Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…
Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice,
suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and
passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Martin L. King
It is common knowledge the idea that Humanity seem to move in a progressive path towards a better future, and that we live in an age when we can clearly see the advantage, of living a better life than our forefathers, of the past , that at different moments of History, never was a time as great as the one we are living now, that there is no doubt that through our many advances, in science, technology, and all kind of discoveries in the medical field, and the many other advances, and new knowledge in the multidisciplinary ventures, of general knowledge Mankind has acquired in all fields of sciences, including the arts, and every manifestation of the Human Spirit.
And not only that, but that this progress will continue in to the future, through solving riddles, and with consilience we will arrive to better, and better discoveries, that would provide a solution for Humanity’s today problems, and make our life better. Maybe this could be true, but what I am sure they will be working hard to try to solve problems we do not even fathom today!
The more things change the more they remain the same, we heard, just examining History unbiased we come to the conclusion that there is not such thing as a better age, and that if they lacked what we posses today in abundance, they possessed what we lack today!
Palmer on Hans Georg Gadamer
“Enlightenment doctrines of endless progress through science. The Enlightenment faith in reason took special form in faith in science and technology. The industrial revolution, followed by other revolutions, including the electric revolution, revolutions in the treatment of disease, then instantaneous communication, and now the information processing revolution, lead people to see in science only a vehicle of endless progress for humanity on the globe. Yet thoughtful people are finding side-effects in our trust in science and experts. First, the compartmentalization of scientific and technological knowledge leads to unexpected consequences. For instance, the use of DDT to eliminate mosquitoes spreads poison through a whole food chain, kills many species of animals. The “Green Revolution” requires expensive fertilizers, which increases the price of rice, a basic food in the orient. The atomic power plants which were supposed to make electricity that was too cheap to meter, produce no reduction in electric rates but the power plants generate nuclear waste that has to be safely stored for 22,000 years. The Chixoy Dam in Guatemala displaced thousands of indigenous peoples, who are without land and work, for a dam that is rapidly silting up and becoming useless. Military technology is becoming a leech on national budgets, with proposals to spend billions on SDI (Star Wars) to intercept the enemy missiles built in response to our own missile program. Our technologies, instead of making life easier, increase global poverty and hunger by ill-conceived, unecological dam projects, by a green revolution that deprives small farmer of their land, by mechanization of American farms in a way that drives small farmers out of business by dumping surplus crops on the market and driving the prices down, all the while draining away resources for defense, for military forces to repress the indigenous populations in the Americas.
One does not need Gadamer’s philosophy to see the fool-hardy lengths to which unbridled ambition, combined with unbridled technology have led us. But it does point out to us how our objectivized ways of seeing have distorted our interpretive horizon, how the compartmentalization of our scientific knowledge and our specialized methods for attaining it have blinded us to the holistic consequences of the new remedies for our problems. Often our military means of saving a country from somebody else only end up destroying it, or in Iraq driving the general population to starvation and poverty while neighboring Kuwaiti oil, exported to the West, makes the small population of Kuwait rich and prosperous. In Kosovo, what if we had to replace every bridge and power plant and hospital we blew up? War could become much more expensive than the cost of producing and delivering the bombs if we had to clean up the destruction we create. If power plants and chemical plants, had to pay for the environmental and health costs of what they produce, a different economics would come into play.
The desire to control in science, politics, and economics. Other postmodern thinkers, like Foucault in his observations of the structures of power and manipulation built into our knowledge, like Habermas, following Gadamer, point out the interest-guided character of our scientific knowledge. Gadamer, responding to Habermas in the famous “Habermas-Gadamer debate” pointed out that taking psychoanalysis as a model for social scientific thinking posits the therapist as the expert who sees through the deceptions. This gives the responsibility to the scientist, who is assumed to know best. But by what factors and traditions and values is the scientist guided? Is it merely to know more, to produce more “objective knowledge,” or is that knowledge sought precisely in order to predict and control? And who will make use of the power to predict and control? One foresees a scientific utopia like Walden II, or a Republic governed by scientists instead of philosophers.”
Scientists or Philosophers?
This gentlemen forget who pay the scientist and the philosopher!
What about Plutocrats!
William Pfaff in an article named: How Much Progress Have We Made? Where he review Francis Fukuyama’s book
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
“I am not myself aware that human character and conduct today display any general improvement over that recorded in the historical past. The political crimes of the twentieth century had their counterparts in the past, although the scale and reach of political crime subsequently became much more destructive, thanks to technology and modern bureaucratic organization, by comparison with so-called Asian barbarism, past wars of religion and race, enslavement, or mass extermination waged by men like Genghis Khan. Comparable things, or worse, continue to happen in our times. That men and women are morally improved from what they were at the beginning of recorded history has yet to be demonstrated. Fukuyama’s 2006 book identifies human progress with modernization, but is this a sustainable argument? Are modern Americans and their European contemporaries more advanced human beings than the founding Americans of 1776 or the Europeans of the Renaissance or Enlightenment? Do we find in modern society and contemporary universities the superiors of Socrates, Euripides, Aeschylus, and Herodotus, or of Shakespeare, Dante, and Mozart? They have not made themselves known.
