Why the Global Peace Index Is Nonsense Pseudoscience
At the beginning of June, a Sydney-based think tank released its “Global Peace Index” report. The bbc, reporting on the finds, wrote in an absurd headline: “World 0.28 Percent More Peaceful Than Last Year.”
Overall, 93 countries “improved” while 68 “deteriorated.” Apparently, we’re on the slightly upward trend.
There is a problem though. Drawing any conclusions from a “Global Peace Index” is nonsense pseudoscience.
Why? The history of wars. More specifically, the history that happened right before wars.
It is fashionable these days to predict that war is going out of fashion. Psychologist Steven Pinker wrote an entire book about it: The Better Angels of Our Nature. Yuval Noah Harari’s immensely popular Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow begins with the premise: “War is obsolete—you are more likely to commit suicide than be killed in conflict.”
Historians, psychologists, journalists and everyone in between read the “Global Peace Index” reports. They delight in them. We are becoming more peaceful!
The problem is, people have always thought this.
Before the Napoleonic Wars, Britain’s prime minister told England there was “unquestionably” never a “time in the history of this country when from the situation of Europe we might more reasonably expect 15 years of peace than at the present moment.”
Six weeks before the Russian Revolution of 1917, Vladimir Lenin told his followers: “We old people will probably not live to see the decisive battles of the coming revolution.”
Four years before World War i, journalist Norman Angell published The Great Illusion, which proclaimed economies were so interconnected that war was nearly inconceivable.
One year before World War ii, Neville Chamberlain uttered the famous line “Peace for our time” after returning from a visit with Adolf Hitler.
Faced with these anecdotes (of which there are innumerable more), the peace scientists retaliate by positing: “We have evolved from the barbarity of the past!”
Again, people have always thought this.
Historian H. T. Buckle, in History of Civilization in England, wrote that through the progress of society “barbarous pursuit[s]” were “steadily declining.” His conclusion was clearly evident “even to the most hasty reader of European history.” He wrote that in the 1860s.
Historian and geopolitician George Friedman recalls the culture of Europe before the world wars in Flashpoints: philosophy, reason, concerts and listening to Beethoven and Mozart in brilliantly lit halls. Barbarism extinguished. “To many, it seemed as if they were at the gates of heaven,” he writes. Then Europe tore itself apart.
You cannot determine the likelihood of a future war based on the peace of the present. Wars do not obey the law of averages.
Statistician Nassim Taleb deals with this idea frequently. To him, wars belong in the world of “Extremistan.” It’s a world where extreme events determine the overall average. It’s the world of income, where Bill Gates earns a million times more than you. Or the world of book sales, where J. K. Rowling sells a million times more books than you. And the world of war, where 50 years of peace can end in multiple millions of deaths.
The opposite world is “Mediocristan.” It’s the world of human heights, shoe sizes, weights and IQ. Everything fits in close to the average. If war belonged in the world of “Mediocristan” then you could draw conclusions from the Global Peace Index. But it’s not. Those historians claiming the world is becoming more peaceful are thinking of the wrong world. Wars are not determined by everyday averages. They are extreme events.
The Jewish Prophet Jeremiah was constantly frustrated by the critics around him. In only a few years, Babylonian captivity would be on the Jews. He warned and pleaded with the nation. “Peace, peace,” they told him. But “there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Captivity ensued.
That’s why the media’s reporting of the Global Peace Index is nonsense pseudoscience that you should avoid wasting your time reading.
But there’s one more reason. Paul of Tarsus gave it nearly 2,000 years ago in a letter to the Greek city of Thessalonica. He draws on the language of his Jewish ancestor, Jeremiah. “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
Here he forecast that the peace scientists would be having a field day, right as the worst world war comes upon them. The Trumpet forecasts the same.
Amidst doom and gloom, there is hope. I’m reminded of one of my favorite covers of the now extinct Plain Truth magazine. “Humanity Won’t End This Way,” it read, with an image of nuclear war in the background. Critics often accused the magazine of proclaiming the “imminent end of the world.” Actually, wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry, it proclaimed the “imminent beginning of the world of God.”
If you read another short article today (and hopefully not another “Global Peace Index” article) make it this hopeful piece about one of this world’s horrific, ongoing conflicts: “Hope in the Midst of Aleppo’s Battlefields.” If you want, follow the links there as well. Hope amidst war is what you’ll find, not the nonsense of academics burying their heads in the sand.