Peace in Our Time
There's still another era to consider: the one we're living in right now. Certainly, there's no shortage of war around the world, not to mention famine, disease and economic struggle. However, some analysts believe that despite these shortcomings, the world as a whole is relatively more peaceful now than it ever has been before.
Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker believes that violence has declined sharply since the birth of the human race. When talking about violence, Pinker isn't just referring to war -- he also includes criminal punishment and murder rates, among other instances. Compared to our hunter-gatherer days, or the Middle Ages, our chances of dying by violent crime or as the result of war are miniscule [source: Zuckerman]. Pinker believes there are a few different reasons for this, all of which contribute to an overall more peaceful existence:
- Stable governments provide mediation and deterrent for violent conflict.
- Technological innovations enable us to establish symbiotic relationships with groups who might once have been our enemies.
- Advancements in health care have allowed us to place a greater value on life.
- Our awareness of the rest of the world -- greater now than ever before -- cultivates empathy and makes us more likely to help than hurt other populations.
Cooperative alliances between countries, such as the United Nations and the European Union, also represent an increase in trust and good faith. Sharing military responsibility for international conflicts, implementing a common currency and establishing international tribunals all point to a desire for stability and peace. Vaccines and other medical innovations have improved our quality of life, and education is available to more people than ever before.
Despite all the drawbacks of modern living, we really are living in the most peaceful time in recorded history. But remember, it's all relative. Even more peaceful days may be yet to come.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Encyclopædia Britannica Online. "Edward Gibbon." (Nov. 29, 2009).http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/233161/Edward-Gibbon
- Hosseini, Dustin. "The Effects of the Mongol Empire on Russia." The School of Russian and Asian Studies. Dec. 12, 2005. (Nov. 30, 2009).http://www.sras.org/the_effects_of_the_mongol_empire_on_russia
- Museo dell'Ara Pacis. "The Altar." (Nov. 28, 2009).http://en.arapacis.it/percorsi/altare
- New World Encyclopedia. "Mongol Empire." (Nov. 30, 2009).http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mongol_Empire
- United Nations of Roma Victrix. "Hispania." (Nov. 30, 2009).http://www.unrv.com/provinces/hispania.php
- Vision of Humanity. "Gobal Peace Index." (Nov. 29, 2009).http://www.visionofhumanity.org/gpi/results/rankings.php
- Zuckerman, Ethan. "Steven Pinker on the Decline of Violence." WorldChanging. March 8, 2007. (Nov.28, 2009).http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/006259.html