Sydney - Tuesday 9 May, 2017. Turn on the news and you could be forgiven for thinking we are living through one of the most violent periods of human history. Bestselling cognitive scientist Dr Steven Pinker has spent the better part of the last decade arguing that the reverse is true.
In 2011 Dr Pinker published his landmark historical account, The Better Angels of Our Nature. Combing through data from pre-history to the beginning of the 21st century, his magisterial 800-page analysis identified a decline in conflict and violence over time. In fact we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence, according to the experimental psychologist and Harvard University Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology.
Better Angels argued that the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism have helped steer human beings away from the ‘inner demons’ that incline them toward violence; leading to increasingly controlled baser impulses, encouraging empathy with others, bargaining rather than plundering, and debunking toxic ideologies.
Does that theory hold in 2017? And if so, why do so many people think that the world is more dangerous than ever?
Acting Director of Performing Arts (SOHP) at the Sydney Opera House, Alison Nadebaum, says: “Steven Pinker’s work ranges from evolutionary psychology to the history of violence. He is one of the world’s great communicators on these complex and fascinating issues as he showed us at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in 2014. We look forward to welcoming him back to the Sydney Opera House.”
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Professor Ian Jacobs, described Steven Pinker as one of the world’s most influential thinkers: “His theories on language and evolutionary psychology have had a big impact on the way we look at our social interactions, the nature of memory, of language and of violence. At a time when the role of science in society is being hotly debated, and scientific inquiry itself is under scrutiny, Steven’s talk is timely and his views are sure to be both riveting and provocative. I am delighted that UNSW is partnering with the Sydney Opera House on this event.”
The Decline of Violence: Why the world isn’t falling apart will be chaired by Natasha Mitchell.
This event is presented in partnership with the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia's global university. UNSW is championing the critical role of universities in leading open and informed debates, to help shape policy and research which will meet the challenges of the 21st Century.