Have men and women even improved since the beginning of unrecorded history? In his chronicle of man’s development from humanoid to our present governors, Fukuyama has much to say about early man and his communities but then makes an enormous leap to what he claims was the first bureaucratic state, in China, just before the Christian era in the West. What about Mesopotamia, whose first settlements are assumed to have been in the fifth millennium BC? Its monumental architecture survives and the University of Chicago has just published a twenty-one-volume dictionary of its language, with its Babylonian and Assyrian variants, which deals with agriculture, commerce, transport, medicine, and divination, among other subjects. The language was preserved on mud or stone tablets. Not only the Hammurabic Code of law but the Gilgamesh Epic survives, the latter considered the oldest surviving chef d’oeuvre in world literature. The Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations had palaces, exquisite golden jewelry, ornamentation, and running water and baths—as did their successors in the Greek city-states, to say nothing of Rome, Carthage, and Persia. Abundant records survive of the artistic and intellectual achievements of the first Egyptian dynasty, that of Menes in the third pre-Christian millennium.
Babylon, controlling the entire Tigris and Euphrates region in the second millennium BC, promulgated law and had what historians say was a quasi-feudal system. The urban centers of the great Indus Valley civilization, roughly contemporaneous with Babylon, such as Mohenjo-daro, possessed palaces, as well as complex domestic water and drainage systems leading into brick waterways, and traded with Mesopotamia and the Middle East. All this is well known. It is true that slavery existed throughout this period and in many civilizations and was usually an occasion for misery and brutality, as it was in the Atlantic slave trade, when Africans were widely considered less than fully human, and treated accordingly. Elsewhere, slaves could in some societies achieve power, high office, and honor while remaining slaves, as in the Ottoman system. I know of no evidence that the individuals who lived in those civilizations did not intellectually and morally resemble ourselves.”
This Myth of evolutionary progress is pervading and many fail to see the Eschatological connotations of it:
Eschatology (from the Greek ἔσχατος/ἐσχάτη/ἔσχατον, eschatos/eschatē/eschaton meaning “last” and-logy meaning “the study of”, first used in English around 1550) is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events of history, the ultimate destiny of humanity—commonly referred to as the end of the world or the “World to Come.”
The Oxford English Dictionary defines eschatology as “The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things:death, judgment, heaven, and hell’.”
In the context of mysticism, the phrase refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine. In many religions it is taught as an existing future event prophesied in sacred texts or folklore. More broadly, eschatology may encompass related concepts such as the Messiah or Messianic Age, the end time, and the end of days.
History is often seen as being divided into “ages” (Gk. aeons), an age being a period where certain realities are present. An age may come to an end and be replaced by a new age where different realities are present. This transition from one age to another is often the subject of eschatological discussion. So, instead of “the end of the world” we may speak of “the end of the age” or “the end of an era”, and be referring to the end of “life as we know it” and the beginning of a new reality. Indeed, much apocalyptic fiction does not deal with the “end of time” but rather with the end of a certain period of time, the end of life as it is now, and the beginning of a new period of time. It is usually a crisis that brings an end to current reality and ushers in a new way of living / thinking / being. This crisis may take the form of the intervention of a deity in history, a war, a change in the environment or the reaching of a new level of consciousness. If a better world results, we say it is “utopian”. If a worse, it is “dystopian.” Eschatologies vary as to their degree of optimism or pessimism about the future (indeed, the same future may be utopian for some and dystopic for others – “heaven and hell” for example).
From the eschatological, to the parallel, and sort of analogous, Sociocultural Evolution, is the misguided idea that Darwinism a biological theory of natural selection has an equivalent in the Historical development of Mankind.The name social Darwinism is a modern name given to the various theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, which, it is alleged, sought to apply biological concepts to sociology and politics.The term social Darwinism gained widespread currency when used in 1944 to oppose these earlier concepts. Today, because of the negative connotations of the theory of social Darwinism, especially after the atrocities of the Second World War (including the Holocaust) few people would describe themselves as Social Darwinists and the term is generally seen as pejorative, and a racist posture.
Sociocultural Evolution is the child of Social Darwinism with the idea that we can sort out the bad seeds from the good ones.Many of the more recent 20th-century approaches focus on changes specific to individual societies and reject the idea of directional change, or social progress. Most archaeologists and cultural anthropologists work within the framework of modern theories of sociocultural evolution. Modern approaches to sociocultural evolution include neo evolutionism, sociobiology, the theory of modernization and the theory of postindustrial society.
