dense confinement in waste filled water, exposure to diseases and other bodily harms due to genetic manipulation are forced upon the fish as a direct result of the decision to switch to farming. The other, less known result is widening the scope of abuse even further. As a consequence of farming fish, many of which are of carnivorous species, even more fish are captured from the oceans, to feed the fish confined in the farms.

It is estimated that every year between 450 billion and one trillion fish are purposely caught specifically to be grind up into fishmeal and fish oil, which are mostly used as food for other animals humans rear for food, mainly farmed fish.

Virtually any fish or shellfish in the sea can be grind up into fishmeal and fish oil, but they are usually produced from small marine fish that are considered not suitable for direct human consumption.

These sentient beings, hundreds of billions of them, are even more invisible than the hundreds of billions of sentient beings that humans directly consume.

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Continue reading

Anthropocentric Slogan and An Empty Hope

Anthropocentric Slogan and An Empty Hope

Today is world oceans day. Most of the exploited beings on earth are fish, what makes the oceans the greatest exploitation arenas on earth. However, even in the animal liberation movement the center of attention is not on the fish’s suffering rather on the fact that consequent of the fish’s exploitation the oceans are hurt. In other words, directing attention to all the suffering individuals is shoved aside in favor of the argument that humans must stop eating fish since “the oceans are getting empty”.

The use of egocentric and anthropocentric arguments in veganism advocacy is notoriously popular in the animal liberation movement (an issue that should and is broadly discussed separately). In the case of advocacy for fish, it is not by chance that egocentric and anthropocentric reasons (an ecological one in this case) are at the front stage. Continue reading

Z to the Power of a Trillion

z_to_the_power_of_a_trillionIn the post about the last and extremely depressing chapter of Peter Singer’s last and extremely depressing book, we’ve addressed a scenario comparison made by the philosopher Derek Parfit (quoted by Singer) regarding the moral obligations for future generations.
In this post we want to address Parfit’s most famous contribution to the field of population ethics which is a paradox in moral philosophy called The Repugnant Conclusion.

The paradox is presented in a book called Reasons and Persons written about 30 years ago, and is considered since then as an iconic work in the field of analytic philosophy.
Basically the paradox is the following – according to utilitarian thought, we ought to choose a world in which billions upon billions of people are living lives barely worth living over a world in which much less people are living extremely happy lives, if the sum of the happiness in the extremely populated world is greater than the sum of the happiness in the extremely happy world. Continue reading

The Paris Exception

The Paris Exception

Last Friday the Paris agreement on climate change was officially signed in a ceremonial event at the UN headquarters in New York, after being formulated and agreed upon on December 2015.
Expectedly, the triumphant language declaring a historic moment blatantly overlooked various major flaws in it. The Paris convention is far less exceptional, and more of another dot in the same line of failures in the way humanity confronts its greatest challenge ever.

Getting into its details reveals the extent of the oversights, compromises and distortions to the point of data deceptions and modeling manipulations that were required to finally achieve an agreement, after decades of failures to reach one.

International conventions about climate change have been held for 25 years, and up until now the world has failed to finalize them with an agreement. During this period of failures, the emissions of CO2 are estimated to have risen by 60%.

With that legacy of failures in mind, and especially with the disappointment of Copenhagen, the ultimate goal in Paris was to reach an agreement which all of the world’s nation can sign. The signing itself became more significant than the content singed upon, as we’ll explain along this post.

However, in spite of all our arguments (further in the text), we do believe that this development should be taken as a wakeup call for activists who count on the human race destructiveness to finally turn against itself. Continue reading