Friday, March 14, 2008

The Myth of Progress

Perhaps the greatest damage from Darwinism has been the widespread adoption of the myth of progress. That is, the idea that things are always getting better. For an excellent (non-religious) examination of this, read "Lies my Teacher Told Me".

This myth is generally understood in the form of an exponential curve:

This shows three different exponential curves, with slightly varying rates. Even a small change in the rate has huge effects over time. Curves like this have been made popular by the success of computer companies, like Intel. Many aspects of computer power (or at least transistors per die) are doubling every eighteen to twenty-four months.

Seeing these sorts of curves can cause one to discount the value of the past. And provides plenty of stress, worrying about the future (heat and power consumption, population).

Let's look at another curve:

This is a sigmoid (specifically, the inverse tangent). Just before the midpoint, it looks like an exponential curve. Living through it, it's impossible to tell if the curve is an exponential, or a sigmoid. The future outcomes are radically different (first world population has turned out to be more sigmoid, where exponential predictors forecast doom).

My point is, people make claims of progress through evolution:
1e9 Evolution of stars
1e8 Evolution of life
1e7 Evolution of mammals
1e6 Evolution of humans
1e5 Evolution of language
1e4 Evolution of culture
1e3 Evolution of civilization
1e2 Evolution of modern technology
1e1 Human lifespan

This is an exponential curve. Curves like this were the basis for belief in future utopias (in a few generations, humans will "evolve" into a better state).

Of course, any student of Santayana knows that the history of human nature looks more like this:

Of course, you could just read the Bible: "[there is] no new [thing] under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9c - Solomon about 3,000 years ago...).


GCT said...

"Perhaps the greatest damage from Darwinism has been the widespread adoption of the myth of progress. That is, the idea that things are always getting better."

Evlution says no such thing, so you've wasted the rest of your argument on a straw man.

nedbrek said...

The theory says no such thing, but that hasn't stopped lay people from applying it in other ways.

Have you read "Lies"?

GCT said...

So, if you agree that evolution says no such thing, then you agree that your argument is based on a straw man?

I have not read "Lies." Who wrote it? What's it about?

nedbrek said...

It's not a question of what evolution says. It's a question of what myth has propagated among the general population.

The book is by James W. Loewen. It is a review of American history textbooks. It covers how history is being shaped into a story of progress in American life (glossing over setbacks to the civil rights movement during Wilson's administration being a large part of it).

GCT said...

Yes, history is shaped after the fact. We learn more and more, however, by studying. That said, I would reject the idea that human nature is cyclical. We no longer think that genocide (most of us at least) is all right. We no longer feel that rape is all right. It's no longer OK to discriminate (for most people at least).