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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Throwing Cold Water

on Enlightenment buffoonery is John Gray's job.

7 comments:

  1. Professor Callahan.

    I think John Gray ultimately can not deny Steven Pinker's main thesis.

    In the Battle of Towton, 75,000 Englishman died in a single day, 1/10th of the entire fighting force of that medieval civil war.

    75,000? That's nearly 19 times as many American dead in Iraq over a decade. And although total soldier and civilian deaths in Iraq War are greater than Battle of Towton, they are all spread over a decade, while Battle of Towton was a single day.

    Similarly, how many died in the Battle of Sevastapol of the Crimean War? Nearly 230,000. On the other hand, when a second longer siege happened in Sevastapol in World War 2, the dead were less than quarter that number in an entire year.

    Americans claim Iraq is one of their longest conflicts if not the longest, and yet American skirmishes and fights with native American insurgency lasted decades!

    Wars are less bloodier than they once used to be.

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  2. Between Aug. 6 and Aug 9, 1945, the US killed roughly a quarter of a million Japanese *civilians*. The American people generally speaking regarded the Japanese as non-humans, a sort of monkey.

    Violence comes and goes. What is silly is Pinker's idea that human nature itself is less prone to violence.

    Just watch what happens if a nuclear device is detonated in an American city. You'll see Pinker's entire statistical case obliterated in about a week of slaughter when the response comes.

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  3. Battle of Stalingrad: roughly 2 million dead.

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  4. "Similarly, how many died in the Battle of Sevastapol of the Crimean War? Nearly 230,000. On the other hand, when a second longer siege happened in Sevastapol in World War 2, the dead were less than quarter that number in an entire year."

    Talk about being selective, Patreek.

    Sevastopol was the main strategic goal of the allied powers involved in the Crimean War. While I wouldn't claim it lacked any importance in the Second World War it was not one of the main strategic objectives for either army.

    A better area for comparison would be the major battles fought along the eastern front during World War II; how many people died in the Battles of Kursk, Moscow, Stalingrad, Operation Bagration, Siege of Leningrad, etc. (taken individually of course)?

    I would particularly highlight the Siege of Leningrad given the length of the Siege that you chose to cite. Admittedly it was a longer and more drawn out effort, but in spite of this it would still point you towards a different conclusion.

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  5. Wow, truth is definitely stranger than fiction. I recently was talking about the fact that I am reading a Pinker book on another blog (it's ok). Further, I just watched his speech on this very topic this morning!

    While I think that he is good with making linguistics more understandable for the masses, I think that he should refrain from straying from his core knowledge (i.e. linguistics).

    There are simply too many variables to make the case that he is making. For one, we have not discovered every society, clan, tribe, etc, so he's lacking complete data. Further, the data derived from the sites that we have found are incomplete. Then you're confronted with problems of the dispersion of the population, as well as the population itself. Then, there is technological advancements-- in the old days it was the goal to kill more, today it is more tactical-- precision strikes (sic).

    Basically, I find it hard to believe that he has all of the data needed to make such claims, even if they are in fact true. The data isn't complete.

    Gene, I agree. Fire off a few nukes and that'll fix his wagon. Obviously, I say this in jest; but, it is true.

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  6. If I begin to concede that human nature has not become less prone to violence, then I feel it is still worthwhile to point out that it has ***not become more prone*** to it.

    Many overpopulationists have feared that our crowding together on this small planet, and the crowding together of once geographically disparate tribes or ethnic groups is going to be a recipe for disaster and major violence.

    But no, we have somehow managed to live together with far less friction than expected, in our increased numbers. The region of modern Israel was once scantily populated, allowing anyone to have enough land to not bother with the rest. But as Jewish and Muslim populations have multiplied in the region and as land disputes rise, has a large-scale massacre that drops one another's numbers happened? No! Both their populations continue to bloom, with only outbreaks of low-intensity violence that are quickly over.

    The Pontics once slaughtered 400,000 Romans upon occupying Anatolia (just because), while the Israelis live with some reluctant acceptance of Palestinians with high birth rates.

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  7. "If I begin to concede that human nature has not become less prone to violence, then I feel it is still worthwhile to point out that it has ***not become more prone*** to it."

    Granted.

    "The Pontics once slaughtered 400,000 Romans upon occupying Anatolia (just because)"

    The Aisiastic Vespers? I've seen a number of about 80,000, but also, it was that the Romans were seen as hated oppressors.

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