"The belief that rational and quantifiable disciplines such as science can be used to perfect human society is no less absurd than a belief in magic, angels, and divine intervention. Scientific methods, part of the process of changing the material world, are nearly useless in the nebulous world of politics, ideas, values, and ethics. But the belief in collective moral progress is a seductive one. It is what has doomed populations in the past who have chased after impossible dreams, and it threatens to doom us again. It is, at its core, the enticing delusion that we can be more than human, that we can become gods.
We have nothing to fear from those who do or do not believe in God; we have much to fear from those who do not believe in sin. The concept of sin is a check on the utopian dreams of a perfect world. It prevents us from believing in our own perfectibility of the illusion that the material advances of science and technology equal an intrinsic moral improvement in our species. To turn away from God is harmless. Saints have been trying to do it for centuries. To turn away from sin is catastrophic. Religious fundamentalists, who believe they know and can carry out the will of God, disregard their severe human limitations. They act as if they are free from sin. The secular utopians of the twenty-first century have also forgotten they are human. These two groups peddle absolutes. Those who do not see as they see, speak as they speak and act as they act are worthy only of conversion or eradication."
"It is this naive belief in our goodness and decency--this inability to face the dark reality of human nature, our capacity for evil and the morally neutral universe we inhabit--that is the most disturbing aspect of all these belief systems. There is nothing in human nature or human history to support the idea we are morally advancing as a species or that we will overcome the flaws of human nature. We progress technologically and scientifically, but not morally. We use the newest instruments of technological and scientific progress to create more efficient forms of killing, repression, economic exploitation, and to accelerate environmental degradation. There is a good and bad side to human progress. We are not advancing toward a glorious utopia."
"Scientific and moral progress are not the same. One advances. The other does not."
I was reading "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis and I think Lewis brought up a good point on this. Moral progress is, by definition, impossible. Morality doesn't "progress." To progress doesn't just mean to change, it also mean you get better. Morality can't get better, but how well we adhere to it can be.
When you sit down and analyze history, you'd find that how well we do that doesn't get better. Rather, it fluctuates. We get really good, we get proud, we get bad, we get humbled, repeat. The nation of Israel is a good example of this vicious cycle.
I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with you.
Humans are naturally flawed, naturally debased and sinful, and will never be within a hundred million miles of perfection. However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that we are also capable of having a moral compass and acting with decency, and in fact most humans do. One can always say that people like you and me are the minority, and certain stories would seem to support that (a child getting run over in China and left to die, despite being in the middle of an immensely crowded street). Yet for every one story like that, you can find ten of the opposite (an entire town turning out to rescue a child trapped in an old well, half a dozen motorists stopping to put a stop to an attempted carjacking, etc).
To say that we are irrational, sinful, and debased is in-line with Christianity.
To say that we are incapable of being good is to deny that God works in and through us.
(Sorry, but I was getting an overly misanthropic vibe from this. Correct me if I'm incorrect about you thinking this.
Also I apologize for the large amount of comments I've been posting lately. I've been looking through your submissions, old and new, and they're very...thought provoking)
If I understand the third paragraph correctly "It is this naive belief in our goodness and decency..., Hedges does mean that today's man is actually the same as the one living during the stone age. I agree with him, because our body and behaviour is still "made" for living in small groups as 'hunters and gatherers' with an occasional exchange with other small groups. I think, this can be seen within the today's modern world with the rising of diseases of civilization ( e.g. overweight, diabetes) because of too less athleticmovement and too much food or wrong food, the rising of mental disease (especially burn out), plus we still fear the unknown (noone can really deny this). In addition, we can not capturelonger periods or at least it is very difficult for us, because we are still "calibrated" living in the jungle or in the savannah, where the current,potential risk (lion^^) or the gathering of the next resource to survive is more important, then the things what happens in 10, 50 or 100 years. In this case it would be really interesting, at which time morality have actually be started. In my opinion, in the first intance, morality is something what helps to unite a group, to take care for each member of this group and to feel emphaty. And this isnot limited to thehuman, because it can be seen in the behaviour of other members of the Hominidae family (chimpanzees, gorillas, orang utans), but also within other species with a complex social structure (ravens, dolphins...).
In human history there were two important revolutions: First, the Neolithic Revolution or the Acriculture Revolution, as man change from the 'hunters and gatherings"- living to the 'settlement' - living approximately 11.000 years ago, which enableda better control overfoodand a betterfoodstorage plus more time for other things. And second, the Industrial Revolution approximately 300 years ago, where numerous technicalinventions came into progress (steam engine, processes foriron andsteel production, etc.). Well, the Digital Revolution can actually be named as a third revolution in human history. But, we humans are still the same as in the one's living as hunters and gatherers. And this fact, I will then begin to doubt, when scientists discover a kind of "geneticmemory", which means that every new technological development we created, is saved in our DNA. But currently I do not see a kind of genetic memory. And also I do not see, that we learn something from human history (and there is a lot...since the first written history).
Some words concerning science: Personally, I see science as the wonderful medium to understand the world better. It is
neutral, always in progress and it is not dogmatic. Yeah, it is kind of wonderland, which enabled to ask curious questions, to make theories and to solidify all those with observations and evidences...until the next question or strange observation will raise. But science is a good or as bad as the users of science and their responsility for the world (currently the earth). To give an example, the understanding of nuclear power does mean that we can create nuclear bombs, but we are free in the wish to construct them in reality.
Finally, a real human progress will then defined, when human kind takes a real responsility for the things he is doing. Unfortunately, it seems that the main members of the human kind do not care.
What this? You mean to tell me that in the 24th century we won't live in a socialist utopia where we fly around the galaxy in starships exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no man has gone before all while listening to heavy-handed philosophical speeches from Patrick Stewart? Oh well, I'll take "a galaxy far far away" over the "United Federation of Planets" any day.
MISANTHROPY FOR THE WIN, I really hate how a lot of people just live in this pretend world where everyone is so nice, perfect, and that humans are generally nice people. It's the biggest load of bull I've ever heard. I realized all people were bad when i got my head out of my (well you know) and looked around. Ya know if these people really think humans are so "GOOD" why have gun control
Metaphor time Go crazy you Darwin fan boys Chimps flying a plane with their entire species on board= plane crashes Humans flying a plane with their entire species on boardlane crashes
Exactly I also find it hilarious when people say "oh no humans are fine it's just religion that causes all/most of the wars".....and in order to believe this they have to completely shove their heads up their asses. I really doubt the missionaries during colonial times would have known about disease if they were atheist also let's not forget about people like this [link]
I just saw him and I agree on one point treat animals better.....OK also help the poor so 2 points. So anyway that guy really likes animals he even said we are all just animals so we are not allowed to eat them...... Ya wanna know what I'm gonna do I'M GONNA EAT SOME CHICKEN CAUSE I CAN.
ok that's more shocking then when I just realized alchemy is possible. I mean really.....really that's so hypocritical some might consider some animals to have the intelligence of mentally-disabled infants, but we can't kill them.....
I assume (perhaps wrongly) that your anti-historicism about moral progress is linked with your Christianity - but what about the pre-Christian era? Did Jesus not represent an advance for morality, or would the world have been better off without religion?