Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

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Michael James
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Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Michael James » Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:58 pm

Intrinsic to a modern mindset is a belief in the idea of progress. In this post I’m going to contend that the idea of progress is a secularized version of a particular strain of religious thought: monotheism. However, unlike the three faith-based Abrahamic monotheisms – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – progress is supposed to be based on a non-supernatural and non-miraculous rationalism. So while monotheists can claim the existence of phenomena beyond human experience to buttress their systems of belief, believers in progress have to stick to observable reality. In consequence, the idea of progress can be debunked.


One of the goals of this post is to make a persuasive case that progress is a chimera – an illusion that has long outlived its “best before” date. Furthermore, in order to stand a chance of creating a humane and reasonably prosperous new order whenever the current order goes kaput, I maintain that a post-progressive outlook on politics and philosophy will be direly needed. Perhaps this post can spark a discussion on post-progressivism – a discussion that, as far as I know, isn’t occurring anywhere else. Yet even if this doesn’t transpire, I welcome all feedback, especially any reasoned criticism of my ideas. Indeed, I find the best way to learn new perspectives and to sharpen an argument is through spirited debate, so I look forward to your critiques (should you have any).


Before I go any further, though, I’m going to be upfront about a couple biases in my worldview that is germane to this post. The first bias I have is that I believe the truth is out there, that it is universal, and that it can be discovered by humans. I’m not a relativist/postmodernist, in other words. My second bias is that, when it comes to discovering how the material world really works, the three foundational fields of study of the material sciences – physics, chemistry and biology – are the only means of sorting out potential truths from fictions. In consequence, I agree that natural laws govern naturally occurring phenomena, and that these laws and their specific properties can be ascertained by humans through the use of the scientific method. But all discovered natural laws in the material sciences are provisional truths rather than immutable ones, being permanently subject to revision whenever new and contrary evidence to their workings crops up.


Universal natural laws, such as evolution by natural selection and the theory of relativity, exist irrespective of whether humans are actively engaged in observing them, and will continue to exist after humans go extinct. Some people, namely progressives of all stripes, believe in the existence of universal laws in history, economics and society that are on par with natural laws. But these so-called universal laws, which are usually an attempt at imparting a purposeful, logical and linear pattern to human events past, present and future, exist only in the human psyche. They are figments of peoples’ imagination, not accurate depictions of how the world really works. Taken as a whole, the material sciences refute the possibility of there being universal laws in the social sciences and humanities (more on this in a few moments). Universal laws that are passed off in scientific garb but that are in reality in conflict with natural laws found in the material sciences are pseudoscience.


Before I move on to an analysis of the idea of progress, it is necessary to state the original meaning of the word apocalypse. Today, an apocalypse is popularly understood to be a great catastrophe that leaves immense death and destruction in its wake. Under this common understanding of the word, an apocalypse is a very bad thing that people should avoid at all costs.


From the perspective of monotheism, however, an apocalypse is the “uncovering” of the last mysteries of God’s plan at the end of time (Greek: apo – “un” + kalyptein – “to cover” = apocalypse – “to uncover”). For an Elect, the coming of an apocalypse means not catastrophe but salvation, and is therefore something to be desired rather than feared. Because God is pure goodness, an apocalypse is akin to utopia – it signifies the creation of a new and everlasting celestial age in which harmony and justice prevail. In the history of religious thought, apocalyptic religions are extremely rare. Of the thousands upon thousands of types of religious experience humans have engaged in throughout history, there are only four apocalyptic religions of note, all from the Middle East region: the three aforementioned Abrahamic monotheisms, plus Zoroastrianism, a dualistic monotheism from ancient Persia that predated the Abrahamic monotheisms and was in many ways their forerunner. (The theological concepts of heaven and hell, free will, and an apocalyptic end-time leading to a general resurrection of the dead and a paradisiacal renewal of the world began with Zoroastrianism.)


As a coherent intellectual doctrine, the idea of progress was invented during the European Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. The idea achieved its apogee during the North Atlantic world’s “long” 19th century, which began in 1776 when the thirteen American colonies embraced republicanism and created the United States of America, making the new country the world’s first full-fledged Enlightenment state, and ended in 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War. Five factors made the long 19th century the “century of progress”. The first factor was the rise of revolutionary republicanism/democracy, which succeeded in the United States and failed just about everywhere else it was tried – republics in this era had a tendency to either degenerate into despotism (the Latin American republics of the early 19th century) or succumb to monarchical counterrevolution (the fate of the republics formed during the revolutions of 1848 in Europe), or both (the French Revolution). The second factor was the historically unprecedented transformations in travel, communications and manufacturing brought on by the industrial revolution. The third factor was the long era of relative peace achieved in the North Atlantic world from 1815 to 1914, the ghastly American Civil War notwithstanding. The forth factor was the abolition of the international slave trade, and of slavery more generally. And the fifth factor was the continued accumulation of scientific knowledge, with Darwin and Einstein making arguably the greatest discoveries in the history of the material sciences during this period.


