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Featured Is the World on a Downward Trajectory?

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by sayak83, Nov 26, 2022.

  1. sayak83

    sayak83 Veteran Member
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    The key idea (mentioned here by several threads here) in eschatological religions is that the world (and humans) need to be saved because how bad the world is becoming with humans straying from X (X being one's chosen religion). The problem with the idea is this:-

    In any objective measure of human development, humans in general are far better off today than any time in past history (and this is true on a fairly continuous basis since 1900s). One can choose any measure of human development...but if one combines three basic quantifiable metric as:-
    1) Is a person who is born living longer and healthier?
    2) Is a person being born better educated?
    3) Is a person being born has more disposable income to spend?

    Then the chart below shows a tale that everywhere and in almost every decade, there has only been a steady increase in all these metrics. (Asia and African nations started growing after decolonization of course).
    Historical Index of Human Development

    No..you will not be better off if you were born in any past time in history. Indeed given the current trends your future descendants will be far far better off than you. This is no law of physics of course.... rather a testament that despite our enormous follies we are indeed doing better. That is a cause for hope and further dedicated effort.

    If you wish to debate this point...please bring forth actual statistically sound data and not anecdotes, opinion pieces or catchy pictures. Thanks.
     
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  2. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    The problem is that your metrics are based on the individual person, and not on humanity as a whole. It's also based on humans, alone, and not on life on Earth as a whole. And it's also based on physical well-being as opposed to meta-physical well-being even though well-being is a meta-physical cognitive experience.
     
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  3. sayak83

    sayak83 Veteran Member
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    1) Well being of humanity is simply the combined well being of individuals
    2) No coherent concept of well being of life on earth can be defined. But I agree the ecological systems are under extreme stress due to the current human consumption rates. Decreasing it responsibly is a target that is however achievable this century.
    3) Spiritual well being is a deeply subjective experience and is a different discussion. This thread is a counter to claims that human well being is on a precipitous decline which is simply not true.
     
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  4. Altfish

    Altfish Veteran Member

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    Why is this in "Religious Debates"?
     
  5. sayak83

    sayak83 Veteran Member
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    Because the argument is often made by religious folks who believe that end times are near and a savior figure is needed.
     
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  6. sun rise

    sun rise Śvāna Dharma
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    I have cited positive trends in the past and those trends are still real. But it's not a one-sided story.

    Sticking strictly to the physical, the US crime rate is trending down while the murder rate is going up: US crime: Is America seeing a surge in violence?

    Over the past few years, the rate of homelessness has gone up State of Homelessness: 2022 Edition

    And here's a big one: Are Recent Cohorts Getting Worse? Trends in US Adult Physiological Status, Mental Health, and Health Behaviors Across a Century of Birth Cohorts
    Morbidity and mortality have been increasing among middle-aged and young-old Americans since the turn of the century. We investigated whether these unfavorable trends extend to younger cohorts and their underlying physiological, psychological, and behavioral mechanisms.

    ...
    The worsening physiological and mental health profiles among younger generations imply a challenging morbidity and mortality prospect for the United States, one that might be particularly inauspicious for Whites.
     
  7. sun rise

    sun rise Śvāna Dharma
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    But your OP has mandated that a certain area of discuss, specifically religious and spiritual is out of bounds thus insisting that the growth of authoritarianism and fanaticism can't be discussed for one thing. It also cuts out quite a bit of psychology which can't be reduced to the numbers you demanded in the OP (outside perhaps of my last post which to me was on the edge of what you allow to be brought up).
     
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  8. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    No, I don't think it is. The well-being of humanity as a whole is very often at odds with the well-being of any particular individual. What's good for the one is not necessarily good for the many. And what's good for the many is not necessarily going to be good for everyone among the many.
    Well, that's not true, is it. I mean we could at least say that the continuation of life as it exists on Earth would be good for life as it exists on Earth. And yet we have witnessed and participated in the extinction of many thousands of life forms in the last century that had existed for thousands of centuries on the Earth, prior. We are, in fact, in the middle of a massive extinction event that may even culminate with our own extinction. And yet you seem to be assuming that because we all have a cell phone, now, life is better than it's ever been. ;)
    I didn't say "spiritual", I said "meta-physical". Meaning; in the realm of cognitive understanding. And to be honest, I think in that realm the well-being of humanity has decreased greatly, as we are becoming more and more aware of just how stupid, selfish, greedy, and mean-spirited we really are on the whole. And it's going to get worse, because right now we are still trying hard to deny and ignore this about ourselves, even though we are beginning to accept this about each other. But sooner or later it's going to sink in that we are the others, too. And they are us. That we are ALL this way. And we're really not going to like facing that reality.

