“Though nothing can guarantee that virulent ideologies will not infect a country, one vaccine is an open society in which people and ideas move freely and no one is punished for airing dissenting views, including those that seem heretical to polite consensus.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 686.

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“It’s safe to say that the pilot of the Enola Gay who dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima would not have agreed to immolate a hundred thousand people with a flamethrower one at a time… People cannot wrap their minds around large (or even small) numbers of people in peril, but will readily mobilize to save the life of a single person with a name and a face.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 685.

“‘I was only following orders’ is the clichéd defense of accused war criminals. And murderous leaders deliberately organize armies, killing squads, and the bureaucracies behind them in such a way that no single person can feel that his actions are necessary or sufficient for the killings to occur.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 685.

“An ideology can provide a satisfying narrative that explains chaotic events and collective misfortunes in a way that flatters the virtue and competence of believers, while being vague or conspiratorial enough to withstand skeptical scrutiny.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 672.

“An ideology can be dangerous for several reasons. The infinite good it promises prevents its true believers from cutting a deal. It allows any number of eggs to be broken to make the utopian omelet. And it renders opponents of the ideology infinitely evil and hence deserving of infinite punishment.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 671.

“The fact that sadism is an acquired taste is both frightening and hopeful. As a pathway prepared by the motivational systems of the brain, sadism is an ever-present danger to individuals, security forces, or subcultures who take the first step and can proceed to greater depravity in secrecy. Yet it does have to be acquired, and if those first steps are blocked and the rest of the pathway bathed in sunlight, the path to sadism can be foreclosed.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 671.

“It’s hard to single out the most heinous form of human depravity…but if genocide is the worst by quantity, sadism might be the worst by quality. The deliberate infliction of pain for no purpose but to enjoy a person’s suffering is not just morally monstrous but intellectually baffling, because in exchange for the agony of the victim the torturer receives no apparent personal or evolutionary benefit. And unlike many other sins, pure sadism is not a guilty pleasure that most people indulge in their fantasy lives…” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 660.

“The law may be an ass, but it is a disinterested ass, and it can weigh harms without the self-serving distortions of the perpetrator or the victim. Though it is guaranteed that one side will disagree with every decision, the government’s monopoly on force prevents the loser from doing anything about it, and it gives him less reason to want to do something about it, because he is not conceding weakness to his adversary and has less incentive to carry on the fight to restore his honor. The fashion accessories of Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice, express the logic succinctly: (1) scales; (2) blindfold; (3) sword. (Emphasis not added)” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 649.

“An ability to hold our instincts up to the light, rather than naively accepting their products in our consciousness as just the way things are, is the first step in discounting them when they lead to harmful ends.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 638.

“We don’t know what causes what, but biology and history suggest that all else being equal, a world in which women have more influence will be a world with fewer wars.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 636.