Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature defends Norbert Elias’s “civilization
thesis”: the idea that violence has declined gradually in human societies over the millennia.
As history, however, Pinker’s defense is flawed. First, the data gathered by historians do not
show long-term declines in individual or collective violence. Second, the historical forces
that Pinker believes have suppressed violence can also increase violence, depending on
historical conditions. And third, neurology, endocrinology, and primatology may contribute
more in the long run than evolutionary psychology to the understanding of the history
of human aggression.