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Violence

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Dick Turpin was convicted of robbery but had also been guilty of a string of murders.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In each generation from 1500 to 1750, between 1 and 2% of all English men were executed either by court order or extra-judicially (at the scene of the crime or while in prison). This was the height of a moral crusade by Church and State to punish the wicked so that the good may live... Read More
 La ciociara (1960) - Sophia Loren in the role of a woman hiding from Moroccan soldiers (Wikicommons)
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack—or rather mass execution—the typical reaction seems to be that the killers were "madmen" and "extremists." The brother of the slain policeman, himself Muslim, protested: "My brother was Muslim. He was shot down by false Muslims. (...) Islam is really a religion of peace, of love. We had... Read More
A burning car during the 2005 riots.  Credit: Strologoff at Wikimedia Commons
The gruesome attack on Charlie Hebdo has earned condemnation around the world. It has been called "cowardly" and "evil" by Barack Obama, "a barbaric act" by Stephen Harper, and an "infamy" by François Hollande. Yes, violence is serious. It's a crime when done by an individual and war when done by a country. It's a... Read More
A widow about to be buried alive in her husband\
What, ultimately, is the basis for morality? In a comment on aprevious post, fellow columnist Fred Reed argued that some things are self-evidently wrong, like torture and murder. No need to invoke the Ten Commandments or any religious tradition. Some things are just wrong. Period. This is a respectable idea with a long lineage. It's... Read More
John Locke: “every man, in the state of nature, has a power to kill a murderer […] such men are not under the ties of the common law of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey (source of picture) The last millennium... Read More
Home sweet home in the Scottish borderlands. This was one of the last regions of Britain to be pacified and brought under State control. People lived in fortified homes where the second floor could be reached only by an external ladder that could be pulled up. The stone walls were up to 3 feet thick.... Read More
In debating the causes of the Montreal Massacre, we must confront the psychological similarities between Marc Lépine and his father. Both seem to have had low thresholds for ideation and expression of violence. Was this quick temper passed down from father to son? Or are the similarities only fortuitous? If these psychological characteristics had passed... Read More
On December 6, 1989, a 25-year-old man walked into Montreal’s École polytechnique and murdered fourteen women. The event is still being debated … twenty years later. We know the immediate cause. The murderer, Marc Lépine, felt that places like the École polytechnique were training women to take jobs that had been mainly held by men... Read More
I was visiting cousins in Collingwood and the subject of conversation turned to a 30-something bachelor who lived down the road. “Maybe he just enjoys being single,” I said. “Oh, no,” came the reply. “He wants to get married. He’s tried everything: dating clubs, church groups. Nothing seems to work.” “Well, maybe he’s ugly or... Read More
There is a thread of thought going back to antiquity and revived by Nietzsche that blames Christianity for the fall of the Roman Empire. Christ and his followers are thus held responsible for replacing pagan virtues with ‘slave values’ of submission and pacifism. In reality, and long before the triumph of Christianity, it was pagan... Read More
You’ve probably heard of the Milgram experiment. Assistants are told to give a ‘subject’ progressively stronger electric shocks whenever he or she fails on a learning task. Most of the assistants—the real subjects of the experiment—obediently do as they are told, even when the pseudo-subject is visibly in pain and pleads for cessation of the... Read More
Natural selection has altered at least 7% of our genome over the last 40 thousand years. And it has been doing so at an accelerating rate, particularly after agriculture replaced hunting and gathering less than ten thousand years ago. At that time, the rate of genetic change may have risen over a hundred-fold (Hawks et... Read More
Steven Pinker has an article up on the secular decline in violence (hat tip to Mangan’s): Pinker concludes: “our ancestors were far more violent than we are today. Indeed, violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on... Read More
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