Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
09-02-2013, 03:24 PM
Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
I know there has been a tremendous progress in the 'average' sense, but I am not so sure whether the maximums of human potential increased at all.

Now we know a lot more and can do a lot more, but those are only tools for achieving human happiness. Have we increased happiness in the maximum sense?

If we compare today's western empire with, say, Alexander's in ancient Greece, I have the feeling (without proof) that:

Our oldest is not older
Our healthiest is not healthier
Our smartest is not smarter
Our stupidest is not less stupid
Our bravest is not braver
Our kindest is not kinder
Our meanest is not less mean
Our funniest are not funnier
Our happiest is not happier

Did I miss anything important?

Just to illustrate what I mean: for example, if the oldest human being alive today was 200 years old, it would be progress in the 'absolute' or 'maximum' sense (I am reasonably sure, without proof of course, nobody lived that long back in Alexander's time).

Is this as good as it ever gets?

Again, I am talking about the potential maximum of longevity and not the average.

Only an idiot would not know how much the average increased.

However, what I would like to know is the following.

Suppose a baby is born of 100% healthy parents (if there is such a thing), who have a family history of long lives going back generations (good genes) and raised, from day one, in ideal circumstances health-wise (not in an artificial environment but with a healthy life-style) -- what is the maximum he can hope to stay alive?

Has any experiment, study, etc., been performed in this direction?

How would it compare with maximum life-spans in pre-industral-revolution times that we know of from History and Anthropology?

We know that some of the ancient Greek philosophers lived to a respectable old age 2000 years ago.

I am sure we have not doubled it yet.

Still, it would be interesting to know the facts and an analysis of the contributing factors: plus and minus.

Anyway, the longevity question is just one of many of a much larger picture.

How about cognitive ability (as in maximum IQ) and all the other factors?
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
09-02-2013, 03:44 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
Hey, Zat.

My answer would be this. The notion of linear progress is a false notion. Evolution isn't about amelioration. Change can be to our advantage or to our detriment. We change over time. Sometimes we get better. Sometimes we get worse. So the very idea of progress is flawed.

Maybe things will get better. Maybe they'll get shittier.

The promise we're all made is that life just keeps getting better. But that's not a promise, it's a lie.

The maximums of human potential that you speak of are neither fixed, nor necessarily increasing. So there's no finish line. We will never be like, "Sweet, we reached 100% efficiency."

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
09-02-2013, 03:53 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
Still, you can't help but wonder: incredible advances were made in medical science, in biology, in science in general -- wouldn't you expect it to affect at least the maximum longevity of the human species in 2000 years?

Don't you think that the effect of pollution, radiation exposure, stress levels, etc., etc., might be responsible for offsetting the advances we made in other areas?

So we still die at the same age as the longest-living Greek philosophers did?

(and, please, don't mistake the average with the maximum!!!)
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
09-02-2013, 05:29 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
Maybe this is just how long we are wired to live? Just as the mental capacity of so-called "cavemen" is the same as that of modern men. Maybe we are just not meant to live 200 years.

Also, there are way more important ways of measuring progress than longevity of our lifespan. And yes, I believe progress has been made and considerable one at that. Esp. in light of how short we have been living on this planet.

Hell, just go to a black person in America and ask them if they think there's no progress compared to a century ago and see what they have to say about it. Or a married gay person. Or a woman who owns her company...

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderĂ²."
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Vera's post
09-02-2013, 05:47 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
(09-02-2013 03:53 PM)Zat Wrote:  Still, you can't help but wonder: incredible advances were made in medical science, in biology, in science in general -- wouldn't you expect it to affect at least the maximum longevity of the human species in 2000 years?
Not really, no. As the human body ages it inevitable reaches the point at which it must fail. Obviously, the slower that process is the longer you can live. But most of our "incredible advances" were made to cure the things that kill you before you can die of old age. That's why you see the average life expectancy rising.
We have now, only just, reached the point at which we start to understand the ageing process. We cannot yet medically influence the rate at which our bodies decay. We are able to replace organs that fail to some degree, but the prostetics still cannot replace the real thing and there are still some organs, we cannot replace. And we haven't figured out a way to keep cells from dying. (There have been some promising experiments that slow the rate down.) That's why you don't see any increase in the maximum age.

(09-02-2013 03:53 PM)Zat Wrote:  Don't you think that the effect of pollution, radiation exposure, stress levels, etc., etc., might be responsible for offsetting the advances we made in other areas?
Unlikely, because that should be visible in the development of the average life expectancy. Besides, the oldest people didn't die of any of these things.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
09-02-2013, 05:48 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
(09-02-2013 05:29 PM)Vera Wrote:  there are way more important ways of measuring progress than longevity of our lifespan.
Still, one can't help wondering! Huh

(remember, I was asking about maximum, as opposed to average)
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
09-02-2013, 05:53 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
(09-02-2013 05:48 PM)Zat Wrote:  Still, one can't help wondering hoping!
Fixed. Wink

I know what you mean, but I'm also afraid this is most probably what we're meant to have. Just like any other species, really. They do tend to live a bit longer in captivity, but not twice as long. I guess this is the card nature has dealt is, for good or bad...

