At Last, Some Good News. Why Are We So Skeptical?

I recently read an intriguing article entitled, “Bombings, beheadings? Stats show a peaceful world.” The article cited numerous data demonstrating that the world is becoming a more peaceful place. Statistics show dramatic reductions in war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder and more.

Some examples:

The number of people killed in battle has dropped by 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved.The average annual battle death toll has dropped from nearly 10,000/conflict in the 1950s to less than 1,000 in the 21st century. The number of deadliest wars—those killing at least 1,000 people/year­–has fallen by 78% since 1988.The rate of genocide deaths per world population was 1,400 times higher in 1942 than in 2008.Murder in European countries has steadily fallen from approximately 100/ 100,000 people in the 14th and 15th centuries to about 1/100,000.Since 1976, the U.S. rate of spousal murders has dropped appreciably.Rape in the US is down 80% since 1973.

These data are painstakingly compiled from peer-reviewed studies using examinations of graveyards, surveys and historical records.

In his recently published book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,”Steven Pinker asserts that one of the main reasons why violence is declining is that we are becoming more intelligent and valuing human life more than we once did.  He elaborates more extensively on this thesis in his book. He states, “The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species.”

So…if this is true, why do we feel so unsafe so much of the time?

That’s the question that has my attention. Why are there gated communities, home security systems, extensive airport security measures, elaborate passwords for every website one subscribes to?  Why does every large office building have metal detectors and security guards in the lobby? Why do so many of us feel physiologically on high alert so much of the time?

Let’s start with this simple reinforcing loop:

What are some of the actions and results of the belief that “the world is a dangerous place”?

Then if we consider the belief that is proposed by these studies cited above, “the world is becoming a more peaceful place” what actions and results might follow?

I’m reminded of the statement that love cannot coexist with fear. Adopting the belief that the world is becoming a more peaceful place requires a leap of faith. Am I prepared to take that leap and back it up with action? Are you?



“The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined", Steven Pinker

“Winning the War on War”, Joshua Goldstein

“The Human Security Report 2009/2010”, Andrew Mack