Unfortunately Social Darwinism keep reincarnating in numerous ideas related to the explanation of History as an evolutionary causeway, were progress, is given by material wealth, and technological advances, that would turn Earth in to a sort of science fiction Paradise too numerous to deal here, but let’s check some of them.
The technological singularity is the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means.Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which events cannot be predicted or understood. Proponents of the singularity typically state that an “intelligence explosion”is a key factor of the Singularity where super intelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds.
This hypothesized process of intelligent self-modification might occur very quickly, and might not stop until the agent’s cognitive abilities greatly surpass that of any human. The term “intelligence explosion” is therefore sometimes used to refer to this scenario.
The term was coined by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity. The concept is popularized by futurists like Ray Kurzweil and it is expected by proponents to occur sometime in the 21st century, although estimates vary.
Of course there is many detractors of this technological singularity, and myself laugh at the idea, no wonder it was conceived by a science fiction writer! Looking at our inability to solve simple problems, like curing the common cold, and a myriad of other problems that have being caused by the same technological advances, who supposedly would solve our previous most elemental problems, but giving us new ones like overpopulation, contamination, Global warming, etc. And others that had nothing to do with technological advance, but our own very human nature, that is weak, and venial, easily susceptible to choose the wrong turn at any moment just by a simple motivator, like profit!
The Quantum Paradigm
What about Quantum and Consciousness ?
The relation of Quantum Mechanics, and Consciousness has fascinated many people specially those of the New Age type who translate Quantum discoveries, in to the Subjective or Ontological realm, a sort of Quantum Mysticism.
Quantum mysticism is a term that has been used to refer to a set of metaphysical beliefs and associated practices that seek to relate consciousness, intelligence or mystical world-views to the ideas of quantum mechanics and its interpretations. An example is the idea that consciousness causes collapse (e.g. the act of observation affects reality directly). Many ideas associated with “quantum mysticism” have been criticized as either misinterpretations of quantum mechanics or as pseudoscience.
The term originally emerged from the founders of quantum theory in the early twentieth century as they debated the interpretations and implications of their nascent theories, which would later evolve into quantum mechanics. The essential qualities of early quantum theory, and the ontological questions that emerged from it, made a distinction between philosophical and scientific discussion difficult as quantum theory developed into a strong scientific theory.
Harvard historian Juan Miguel Marin argues that Albert Einstein, though he claimed belief in Spinoza’s God remained opposed to some of the novel “mystical” formulations of other physicists such as Wolfgang Pauli. The debate polarized after World War II, although publications such as Schrödinger’s, or Eugene Wigner’s 1961 paper, continued to appear, spiritual interpretations of the new physics became rare and were deprecated among the scientific community.
Ken Wilber pointed out twenty years ago that even the founding fathers of quantum physics/mechanics — Max Plank, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Shrodinger, Sir Arthur Eddington, et al. —who were all self-proclaimed mystics, strongly rejected the notion that mysticism and physics were describing the same realm.”
However, the reason these pioneers may not have equated the two worlds is because, for them as physicists at the beginning of the twentieth century, quantum theory was formulated to iron out discrepancies between experiment and the old classical physics theories. Their focus, therefore, was very much on the physics… they are primarily physicists after all! They were simply not aware that quantum theory would eventually have, for example, biological applications as well, and that the very thinking process in our brains could well be quantum mechanical. (Quantum biology is a new field of study; it studies the applications of quantum theory on biological systems, and it has already thrown up some tantalizing possibilities.) This could place consciousness itself at the heart of physics and most definitely bring mysticism and scientific theory together, at least in principle. If quantum mechanics has nothing to do with our consciousness, then the two could well be irreconcilable.
“What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle.” – Marvin Minsky
This is by no means the only example of futuristic insights, or madcap schemes out there, in fact they are so many that is impossible to bring them all here, but we will talk in the future, about some of them.
In my opinion the conciliation of Ontological issues, with Science, or of Science with Ontology has little to do with the existence of a unifying principle who rule both Realms, and therefor made them one, and more with an ideological mentality, set on beliefs of one paradigm over the other one, if your views are materialistic, and do not believe in a Spiritual Realm, there is no way you will be able to conciliate such thing, because by force the materialistic individual would need to be obligated to take a leap of Faith, the same thing he is staunchable denying! Meanwhile the person of Faith is merely analogizing what science discover, and he knows by his subjective experience to be real, impossible to communicate to others, but nevertheless true for himself, and known on his being to be certain, regardless of someone else opinion!
The Materialist through science gain a cognitive insight of how matter, works, it has a cognitive value of little importance, at least now, to many of us, or could have a relative mayor value depending on the individual activities on the issue, on the other hand the Mystic receive a confirmation of how the external Universe works, and match his experience by the analogy, with relatively value, since he already knows subjectively this to be so. There is things beyond our senses, and beyond our imagination, waiting for us to be discovered, it is the Artist between us who express it to be seen to the rest of us.