    But it's a reality we really need to face, and soon, if we want to have any hope of changing it, and ourselves, in time to avoid being part of that great extinction.
     
    #8 PureX, Nov 26, 2022
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  9. It Aint Necessarily So

    It Aint Necessarily So Well-Known Member
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    I've noticed this is common with many of the newer Protestant denominations. especially the Jehovah's Witnesses. I just left a post on RF two or three days ago mentioning the last time the JWs came to the door. They began with the world going to hell in a basket and why that means we need to get on down to the Kingdom Hall more than ever. I answered that that wasn't my experience, that life is good for many and that the percentage for whom that is true is increasing. To my surprise, they were flustered and stymied at that. I wasn't surprised that they disagreed, just that they behaved as if they hadn't heard that answer before and didn't know what to say when they did. They broke off discussion quickly and left. Imagine being rejected by the Witnesses when not trolling them.

    We used to have a prolific JW poster here on RF who I haven't seen post in a year or two, who actually tried to shame me for feeling good about life. How could I be happy, she asked, with so many people suffering in the world. She was judgmental - indignant even. I had never expressed indifference to the plight, just that life was good for many, and many more than in the past.

    But that's what some religions do, especially ones into sin and salvation. They paint a dire picture and claim to have the only solution. It's unfortunate for their adherents, who live life in gloom, waiting for something better on the other side.

    You're probably familiar with Steven Pinker. The following basically says what you are already saying with that graphic you linked to: Steven Pinker: Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers | TED Talk
     
  10. Quintessence

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    DISCLAIMER - any assessments of "better off" and "worse off" are projections humans make onto reality; reality fundamentally is what it is, and it is important to acknowledge that up front. I'm going to set that aside for the remainder of this post because humans just love projecting their value judgements onto everything. I just wanted to remind us all that this is what we're doing, and that the world simply is.

    With that out of the way, it's a bit of a peeve of mine that humans often talk about "the world" as if it only consists of humans. The world does not revolve around humans. And the moment one starts realizing and accepting this, the picture painted is extremely bleak. Humans have kicked off a sixth mass extinction event on this planet.

    Let that sink in for a moment.

    Humans are directly responsible for causing our planet to spiral into a sixth mass extinction event.

    See - The sixth mass extinction and the future of humanity - Population Matters - for a basic primer. This doesn't get talked about enough, except among academics in ecology and conservation. For a bigger and bleaker picture, see also - World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice - that covers the full cost of so-called "human development" and the massive check that will be coming due (and is already coming due).

     
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  11. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Leaderless Animal

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    Nail on the head. :thumbsup:
     
  12. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    But hey, I'M doing fine! And so is everyone in my neighborhood. So ... whatever. :)
     
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  13. Twilight Hue

    Twilight Hue Twilight, not bright nor dark, good nor bad.

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    The Freedom House has noted there is an ongoing trend worldwide now for authoritarian rule.

    The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule
     
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  14. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member

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    No fair! The OP answered the question in the title in the OP.:(:(
     
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  15. danieldemol

    danieldemol Well-Known Member
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    @sayak83
    My thoughts are that religious eschatological promises/threats potentially pose a bigger problem than you listed.

    Why go to the effort of properly cleaning your room if God is going to magically restore order to it anyway?

    I think it induces a certain degree of acceptance of the way things are in many people and robs them of the zeal to fix the problems we face ourselves.

    In my opinion.
     
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  16. JDMS

    JDMS Academic Workhorse

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    I think that the quality of life and survivability of humans of almost any income bracket has raised significantly (on average) in the past 500 years. But unfortunately, that has been at the expense of many groups of people and the rest of the environment. I also dislike the fact that we now have weapons of mass destruction now. Millions of people and animals and plants are at constant risk of annihilation.

    There's a lot of room for improvement.

    Still... I'm glad I'm alive today and not 200 years ago. A bear or reef fish probably wouldn't say the same, though.
     
