Monday, October 3, 2011

Good News!

Most of my sources seem to be bringing me a steady stream of news that makes me more pessimistic about humanity. So it is nice to stumble across someone who has something good to say about mankind.

Modern homicide rates in Europe—one of the few regions where records are trustworthy enough to permit such comparisons--are 10 to 50 times lower than in the Middle Ages. Murder rates fell by two orders of magnitude in the northeast United States between 1625 and 1900. The past few centuries have also seen precipitous drops in state-sanctioned violence. That includes corporal punishment (from cutting off the hands of thieves to whipping students) and capital punishment, especially combined with torture (drawing and quartering, burning at the stake). Slavery and despotism (which allows tyrants to kill and torture on a whim) prevail only on the margins; 800 years ago they were the rule. As for war, Pinker presents evidence that it killed on average about 20 percent of the population of pre-state societies in the Old and New Worlds, a casualty rate higher than that of the most war-torn modern states.
It seems for all of our problems, we are at least killing one another at much decreased rate. Way to go humanity.

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