2.b.26 – Does history really naturally moves towards the progress?

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February 13, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

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Does history really naturally moves towards the progress?

If it is true that cultural evolution is one frenzy top running always faster, we must do the following disturbing considerations:
a)    the emergence of evolution is growing, and requires increasingly quick and deep adjustments through a natural selection increasingly demanding, hard and changing; we have reason to believe that cultural post-agricultural evolution has resulted in time in worsening the average quality of life. Actually, life of slaves was probably much worse than that of their free ancestors and, considering that slaves constituted a significant percentage of the total population, the average quality in total significantly lowered; the same can be said with reference to workers of the first industrial revolution and today in relation to the people of the Third World, not to mention the Native Americans who, in the name of progress, were even exterminated. The books of history, originally, were born with a celebration of the deeds of kings and emperors and the successes of major military and economic power; these purposes, at least in part, are still present today, but we must not confuse progress achieved by one part of humanity, the dominant party, with the progress of all humanity; this of course unless you consider the slaves and the inhabitants of the Third World as if they were not human;
b)    What we usually call progress often is nothing but the solution to problems created by the previous progress. The real cultural progress really exists, obviously, and the progress had in medicine, in the human rights and in those of workers, are obvious examples of it but they represent only a small part of cultural evolution, which often occurs in isolated and occasional form, and nothing proves that is permanent. Examples of civil and cultural regression are not rare in history, it is enough to recall the Greek and Western Middle Ages;
c)    When we talk of progress, we often mean that of the group, the people or nation that grows in term of economy and territories, but not for all individuals that compose it.
d)    That the competition between human groups is the engine of cultural  evolution is confirmed by the fact that many of the most important technological innovations, as steel, radar, atomic energy and artificial satellites, were born to military applications and most of the others were made for industrial purposes, driven by economic competition;
There are therefore good reasons to question the assumption that history spontaneously tends towards progress; to the above considerations, other biological, demographic and economic then add: our cultural ecosystem, extending, has taken more and more space to nature, causing environmental disasters around the globe; the industry consumes non renewable resources, such as coal, and the renewable sources such as wood, are consumed too quickly, making them de facto non-renewable and then exhaustible; the demographic increase, increases earlier problems, fueling new consumption, causing growth of pollution and more frequent wars, with larger and more technologically efficient and ruthless armies; the two world wars of the twentieth century are an example well known to everybody; it was said then that, after so much horror, man had learned to appreciate peace and that those two wars had been a price to pay for having no more wars, but it was a short-lived illusion: in the next 50 years many wars have been fought, smaller in number of nations involved, but as inhumane and with even more terrible weapons.
Once again it is important to distinguish between evolution and progress: progress is a positive development, an improvement in a context that is rarely combined, as is usually lost in a different environment; evolution instead is not always positive and therefore is not required to accrue improvements: technology produces medical progress, but if this latter would regress, evolutionary developments would still continue; a negative evolution or regression is however, an evolution that proceeds forward in time, because no one dreams of saying that those birds that have lost the ability to fly, like ostriches and penguins, are less evolved of their ancestors; the evolution, either negative or positive, always goes on,  progress doesn’t.
The theory of natural selection applied to culture tells us that the evolution tends not to human progress: it may do so in some cases for survival, but the natural tendency of history towards a better future appears to be objectively only a myth, a fable, a hope and nothing more.

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