Monthly Archives: March 2015

John Gray: Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and war | Books | The Guardian

NNT Tweeted:

Every morning upon waking up I have been thanking Baal the greatmaster BS-buster John Gray exists. Our last hope

From the Guardian article:

The radically contingent nature of the figures is another reason for not taking them too seriously. (For a critique of Pinker’s statistical methods, see Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s essay on the Long Peace.) If the socialist revolutionary Fanya Kaplan had succeeded in assassinating Lenin in August 1918, violence would still have raged on in Russia. But the Soviet state might not have survived and could not have been used by Stalin for slaughter on a huge scale. If a resolute war leader had not unexpectedly come to power in Britain in May 1940, and the country had been defeated or (worse) made peace with Germany as much of the British elite wanted at the time, Europe would likely have remained under Nazi rule for generations to come – time in which plans of racial purification and genocide could have been more fully implemented. Discussing the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 in which nuclear war was narrowly averted, Pinker dismisses the view that “the de-escalation was purely a stroke of uncanny good luck”. Instead, he explains the fact that nuclear war was avoided by reference to the superior judgment of Kennedy and Khrushchev, who had “an intuitive grasp of game theory” – an example of increasing rationality in history, Pinker believes. But a disastrous escalation in the crisis may in fact have been prevented only by a Soviet submariner, Vasili Arkhipov, who refused to obey orders from his captain to launch a nuclear torpedo. Had it not been for the accidental presence of a single courageous human being, a nuclear conflagration could have occurred causing fatalities on a vast scale.

via John Gray: Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and war | Books | The Guardian.