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderĂ²."
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
09-02-2013, 06:11 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
Hey, Zat.

Quote:Still, you can't help but wonder: incredible advances were made in
medical science, in biology, in science in general -- wouldn't you
expect it to affect at least the maximum longevity of the human species
in 2000 years?

If the bulk of our species keeps living the way we do, there won't BE humans here in 2 000 years. We are perpetrating our own extinction. The same beliefs, behaviours and technologies that have driven those scientific achievements are the root cause of our own demise.

My worry about the current struggle between evangelicals and scientists is that science is being cast as the ultimate good guy. It can do no wrong. There's no pitfalls whatsoever. Well that's just silly. Science has cooked up some fucking doozies over the years. It has serious limitations and very serious ethical problems. To put our faith in it blindly is an act of credulity that could have very serious negative effects for us.

So sure, a lot of the things that science has cooked up have helped us immensely. But the notion that scientific progress is a good in and of itself and that science cannot be applied in some seriously dangerous and unethical ways is just dangerous.

Quote:Don't you think that the effect of pollution, radiation exposure, stress
levels, etc., etc., might be responsible for offsetting the advances we
made in other areas?

That's entirely possible.

It seems that the average life span of humans has increased over the last 5 000 years. But that is just a single indicator of progress. If one was to do a comprehensive study, I think that we'd find almost as many, if not more, indications of decline in the last 5 000 years. The pandemic of obesity and mental health issues spring to mind.

For me, it's like plus/minus in hockey. Subtract the negative from the positive. If the number is positive, net gain. If it's negative, net loss. I don't know if we have an overall plus or minus rating, but I think the case can be made for both. More importantly, I think that the brochure that tells us everything is just hunky dory is full of it.

Also, if the net result of our activities for the last 5 000 years is that the average lifespan of a human is reduced to zero, then we done did fuck up Cool

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Ghost's post
09-02-2013, 06:16 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
...
Thank you, Ghost!

You made my point brilliantly! Smile
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
09-02-2013, 06:29 PM
RE: Has there been progress in human history in the 'absolute' sense?
(09-02-2013 06:11 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Zat.

Quote:Still, you can't help but wonder: incredible advances were made in
medical science, in biology, in science in general -- wouldn't you
expect it to affect at least the maximum longevity of the human species
in 2000 years?

If the bulk of our species keeps living the way we do, there won't BE humans here in 2 000 years. We are perpetrating our own extinction. The same beliefs, behaviours and technologies that have driven those scientific achievements are the root cause of our own demise.

My worry about the current struggle between evangelicals and scientists is that science is being cast as the ultimate good guy. It can do no wrong. There's no pitfalls whatsoever. Well that's just silly. Science has cooked up some fucking doozies over the years. It has serious limitations and very serious ethical problems. To put our faith in it blindly is an act of credulity that could have very serious negative effects for us.

So sure, a lot of the things that science has cooked up have helped us immensely. But the notion that scientific progress is a good in and of itself and that science cannot be applied in some seriously dangerous and unethical ways is just dangerous.

Who is casting science as the ultimate good guy? I generally see science cast as our best (possibly only) means for understanding physical reality. It is contrasted with 'revelation' in that struggle.
You appear to be conflating science and the uses to which results are put. It is the uses that create ethical problems .
And what, precisely are the 'serious limitations' of science? Science has its arena - physical reality.

Quote:
Quote:Don't you think that the effect of pollution, radiation exposure, stress
levels, etc., etc., might be responsible for offsetting the advances we
made in other areas?

That's entirely possible.

It seems that the average life span of humans has increased over the last 5 000 years. But that is just a single indicator of progress. If one was to do a comprehensive study, I think that we'd find almost as many, if not more, indications of decline in the last 5 000 years. The pandemic of obesity and mental health issues spring to mind.

For me, it's like plus/minus in hockey. Subtract the negative from the positive. If the number is positive, net gain. If it's negative, net loss. I don't know if we have an overall plus or minus rating, but I think the case can be made for both. More importantly, I think that the brochure that tells us everything is just hunky dory is full of it.

Also, if the net result of our activities for the last 5 000 years is that the average lifespan of a human is reduced to zero, then we done did fuck up Cool

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

'Average' was specifically excluded by the OP; he was asking about maximum.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
[Image: flagstiny%206.gif]
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Chas's post
Post Reply
Forum Jump: