Sunday School December 13th 2020
December 16, 2020 at 10:04 pm #35474
Simon, the humanistic caring of an open society in western countries is not a natural progression of human morality but a blimp in the history of human civilisation. It is not born out of inherent human kindness but a set of ideas born in the enlightenment, a reaction to religion and dogmatic morality and an increasing centring of the human condition and rational thought in all things. It is fiercely resisted in many countries outside of the West and as you can see it has reversed course in countries such as Russia and in countries that seemed to be on the cusp of Westernisation but have regressed such as Brazil. There has been nothing like it before and it can easily disappear and probably will. It is NOT an inevitable part of human moral evolution because there is no such thing as human moral evolution. We are simply fortunate to live in a place where these ideas have lasted (and will last as long as they bring prosperity and those in power aren’t willing to take the serious risk and minimal reward of toppling it). Kind and compassionate societies come and go. Greater degrees of kindness show up and disappear. If you look at say, the development of civilisation from the time of Babylon to now there has been no clear progression but crazy radical shifts, all over the place with pockets of madness, experiments in less-cruel societies which quickly vanish and the reassertion of vicious religious dogmatic tyranny. Our humanistic society will last as long as leaders have little incentive to overthrow it.December 17, 2020 at 9:34 am #35481
there is no such thing as human moral evolution.
Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of our Nature, makes it his thesis that there has been a moral arc throughout history in the direction of more kindness and fairness and justice for all. Yes, there are hiccups along the way. Use of reason is one of the factors given.December 17, 2020 at 6:01 pm #35488
I am familiar with Pinker’s theory and I think it is rubbish. Human kindness, if plotted on a chart, is utterly ALL over the place and has absolutely NO linear progression. Come on Simon multiple genocides (including the holocaust), and reigns of terror happened in the last century. As the West has grown kinder in some quarters other parts of the world (the more extreme Islamic countries) have grown more vicious. Europe was far kinder 2500 years ago than it was during the Middle Ages. China was a far kinder place during various dynasties than it is now. A destiny towards human kindness is an illusion, about as sensible as the idea that humans are destined to emerge from evolution. It is not inevitable, nor is it that human societies are growing kinder. You need only look at a dozen countries that are quickly retreating in the opposite direction (quickly I might add). The only reason we are where we are is because it is politically and economically sustainable. Take away the incentive for those in power to maintain what we have and it would collapse. It is virtually inevitable. And human societies very quickly forget the “altruistic” and kind societies that preceded them (as though it never happened).December 17, 2020 at 6:37 pm #35490
I am familiar with Pinker’s theory and I think it is rubbish. Human kindness, if plotted on a chart, is utterly ALL over the place and has absolutely NO linear progression.
I agree. Back in the 13th and 14th centuries the Mongol hordes Swept across Asia and well into Europe, slaughtering entire villages and conducting a scorched earth policy as they progressed.
Fast forward to the 1930’s and 1940’s. Nazis sweep through Europe and Russia killing millions, and as their military fortunes waned, the gas chambers and ovens for reducing Jews to ash.
THAT is a hiccup?
And Hiroshima/Nagasaki?December 18, 2020 at 9:26 am #35518
I am familiar with Pinker’s theory and I think it is rubbish.
You may be familiar with his theory, but have you seen his evidence? His book is full of graphs like this:December 18, 2020 at 12:48 pm #35520
Simon the rate at which people murder one another is dependent on how stable and prosperous a country is, not on how kind they are. Qatar is a prosperous and highly safe society but it is not REMOTELY a kind one. The chart is also conveniently from the ending of the middle ages onward and does not include the several millennia of the development of western civilisation. I haven’t read his book but I have read other similar theories which were all bunk. If you SERIOUSLY think it is worth reading (that is if you read it with a highly sceptical and critical eye and are still convinced) then I will read it. I was going to reread Freedom Evolves but I can read Pinker instead.
December 18, 2020 at 2:29 pm #35522
- This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Davis.
I don’t mean that people are literally kinder or they have become kinder. I don’t think human nature has any reason to change much over the ages. But norms can change and become kinder and fairer.
You could read bits of Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature. I’ve only read bits of it, but because he links back to original sources, it’s reliable. Kate Manne accuses him of being “anti-feminist”, when in my opinion he just differs in his conception of what to do as a feminist. However, it’s a minor point.
It’s a really interesting book to dip into and reliable to look things up in. You could just look up what you need to, to answer your questions. That’s what I did. I don’t have to agree with all his conclusions to appreciate his data.
Pinker says that 10,000 years ago, the violence was equivalent to the peak of WW2.December 18, 2020 at 3:28 pm #35523
Everything I’ve read about pre-farming humanity has told me the absolute opposite about large scale violence. Humanities greatest threat was hunger, animals and the environment…not one another. I will either read the book or not, I don’t want to skim. Is it worth reading?
December 18, 2020 at 6:18 pm #35525
- This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Davis.
I wonder what is gonna happen when the heating of the atmosphere overwhelms the production of necessities for vast swaths of the human population? Will “kindness” flourish?December 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm #35531
Everything I’ve read about pre-farming humanity has told me the absolute opposite about large scale violence. Humanities greatest threat was hunger, animals and the environment…not one another.
I believe that warfare started when farming started, around 10,000 years ago.
The book is excellent and I would well recommend reading it.December 18, 2020 at 7:02 pm #35532
I wonder what is gonna happen when the heating of the atmosphere overwhelms the production of necessities for vast swaths of the human population? Will “kindness” flourish?
There may come a point where morality is not a stable strategy for humans, as tends not to be in other animals.December 18, 2020 at 7:05 pm #35533
Steven Pinker may be a fellow Secularist and have great ideals, but I have the Spidey-Sense tingling that he doesn’t get out much.
For one thing The FBI Uniform Crime Reports has it that as much as 2/3rds of all crimes are never reported! How can anybody measure something as nebulous as “kindness” and “moral arcs” when hard facts like this are illusive?
Also, some have concluded, like Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in the book Freakonomics that the crime statistics have gone down since the Nineties because those who would have been in the high-crime demographic of ages 14-40 were never born due to the invention of The Pill and the Supreme Court rulings of Griswold vs. Connecticut and Roe vs. Wade.
If the latter is the case, “kindness” didn’t have a thing to do with crime statistics.
Finally, the events of 2020 have changed everything and the end results are still happening as we speak. Must wait and see how many “better angels” have survived being plucked of feathers.December 19, 2020 at 12:34 pm #35549
Okay Simon I’ll give it a read over the holidays. I’ll let you know what I think when I’m done with it. You might consider reading the entire book as well so we can properly discuss it.December 19, 2020 at 12:34 pm #35550
Okay Simon I’ll give it a read over the holidays. I’ll let you know what I think when I’m done with it. You might consider reading the entire book as well so we can properly discuss it.December 19, 2020 at 1:49 pm #35552
I find his arguments rigorous and persuasive, and they fit in with other independent knowledge. He even goes so far as to say, he doesn’t have an ultimate reason for any moral progression towards more universal kindness and fairness that may exist historically. That’s what I call honesty.
I believe he’s angered the “woke” crowd a little bit, but I don’t know why. I think he takes objection to them.
I probably won’t be able to read the whole book any time soon, as I’m busy working on my own book. I have already read the sections Inner demons and Better angels and the sections on women’s rights. If there are parts you want to discuss, I can always look them up when the time comes.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.