The 20th century is another “long” century, in my opinion, spanning from the beginning of the First World War to whenever the current American-led international order unravels. Since the end of the Second World War, a globe-spanning American informal (re: economic and maritime) empire has managed to maintain relative world peace and to safeguard persistently expanding international trade and capital flows. While the idea of progress is still dominant in at least elite circles – the omnipresent buzzword “globalization” is a progressive concept, for example – the long 20th century hasn’t been an unsullied “century of progress” like the long 19th century seemed to have been. Industrialized total war that killed tens of millions of soldiers and, especially, civilians, and levelled entire cities; the return of slavery (or de facto slavery) on a colossal scale, such as in Nazi concentration camps and Soviet gulags; the rise of totalitarianism in many parts of the world; the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation; and a mounting ecological crisis have made many people either ambivalent about progress or have caused them to reject the idea entirely. To many, the long 20th century has been, commensurately, a century of progress and a century of anxiety.


I here define progress as the belief that advances in technology, scientific knowledge, and social organization can potentially produce permanent improvements in the human condition. Or, more generally, progress is the idea that history is moving in a definite and desirable direction (although this also works as a definition of providence).


The idea of progress is supposed to be entirely based on rationalism, rejecting all supernatural explanations of phenomena as superstition. But rather than the pre-Enlightenment rationalist thought found in either Europe or elsewhere, it is supernatural apocalyptic religion that the idea of progress most closely resembles in both structure and objective. Like the Abrahamic monotheisms (and Zoroastrianism), the idea of progress is based on the belief that history is a linear process that is following a glorious anthropocentric and benevolent narrative (or teleology) full of meaning and purpose. Thus history isn’t an endless cycle of ups and downs, with the sound and the fury that these cycles inevitably engender signifying nothing. Rather, history seen from either a providential or progressive outlook is inescapably moving toward an emancipative and redemptive culmination. Because both monotheism and progressivism place humans centre stage in an unfolding drama that will eventually see them triumph in a radiant and harmonious transformation in their own affairs, history becomes “History”, an apocalypse of transcendent human liberation.


According to both monotheism and progressivism, furthermore, because humans possess a special destiny, they are separate from other animals in what it is that motivates their actions. Non-human creatures only function on base instincts, such as sleeping, eating, bonding with one another, fighting over territory, and procreating. Humans, on the other hand, are different, monotheists and progressives maintain, for they exist to fulfill a higher noble purpose that will ultimately see them rise above their corrupt natures and environment.


As I’ve already mentioned, apocalyptic thinking, of either the providential or progressive variety, is extremely uncommon in the history of religious experience. The polytheism and mystery religions of pre-Christian Greco-Roman civilization were without apocalypses. The major non-monotheistic religions of Asian origin: Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto, are also apocalypse free. Indeed, almost all religions in existence are without creeds, never mind apocalypses. A creed is a statement of shared beliefs of a religious community that summarize core doctrines, such as the Apostles’ Creed in Christianity and the Shahadah in Islam. As opposed to creeds, most religions are based on rituals and practice, and for this reason are often highly syncretic, being capable of incorporating the rites and beliefs of other religions into their own with ease (in monotheism, syncretism is usually viewed as heresy). In non-apocalyptic religions, history is viewed cyclically, with humans, like other animals, going nowhere in particular. In addition, nothing new under the Sun ever really happens.


Beginning with the Enlightenment, a gradual shift in the West’s psyche began to take shape, with hopes for humankind’s emancipation, redemption, and salvation being channelled away from a faith in a providential apocalypse, Christianity – and, on a far smaller scale, Judaism – to a faith in myriad progressive apocalypses: liberalism, Marxism, anarchism, positivism, Social Darwinism, libertarianism, neoconservatism, neoliberalism, and the like. All of these progressive apocalypses, except neoconservativism, originated in the salons, academies, cafés, and libraries of Western Europe. Just like apocalyptic religion, each progressive apocalypse (or progressive ideology/creed) aims to illuminate to humankind the true and only purpose behind historical development. Yet it is taken for granted that history does have an overarching goal built into it. In the Enlightenment’s wake, progressive apocalypses energized the passions of their followers as a now withering faith in Christianity had once done, providing an optimistic and coherent meaning to their lives and imbuing them with an overall sense of mission. As the North Atlantic world became the epicentre of global empire, converts to progressive apocalypses started spreading the gospel – “the good news” – of progress throughout the world, often entering into direct competition with Christian missionaries for the hearts and minds of non-European peoples.