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  17. sayak83

    sayak83 Veteran Member
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    The point I am making is irrespective of political forms of govt. From 1870 onwards we had the fall of colonial autocracies, rise and then fall of communism and fascism, growth and then current stagnation of liberal democracies, rise and fall of Islamic terrorism etc etc. Doubtless many more things will come and go and they do affect countrywide results...but the overall trend seems more robust than these.
     
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  18. sayak83

    sayak83 Veteran Member
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    I agree. There are an N number of things that need to be tackled in the coming decades that may derail the progress made in the past century, both globally and for individual countries. The point I am making is that there is no reason to consider them impossible to do. And that we have not done horribly in the last 100 years despite many undeniable missteps.
     
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  19. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle Choose an appropriate meaning.
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    I think it is ludicrous to portray humans as being essentially on a downward path, given the enormous progress we have made in so many areas over the last few thousand years, and especially in the last several centuries, but, as per many other species no doubt, we often are not that cognisant of the impact we might have on our environment and/or other life. We do seem to be prone to short-term thinking and planning, and also to so much tribalism in so many ways. Both of which hardly help in our being less harmful than we could be.

    Unless one has not been noticing, it is obvious from the pollution we tend to cause, and the wiping out of wildlife and their environments that humans have been affecting our planet in negative ways, and for as long as we have expanded into greater numbers. And as per another thread, this is often due to us as individuals being so distant from any decision-making processes plus our being more interested in our own lives over that of others or any other concerns. Hence why so many are not vegan or vegetarian and why so many pursue lifestyles that impact the planet many times more than most other individuals might and seemingly without concern.

    Whether this can be seen as a downward path or simply problems not addressed is another matter, but surely if we do not address them then we will effectively be damaging the basis for life on Earth - human and non-human. And the likelihood of us finding another planet - to perhaps do the same - is not exactly a forgone conclusion - despite the likes of Musk thinking or telling us otherwise.

    Most likely, the religious predictions came from short-term thinking rather than anything else, and as per many such (predictions), they can simply coincide with reality all too often.

    What we need to do is to strike a balance so as to become more attuned to nature, and for example, to make sure that what we produce in the way of technology has a proper life-cycle such that we don't tend to pollute our environments so much. Our consumption of resources should reflect this attitude too.
     
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  20. Stevicus

    Stevicus Veteran Member
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    I wouldn't say that "the world" is on a downward trajectory, although the general feeling that I've discerned overall is that "the west" (however one may define it) is past its peak and in a state of decline.

    For America, one can look back to America's industrial and military might during WW2, as well as the unprecedented economic boom which followed, showing measurable economic growth and vast improvements in standard of living far beyond what most people had seen in previous eras. It culminated with the Moon landings from 1969-1972 - even while being involved in a Cold War, a shooting war in Vietnam, and yet still able to provide the high standard of modern living, comfort, and luxury which most Americans had come to expect and enjoy. Most Americans had cars, appliances, electricity in their homes, fixed plumbing, some measure of health insurance, access to public education and many other luxuries and improvements. There were marked improvements in medical care, transportation infrastructure (interstate highways), communications, mass media, electronics (TVs in every home).

    In those days, it seemed like America was unstoppable and that there was nothing we could not do or achieve if we put our minds to it.

    But at the same time, people also recognized just how highly complex and somewhat precarious it all was, as any one of a thousand different elements could fall out of place and cause the house of cards to come crashing down. One example was the great blackout of 1965. But there were also fears of nuclear war, and people also became more and more aware of the environmental costs of all this industry which provided so much to enhance and improve people's lives. Then there was the energy crisis of 1973-74, which was concurrent with the Watergate scandal and all the revelations about what our government had been up to for the past few decades, as well as facing defeat in Vietnam.

    The Vietnam War seemed a major milestone in America. People wondered aloud how we could be so successful in WW2 defeating Germany and Japan, yet we struggled and lost against tiny Vietnam. People saw that as a sign of America's decline. We were also ostensibly kowtowing to Arab oil-producing nations - something America never would have done 50-100 years earlier, when we might have responded more aggressively and confidently.

    We suddenly and inexplicably decided to stop going to the Moon, turning the Space Program into more of a satellite repair service than anything else. Where we once expected a future with day trips to the Moon and colonies on Mars - all of that was called off at some point. That, just by itself, would indicate that we reached some sort of plateau where we could not rise higher.

