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Author Steven Pinker Answers Your Questions

Last week we solicited your questions for author and Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker on his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. You responded quickly with more than 50 questions. Now, Pinker is back with his answers to 10 of them. The result is a fascinating discussion (exactly the kind we like to have around here) on the roots of violence, the rationale for wars of the past and what a decrease in violence says about modern society. As always, thanks to everyone for participating.

Q Any thoughts on the negative side effects of decreased violence? Overpopulation? More sedentary populations? Decreased role for survival of the fittest? Not to say that violence is preferable, just wondering about the downsides of peace. – BL1Y Read More »

Bring Your Questions for Author Steven Pinker

With Libya finishing off a bloody revolution, the war in Afghanistan nearly a decade old, and Mexico engulfed in a savage drug war — it might not seem like it, but we’re living in the most peaceable time in history. That’s more of a commentary on just how violent our past is, rather than the tranquility of the present.

In his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker lays out the difference in stark contrast, quantifying the dramatic decrease in violence over the ages, and uncovering the reasons for its decline. Pinker operates under the premise that the past is like a foreign country, and that we need to be reminded of its brutality. Starting with a tour of human history that stretches back to 8000 BCE, Pinker offers glimpses along the way, and shows how in the early going, violence persisted even as society and culture evolved. Read More »

What Do Skating Rinks, Ultimate Frisbee, and the World Have in Common? Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “What Do Skating Rinks, Ultimate Frisbee, and the World Have in Common?”  [MUSIC: Glenn Crytzer and His Syncopators, “Century Stomps” (from Harlem Mad)]   Dan KLEIN: Hi, I’m Dan Klein. I’m a professor of economics at George Mason University. I got into economics very much from a […] Read More »

Women Are Not Men

Season 4, Episode 1

Women are different from men, by a lot, in some key areas. For example, data show that women don’t: drown, compete as hard, get struck by lightning, use the Internet, edit Wikipedia, engage in delinquent behavior, or file patents as much as men do – and these are just some of the examples. Another way women are different from men? They have made significant economic gains and yet they are less happy now than they were 30 years ago. So, how do we explain this paradox? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner looks at some of the ways that women are not men. Later in the hour, Dubner talks to Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker about his research on the history of violence. Pinker has a surprising and counterintuitive thesis: violence has declined and the world is a much more peaceful place than it has ever been.

Our 100th Episode! Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Our 100th Episode!” Stephen J. DUBNER: Oh, hang on. Why don’t you say, why don’t you pretend that you’re introducing the episode of the one-hundredth anniversary. So be, like, over the top radio guy. I’m Steve Levitt from Freakonomics and I want to welcome you to […] Read More »

FREAK-est Links

1. A lovely obituary for a lovely singer, Cesaria Evora.

2. Nathan Myhrvold makes an appearance on Top Chef

3. Halting your newspaper delivery to thwart burglary
can backfire (when the delivery guy is the burglar). (HT: MediaWire)

4. Remember our “Who Owns Trader Joe’s?” post? If you want more info, read this.

5. I am writing an essay for Jewish Jocks book, joining authors Larry Summers, David Remnick, and Buzz Bissinger.

The Decline and Fall of Violence: Full Transcript

Kai Ryssdal: Time now for a little Freakonomics Radio. It’s that moment every couple of weeks where we talk to Stephen Dubner, the co-author of the books and the blog of the same name. This time, though, a special treat, the other co-author Steven Levitt. Gentlemen, welcome to the broadcast. Stephen Dubner: Hey Kai Steven Levitt: Great to be […] Read More »

More Freakonomics Podcasts Coming Your Way

For a while now, we’ve been doing a regular Freakonomics Radio segment on the public-radio behemoth Marketplace. In the past, those segments didn’t make it to our podcast stream. But that’s no longer the case, as of today.

Our inaugural Freakonomics/Marketplace segment is about the historic decline and fall of crime, and features three Steves: me, Levitt, and Pinker, along with host Kai Ryssdal.)

If you subscribe to our podcast via iTunes or the RSS feed, you will now get a new Marketplace segment every other week in addition to our regular podcast. Since our regular podcast also comes out every other week, this means that Freakonomics Radio is now officially a weekly podcast. Read More »