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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

Mass Killing

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

Sam Harris




Human evil is a natural phenomenon, and some level of predatory violence is innate in us. Humans and chimpanzees tend to display the same level of hostility toward outsiders, but chimps are far more aggressive than humans are within a group (by a factor of about 200).92 Therefore, we seem to have prosocial abilities that chimps lack. And, despite appearances, human beings have grown steadily less violent. As Jared Diamond explains: It’s true, of course, that twentieth-century state societies, having developed potent technologies of mass killing, have broken all historical records for violent deaths. But this is because they enjoy the advantage of having by far the largest populations of potential victims in human history; the actual percentage of the population that died violently was on the average higher in traditional pre-state societies than it was even in Poland during the Second World War or Cambodia under Pol Pot. - Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (2011)