While all of the progressive apocalypses copied from Christianity its assertion that truth is universal, its interpretation of historical development as a triumphant process of human uplift, its anthropocentrism, and its missionary zeal – albeit always in a secularized language of rationalism and science – they differed from Christianity, and from the other apocalyptic monotheisms more generally, in a couple key respects:


First, Christianity, like other providential apocalypses, interprets history unfolding according to an anthropocentric and benevolent divine plan. To what extent providence – i.e. God’s will – can be understood by humans is an open question for believers in apocalyptic monotheisms. Occasional eruptions of righteous fanaticism notwithstanding, the general view is that divine providence is largely inscrutable to humans. Aside from some core tenets, like the Ten Commandments or the Five Pillars of Islam, it is assumed that the unfolding of God’s special plan for humans is mysterious, and therefore the reason behind why he allows any specific historical event to happen is a matter of conjecture.


According to the progressive apocalypses, on the other hand, history marches forward to an anthropocentric and benevolent rational plan. Unlike the enigmatic divine plan of apocalyptic monotheism, however, the rational plan that progress is constructed from is fully intelligible to humans through the use of reason and science. Indeed, it has to be this way, because progress is a rationalist concept, being based on observable reality rather than otherworldly forces. Progress, in contrast to apocalyptic monotheism, needs scientific verification, because otherwise it is just a superstition based on blind faith.


The second difference between Christianity and the progressive apocalypses has to do with when and how salvation is expected to occur. Believers in Christianity (excluding a relatively small minority of Christian millenarians) strive to save their eternal souls on an individual level by forsaking sin, with the hopes of reuniting their saved souls with their deceased bodies in a general resurrection that occurs on Judgement Day, which is then to be followed by a paradisiacal world to come. In mainstream Christianity, salvation is not of this world and is achieved on an individual basis. The apocalyptic End-Time begins on no knowable date, but simply whenever God decides to initiate it.


For believers in progressive apocalypses, however, humankind’s salvation is forecasted to happen on a collective level in a temporal here and now. By reorganizing society to run on rational laws found in history, economics, and society, progressives imagine that humans can abolish, once and for all, the old-time scourges of civilization: material scarcity, tyranny, war, imperialism, bigotry, pestilence, and the like. Thus for believers in progressive apocalypses, salvation is terrestrial and all-embracing. What is more, whereas most monotheists believe in apocalypse later, progressive visionaries believe in apocalypse now.


The widespread adoption of progressive outlooks in the West over the past couple of centuries has resulted in millenarian expectations becoming normalized. Formerly, when Christianity dominated the mind of the West, Christian millenarians were persecuted as heretics, since prophesies about a thousand year Godly kingdom on earth in the Book of Revelation were interpreted by church officials symbolically rather than literally. Instead of millenarianism, Christian orthodoxy put an emphasis on the doctrine of original sin, in which man’s fallen state precluded the possibility of an earthly paradise. The rejection of millenarianism for original sin, plus the generally agreed upon inscrutability of God’s plan for humankind, gave mainstream Christianity an almost cyclical or tragic view of history. This conferred to Christianity an historical outlook similar to that found in pre-Christian Greco-Roman civilization, as well as to the views on history that predominated everywhere outside of the Christian and Islamic worlds. In the West today, however, ideas that challenge the progressive view of salvation through reason and science, and thereby fail to flatter the human ego, are either ignored or denounced as blasphemy (mostly the former, though).


Progress is supposed to be based on a foundation of science. But for progress to be scientifically valid, a natural inclination in the material world towards greater order, with human betterment being the primary object, is necessary. Yet the theories in the material sciences, in their present configuration, supply no evidence to support this view. Indeed, if anything, these theories collectively refute the possibility of progress, since an up-to-date scientific view of biological evolution and of the physical workings of the universe is of a non-linear and non-goal-seeking randomness. Modern science has exposed the material world to be chaotic and impersonal, not orderly and anthropocentric. This finding is very uncongenial news for the idea of progress, because without a discernibly logical pattern guiding historical development in a direction that caters to human desires and ambitions, progress becomes a myth. The ball is now in the court of progressives, and has been for some time. The onus is on them to discover material evidence that disproves the material world’s randomness. Why haven’t they attempted to do this?