    It may not have indicated a downward trajectory, but more a sense of stagnation and a kind of "dead end" where there was no place else to go but down.

    Likewise, the energy crisis and subsequent price hikes in energy costs meant that the good old days of cheap gas and gas guzzling cars were over. Real wages leveled off and stagnated. We still had the infrastructure, cars, electronics, TVs, etc. - so it's not as if anything was taken away, but it didn't appear we were moving any further forward. Even the monumental social reforms which were achieved in the 60s and 70s seemed to also level off and stagnate to a large degree.

    By that time, the old order exemplified by the "colonial world" was already done and over with. The Postbellum "Jim Crow" laws and other segregationist policies were abolished in the U.S. The KKK, which had peaked in power in the 1920s, was nothing but an empty shell and splintered. The defeat in Vietnam caused U.S. policymakers to embrace new strategies, ostensibly learning from past mistakes (but perhaps not really).

    The perceived loosening of morals, the decline in church influence, ending of prayer in school, the rise of sexual hedonism, drug use, crime, etc. - all of this also contributed to perceptions that America is a fading empire, just like the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

    It wasn't a colonial empire or even really any kind of "empire" at all, but more of an underground, unofficial geopolitical "mafia," manifested in puppet/proxy governments friendly to U.S. interests, yet nominally independent and sovereign.

    This policy backfired tremendously in places like Iran, which is still considered an enemy and a thorn in the side of the US ruling establishment. The hostage crisis of 1979-81 was another pivotal event which also contributed to perceptions of decline and weakness, which led Americans to believe that Ronald Reagan could be America's savior, as he was a tough, no-nonsense, business-oriented and capitalist-friendly politician who could turn things around and make it "morning in America" again. There was a big push towards "positive thinking" and the "don't worry, be happy" mentality that seemed to counter the more pessimistic, cynical (yet still more realistic) worldview that dominated the 1960s and 70s.

    This is the point when America (and much of the world that has been influenced by America) entered a kind of "la-la land" which we've been in ever since, though we're starting to see diminishing returns and serious consequences in terms of the world geopolitical situation and domestic politics within America. In recent years, people have expressed serious misgivings about the direction America and other Western liberal democracies are headed, including a noticeable fear that we could regress and degenerate into some kind of fascist dictatorship.

    All in all, your original question, "Is the world on a downward trajectory," is highly complex and hard to really gauge. The world has had its ups and downs.

    But all of what we're seeing now is unprecedented, at least in terms of known history. The past 500 years is but a tiny blip in the grand scale of history, but what a "blip" it has been. Much of that time has been spent towards conquering the world, then fighting other conquerors over the spoils, and then working towards economic development and political enlightenment. We no longer believe that slavery is a legitimate form of economic gain. We no longer believe that conquest is a way of gaining land. We no longer believe that burning people at the stake is an effective deterrent to crime. We no longer believe that a person's character or worth is based upon their race or nationality. We have grown and become better educated and rational in our perceptions and worldview.

    It's because of this that we can recognize that things are better, but our knowledge and education also tell us that things did not get better by themselves or through some miracle or luck. It has taken a lot of energy, resources, and work to bring all of this about - and the work will never stop.

    It's a system requiring constant maintenance, vigilance, planning, engineering, risk management - along with a great degree of faith, work ethic, and ingenuity and adaptability. It also requires cooperation, shared values, and shared objectives. It's in those areas where people might be getting indications of a "breakdown" taking place, and because we are (at least on a cursory level) aware of the underlying problems and all that it takes to maintain and keep an industrial civilization going, there's a sense of uneasiness and fear of what could happen if even the tiniest cog falls out of place. The pandemic was a recent reminder of just how vulnerable we are.

    So, basically, this is a long-winded way of saying that I agree with the basic premise behind your arguments here, but that premise requires a great deal of background explanation and a thorough understanding of how we got to this point. My only real criticism here is that I don't believe it tells the whole story to pick a few key metrics demonstrating improvement since 1870 and suggesting that it will continue to get better.

    It doesn't mean we're going in a downward trajectory either, but I would liken it to being a passenger on a bus where the driver is not paying attention to the road and driving recklessly. People can see this and become worried, while the driver argues "Well, we haven't crashed yet, have we? Everything's fine! Don't worry, be happy!"
     
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