« Anti-Pollyannas or: T… | Home | Moving the Goalposts … »

Using Anecdotes or: The Worst Arguments AGAINST the World is Getting Safer


Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/modules/smarty/Smarty_Compiler.class.php on line 270

six comments


Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/lib.php on line 4647

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /nfs/c08/h06/mnt/120456/domains/onviolence.com/html/pivotx/includes/textile/classtextile.php on line 1011

I invite On V readers to read the first part and last paragraph of Kolbert’s article to decide for themselves if Kolbert uses anecdotes to try to disprove Pinker/the “world is getting safer” theory. She is. (She also cites the Holocaust. Earlier, she cites the Congo Civil war, again without placing in context.)


There’s a fine line between providing examples to the reader because this makes a text readable (and turns an essay into a book that you can sell) and anecdotal evidence.

I don’t know the books mentioned here, but I did observe that many authors prefer to stay on the level of examples, exceptions and plausibility checks in popular literature.
Scientific literature is more about counting, scoring, statistic analysis with measurement of statistical significance, data tables etc.

The problem is probably that popular literature authors are being taken seriously beyond their appropriate level: Inspiring, waking interest, calling in question.


Some elaboration:
This is an example for when I personally used an anecdote as evidence against a notion:
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2..
And I still support this. That’s because my expectation for a proper C&C regime is that it would not fail in such a situation catastrophically. People with much lower expectations would not consider a single provided exception as fatal to the concept.

What OnV wrote is different; it’s about a trend, and trends are indeed a classic case for empirical support or refutation. Best with long timelines (decades) and many elements (countries), and with the typical statistical measurements, including confidence and significance.


@ SO – You point out why this happens: incidents/examples/anecdotes of violence often make for a great opening hook to an article.

The problem, though, is that someone arguing the opposite, doesn’t have access to similar anecdotes.

But take this example from Utopia or Dystopia, “Regardless of tragedies such as the horrendous school shooting at Newtown, Pinker wants to us know that things are not as bad as they might seem, that in the aggregate we live in the least violent society to have ever existed in human history.”

To me, that’s a completely illogical sentence.

Though we didn’t explicitly write it above, I’ll cite it here: a sitting US sentator threw a snowball on the Senate floor to disprove global warming.

These writers are throwing snowballs to disprove the idea the world is getting safer.


The gilding of the past and beshitting of the present day has been my white whale for some time. I’m 41, started kindergarten in 79, and every day of elementary school in the 80’s was a lesson in just how completely destroyed our minds were by TV. We were less observant than kids of the past. We had memories displaced by fantasy. Our imaginations were not as good. We were desensitized to violence. Now I’m old, and when someone my age says the exact same shit about today’s youth, my head explodes a little every time. I’m like “motherfuker!! you are not qualified to worry about somebody’s cognitive development. yours was destroyed by TV!!”

I’ve been meaning to write an essay about this syndrome, closely related to mean world syndrome, is always steadily declining world syndrome.

As we reach my age, we start to decline, and we become aware of our decline, and we project that fear of degrading abilities onto the world around us rather than own the real fear for our own shrinking future. This is the first ingredient.

Next we have the gilding of the past. We also look back on the days when we didn’t have to worry about a mortgage and think of how much simpler those days were and project our own simple life onto the world of that time with no regard to the actual record of what was happening then. The way things were done back then, like getting the news from newsprint, those are the standard of right and wrong, and all departures from those ways are evidence of general decline.

Next we see something bad happen in the news, and we say “bad things are happening these days!” And we fail to consider how much data there is on bad things happening in grandpa’s day or make any comparison because there is a long tradition of old farts looking at the present and seeing steady decline, and always being taken seriously. This tradition contributes to the feedback loop by giving everyone confidence to say negative things about the present day knowing nobody will question it. If I say “the world is safer today.” People will either dismiss me as crazy or ask me to back that up with some facts and reasoning. If I say “the world just keeps getting scarier.” Nobody questions that due to the tradition of old people calling “decline” and never getting called on it.


Old men complaining about the soft or rotten youth is a VERY old story:
http://proto-knowledge.blogspot.de/2010/..