Posts Tagged Steven Pinker
The premise of Evolution is that we are growing into higher levels of being. Each evolutionary stage brings us forward giving us more and greater abilities physiologically allowing greater mental capacity. Dryopithecus changes to Ramapithecus to Australopithecus to Homo-erectus etc. If this is accurate, why has society declined so much in the 6000 or so years of recorded history rather than truly advancing? Steven Pinker gave a speech at TED where he statistically tracks the decline of violence in the last 4000 years and states we are living in the most peaceful time of human existence. Peter Diamandis speaking at a different TED conference paints an optimistic view of the future based upon statistical progress over the last century. He charts points such as life spans increasing and per capita income tripling. Both of these men are obviously intelligent and well read but are stilted statistical models the best way of determining the progress of society? Pinker blames religion and uses the bible to cite evils associated with God that modern atheists can avoid. Unfortunately his agenda betrays the value of his work and makes his point somewhat mute. Diamandis blames modern media for aiming the news at tragic and difficult circumstances which play to the Amygdala in our brains. This area controls our fear response thus making society on edge instead of hopeful. I understand and agree with the premise of his point but is telling our Amygdala to take a chill pill and zen out going to stop the problems in our world?
We have faster transportation that pollutes our planet and slowly kills us. We have better medicine and can cure more disease, but we make the cost so prohibitive that people see no real benefit from much of it. We have better food gathering skills that pour toxins into the ground to increase revenue but also pollute the environment. Income has increased but the value of the dollar has decreased causing greater poverty. Global literacy has increased dramatically but people aren’t paying attention to what they have read and are repeating the same mistakes of our ancestors. It seems that each major advance has created even larger problems. I realize the scientific answer to the question is that evolution occurs over millions of years but if we can’t see any benefit to the process on a micro level within the recorded history our species, what is the value of the study and more importantly, will we kill ourselves off before the next so called wave of evolution in the species?
What are we really claiming we have done if the outcome is social disorder, greed, war, terrorism, self centered gain for the few at the detriment to the many, and a lifestyle of fear? There has to be some kind of mechanism or bridge to allow our modern advancements to truly better mankind and not just individuals within mankind. Political structures have not been successful at this. Science offers nothing to link their information to a moral or ethical spectrum that can benefit society. Mainstream organized religions offer structure and balance within moral parameters but frankly add far more structure than they can support at times. They build on historical assertions by previous religious leaders that don’t really apply to modern culture however are taught as “gospel” just the same. Atheism posits that the end of life leads to the great nothingness and the world around us is only valuable for the corporeal experience which ultimately should breed nothing more than hedonism. That is certainly not good for the future of mankind.
If our problems become acceptable risks to the next money making venture or philosophical Ponzi scheme then mankind is not evolving, it is mutating into something that is no longer recognizable. We have a choice, we can continue to believe our own press and miss the evidence or we can react to the problems and fix them now. The question is how. If we really expect to survive, we need to be willing to sacrifice our egos and address the problems rather than claim we have arrived while we are still waiting for the plane to take off.