I have a lot of respect for Pinker. He is one of the world's greatest modern thinkers and even in this book you can see how he pushes for answers to difficult questions. While I don't agree with all of his theories, I do admire his capacity to contemplate, and I appreciate his perspective.
However, this book was too much. He goes overboard trying to convince us how bad humans were a hundred to a thousand years ago, by describing in MINUTE detail the torture that people practiced on each other. He states that because this behavior is less prevalent and not as accepted as a common practice that we are making improvements.
If that is the only yard stick, then we have improved. (That's a short yard stick to measure such an important quality.)
Humans still have a very long way to go and just because delighting in torture is not politically correct (in most modern societies) does not mean we are necessarily "better."
The 36+ hours of detailed human cruelties (repeated over and over and over) was just too much for me.
Last gripe is that he would make a statement and then say, "We'll talk more about that in chapter X." He did that repeatedly, and I wished he would have just described it right then. If it was relevant to the topic, he should talk about it. This makes for A LOT of repetition -- he repeats the same concepts over and over.
This book shows just how far we have come. In general we are far better off than in "the good old days" that so many long to return to. It also shows why we have good reason to be optimistic. All this is done by presenting the facts in easily understood language. The occasional in depth scientific explanation is worth enduring to better understand the arguments.
The performance by Arthur Morey was excellent.
Good Question-it is long but after it was over I was convinced.
I enjoyed all the war and historical information.. I received a lot of important information that I may have learned many years ago. The perspective he presented it in was informative.
I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a Master's Degree in Professional Writing from Maharishi University of Management, am author of THE RELUCTANT VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK, and am an avid reader/listener.
Warning: the first section of this book is so gory that it will probably leave you with a lingering horror. The value of wading through it is that it graphically, immediately, assures you all the way to your gut that life is better now. This is, in fact, one reason for reading this book, because it "proves" that violence is indeed decreasing.
In quality, this is one of the most well-researched books I've ever read, and I loved it at times for the fact that it brought up issues from angles I had not considered. I gave it four stars however only because I believe it is not a book for all readers. As much as I love research, it is at times too dense to hold the attention. But I certainly admire the writer for what to me seemed like brilliant writing for a non-fiction book.
Steven Pinker deeply understands his subject matter and is brilliant in conveying it. Fascinating to realize that the world is becoming a less and less violent place - just the opposite of what is shown on tv news..
In his effort to be thorough and completely examine and explain his subject, Pinker is, at times, overly long, and that contributes to the overall length book. Never tedious, Pinker is exactingly and exhaustively thorough.
The book provides a historical context to balance headline news accounts that too often emphasize the negative and the sensational. I would like to think that humans might be becoming at least generally less lethal to one another and the book provides reasons to think so. I purchased hard copies for family members who I thought would enjoy the arguments for progress that the author presents.
Arthur Morey is likely a fine narrator, but I played the audio book at high speed because of the length of the book.
The best sellers page on this site makes me very sad.
I simply cannot recommend this book enough. Objective, intelligent, scientific, and human. With a cool and steady narrative hand, Pinker accomplishes what Dawkins, whose fire is often his flaw, cannot. Necessary reading for all humans.
Change your perceptions.
Pinker wove a powerful history together that shatters the perception that violence is increasing. He also carefully explores what factors lead to violence giving an optimistic view of what has and still can be accomplished to achieve peace. Although you have to commit to a book like this it will be rewarded. There are few new ideas out there and most books tend to add a little new research and reuse and repackage what we have already heard. This book is a bold, fresh, well written and read masterpiece that will not only present a new way of looking at the world, but will make it your new way of looking at the world.
The topic is quite interesting and this is a good book for someone who is a scholar of this subject. There are lots of statistics and research cited. I found it interesting to know that people track these stats. However, it was way more depth than I wanted to know. I would have appreciated an abridged version. I got the info I wanted to know from the preface and summary chapter at the end. I skipped through the book to listen to segments I had a special interest in. Turns out I knew more about this subject than I thought I did before I listened to this book.
Much of the information of this book is readily available via other sources. People who seriously study historical trends will probably not be shocked by Pinker's conclusions. That being said he has done a great job in gathering the information together in a single volume and presented it in original and dramatic style.
Our view of the world is based on the information we are given. If we are told, over and over again, that we live in a violent and terrible world, then we tend to believe it at face value. But to try and objectively determine how violent our world is, as shown in this book, is a big problem, but not an impossible one.
The decline of violence is one of the long historical trends in the history of man. But since humans live such pitifully short lives they are condemned not to see it or fully appreciate it.