Material progress, the idea that humans can conquer nature in order to enduringly satisfy their material wants and needs, is today arguably the most widely believed in variant of progress. Faith in material progress has led to the present-day fetish with technology. For many progressives, technological advance has taken on a salvationary role, becoming in effect the new Jesus. But technology cannot on its own sustain the modern, i.e., industrialized, way of life. A necessary prerequisite for modernity to endure is expanding supplies of energy. For modern, industrial society to be not a fleeting historical phase but a permanent condition in human affairs, scalable alternatives to digging or pumping fossil fuels and uranium ores out of the ground on a finite sphere are obviously required (collectively, coal, petroleum, natural gas and uranium make up over 90 percent of the world’s energy supply). Yet, despite the spectacular growth in technological advances in the 20th and early 21st centuries, technology has managed to unlock the potential of only one energy source of any significance, uranium. This has been achieved through the invention of nuclear fission power plants.


A belief in a technological conquest of nature inevitably runs into the problem of thermodynamic limits. The First Law of Thermodynamics rules out the possibility of humans creating energy. Instead, humans can only change energy from one form to another, with a resultant degradation in energy quality (entropy) occurring with each transformation. Thus the First Law of Thermodynamics gives scientific credence to the old cliché that you cannot get something for nothing. The promethean view of humans popular in progressive circles – especially of any individual engaged in entrepreneurial or engineering activities – being like God at the time of Genesis by bringing a heroic new world into existence from nothing but the sweat on their brow, is false. Rather, modern physics places humans in a finite world of hard limits and hard choices, in which decay is inescapable.


Perhaps the ultimate irony of the modern Western mind is this: the only way to make a progressive interpretation of historical development work is for progressives to abandon rationalism for a faith in a higher power. In other words, progressives need a God in order to give plausibility to their beliefs. Of course this would not be the old God of prophetic revelation and Holy Scripture, but rather a new God of humanitarian progress. Without a “God of progress”, progressives condemn themselves to a lifetime of trying to fit square pegs into round holes, because from a rationalist perspective derived from the material sciences the idea that history is benignly guided by a human-centric logical plan just ain’t so. Paradoxically, progressives need to enter into an alliance with Christian, Jewish and Islamic creationists and champion Intelligent Design. But, alas, they seem to be either too maladroit or too intellectually incurious to figure this out.


In the apocalyptic West, it is taken for granted that history advances according to an inner logic. A few centuries after a certain babe was born in a certain manger, an apocalyptic mindset became the default lens through which reality is interpreted in the West. The aftermath of the ostensibly secular European Enlightenment witnessed an alteration in the course of apocalyptic thinking, not its overthrow. The leading idea to come out of the Enlightenment, progress, is a salvationary apocalypse that uses secular and scientific terminology to disguise its true origin. Unlike apocalyptic monotheism, however, which views human pride as a sin that is destined to lead to folly, progressivism holds fast to the delusion that humans have a godlike capacity to create their own reality.


So, in terms of Western Civilization, revolutionaries on the far Left like Marxists and anarchists are not the earth-shaking radicals they are often portrayed as and, indeed, often claim themselves to be, but instead are very much conventional thinkers, in that their way of viewing the world is severely constrained by apocalyptic patterns of thought. In truth, these forms of “radicalism” are symptoms of a deeper malady in the West, rather than a foreign menace to the Western way of life. Furthermore, observant practitioners of old-time monotheisms, like Christianity, are semi-radicals. Their beliefs clash with the dominant progressive worldview well enough. However, the religious traditions of monotheism provided the wellspring for progress, and therefore both monotheists and progressives share many fundamental similarities in how they comprehend the world around them. In the contemporary West, then, true radicalism can only be a stoic rejection of both providence and progress.


Do you agree or disagree with anything I've just written on the topic of progress? Is progress fact or fiction? Let's hear from you.

WendyDarling
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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by WendyDarling » Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:40 am

As a proponent of my God, who has taught me that there are spiritual truths with humanitarian principles to be found in many religions, alternative methodologies to investigating the natural world, and an understanding that we've been blessed with this playground named Earth for eons to better understand our Creator, modern industrialized, scientifically theorized progress is an illusion for the hard limits you've touched on and Mankind must finally settle down to the difficult task of understanding himself. Should Mankind keep ignoring those hard limits, like Mankind does his own internal limits in every respect, then an apocalypse is inevitable.

A very well written piece you've presented that I haven't the skill with which to do justice. :D

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Dalek Prime » Fri Mar 10, 2017 4:40 am

Progress in technology isn't a myth. But social progress is.

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Greta
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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Greta » Fri Mar 10, 2017 7:40 am

There's two possibilities:

- we continue progressing and most people die

- we stop progressing and everyone dies.

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Arising_uk » Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:59 am

Dalek Prime wrote:Progress in technology isn't a myth. But social progress is.
How so? We don't have slavery any more, we don't send the kids into the factories, women don't have two choices(I accept that this was not so black and white) marriage or prostitution, women can get an education and work, men have the vote, homosexuality is not a criminal act, holidays from work are considered a right, etc. Although I accept that this is far from the case world-wide it still seems to be social progress?

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Dalek Prime » Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:51 pm

Arising_uk wrote:
Dalek Prime wrote:Progress in technology isn't a myth. But social progress is.
How so? We don't have slavery any more, we don't send the kids into the factories, women don't have two choices(I accept that this was not so black and white) marriage or prostitution, women can get an education and work, men have the vote, homosexuality is not a criminal act, holidays from work are considered a right, etc. Although I accept that this is far from the case world-wide it still seems to be social progress?
What is given, can be taken away. And there are always forces working to that end. Yes, we've maid gains, but there is a cyclical nature to our progress. Who would think that less than a century ago, the worst atrocities would occur?

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Arising_uk » Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:23 pm

Dalek Prime wrote:What is given, can be taken away. ...
Well they weren't really given but taken. I'm not sure you're ever going to get immutability in social progress as I'm a historical materialist and think that a large part of social relations will change with the means of production but it does look like certain progressive social ideas are seen in a favourable light around the world, democracy, equality under the law, freedom from slavery, education, etc, even if they are not in place in many countries.
And there are always forces working to that end. Yes, we've maid gains, but there is a cyclical nature to our progress. Who would think that less than a century ago, the worst atrocities would occur?
Nietzsche for a start but I think the atrocities have always been there it's just that technology allowed the scale.

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by WendyDarling » Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:26 am

Greta wrote:There's two possibilities:

- we continue progressing and most people die

- we stop progressing and everyone dies.
Why would everyone die if progress is neutralized?

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by thedoc » Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:56 am

WendyDarling wrote:
Greta wrote:There's two possibilities:

- we continue progressing and most people die

- we stop progressing and everyone dies.
Why would everyone die if progress is neutralized?
Wishful thinking.

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Sat Mar 18, 2017 1:03 am

WendyDarling wrote:
Greta wrote:There's two possibilities:

- we continue progressing and most people die

- we stop progressing and everyone dies.
Why would everyone die if progress is neutralized?
The point about a myth of this kind is that it is an abstraction.
Your question could mean one of two things; neutralise the use of the myth: the conceptualisation of progress OR the neutralisation of the changes in social and technological practices upon which the myth of progress is conceived.

In either case the answer is NO: not "everyone" would die.

I think the real question is about asking IS what we like to think of as progress, progressive in a meaningful way.
We might have social media, medicine to make us live to 85, but this does not mean the sum of human fulfilment is greater that it was 100 years ago, when there are more slaves in the world now that at any time in history; we have polluted and laid waste billions of hectares of rain forest and most ecosystems are unrecognisable; we do not have a sustainable future; dreams of expansion into space are never going to happen; we all die in the end having achieved nothing; its all still strutting on a stage signifying nothing.
Who ever said the existence of a car that can go at 280 mph was a better ride that a horse and trap?

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Greta » Sat Mar 18, 2017 5:18 am

WendyDarling wrote:
Greta wrote:There's two possibilities:

- we continue progressing and most people die

- we stop progressing and everyone dies.
Why would everyone die if progress is neutralized?
The Sun is heating up. In less than a billion years, possibly much less, the Earth's surface will be uninhabitable, certainly for large organisms. If our descendants (if still present), are not highly technologically capable then none will survive, aside from perhaps some primitive cave-dwelling existence.

Eventually whatever is left of humanity needs to eventually leave planet Earth for worlds less catastrophically affected by our star as it ages.

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Michael James » Mon Mar 27, 2017 10:06 pm

Dalek Prime wrote:Progress in technology isn't a myth. But social progress is.
May I challenge you on this, Dalek, by asking to what end is technology progressing towards?

Is high technology, like the laptop I’m writing this reply to you on, a permanent or even a potentially permanent technological advance? Or is it ephemera, being only possible at a certain moment in history, and probably a very brief moment at that? Moreover, will the Internet, on which this forum exists, still be around in, say, 1,000 years?

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Michael James » Mon Mar 27, 2017 11:24 pm

Arising_uk wrote:
Dalek Prime wrote:Progress in technology isn't a myth. But social progress is.
How so? We don't have slavery any more, we don't send the kids into the factories, women don't have two choices(I accept that this was not so black and white) marriage or prostitution, women can get an education and work, men have the vote, homosexuality is not a criminal act, holidays from work are considered a right, etc. Although I accept that this is far from the case world-wide it still seems to be social progress?
I’m in favour of all these changes that you’ve listed too, Arising_uk, but I don’t believe in social progress. Can it not be as simple as history is in constant flux, and when a change occurs that has widespread deleterious effects on a society, a portion of the society works to either mitigate or remove the sources of the suffering and discontent? For instance, the subjects in a medieval kingdom in Europe become too heavily indebted, so its king or queen declares a debt jubilee.

On the topic of homosexuality, furthermore, pre-Christian Greco-Roman civilization was highly tolerant of the practice. Indeed, the men of ancient Greece seemed to have been more accepting of homosexuality than heterosexuality considering the way they treated their women, which had a lot in common with how women are treated in Saudi Arabia today. In the West, it was Christianity’s morbid obsession with sex and sexuality, and of so-called “sins of the flesh”, that led homosexuality to be proscribed, and people practicing homosexual behaviour to be either persecuted or killed. The Romans and ancient Greeks tolerated homosexuality not because of a belief in social progress, as the concept of progress would’ve been completely alien to them, but instead because they thought same-sex sexual relations were harmless to society at large – which indeed they are. It should be remembered, moreover, that Marxism, a progressive ideology, has a history of maltreating homosexuals, blaming their existence in Marxist societies as a leftover from bourgeois decadence.

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:29 am

Greta wrote:
WendyDarling wrote:
Greta wrote:There's two possibilities:

- we continue progressing and most people die

- we stop progressing and everyone dies.
Why would everyone die if progress is neutralized?
The Sun is heating up. In less than a billion years, possibly much less, the Earth's surface will be uninhabitable, certainly for large organisms. If our descendants (if still present), are not highly technologically capable then none will survive, aside from perhaps some primitive cave-dwelling existence.

Eventually whatever is left of humanity needs to eventually leave planet Earth for worlds less catastrophically affected by our star as it ages.
In a billion years "we" won't be human. SO who cares.

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Re: Whither Progress?: Is Progress an Insupportable Myth?

Post by Michael James » Tue Mar 28, 2017 1:08 am

Arising_uk wrote:

“...it does look like certain progressive social ideas are seen in a favourable light around the world, democracy, equality under the law, freedom from slavery, education, etc, even if they are not in place in many countries.”

For the most part, I agree with this. No one wants to be someone’s slave or to be tortured. What is more, no one wants to be labelled inferior to someone else simply due to a caprice like birth. The idea of a general public deciding how the polity they live in is governed, rather than a tiny elite that holds a monopoly on power doing so, is widely appealing. Yet slavery, torture, and hereditary aristocracy are far more common to human civilization than societies that have prohibited these social ills. Egalitarian representative democracy, with universal adult suffrage, has only really existed since the early 20th century, and has hitherto been practiced successfully in only a handful of countries. The humiliation of defeat, along with major political and economic dislocations, caused interwar Germans to abandon democracy at the ballot box by electing a manifestly evil political messiah, Adolf Hitler, with disastrous results. The fears, resentments, and hatreds skilfully unleashed by the Nazi’s made Hitler’s regime far more vindictive and violent than Germany’s prewar aristocratic old order. The point I’m trying to make here is that history is an endless struggle between the inclusive and humane better angels of our nature, and our exclusive and destructive inner demons. It’s easy to achieve the former in times of peace and plenty, but very hard to prevent the triumph of the latter when abundance gives way to scarcity and large numbers of people become fearful with respect to their futures and the futures of their loved ones and communities. Nevertheless, it is always a noble pursuit to try and resurrect tolerance and inclusivity in a new order whenever an old order has fallen into disorder.

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