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Thread: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

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    Senior Member SIR's Avatar
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    Wink Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    You are writing more about your fears than you are about objective conditions that are measurable.
    To be fair, most if not all of what you wrote read more like 'feelings' than evidenced facts...

    and again, i reiterate, having a semblance of choice in who makes your decisions for you is not the same as being able to actually make those decisions yourself.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by SIR View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    You are writing more about your fears than you are about objective conditions that are measurable.
    To be fair, most if not all of what you wrote read more like 'feelings' than evidenced facts...

    and again, i reiterate, having a semblance of choice in who makes your decisions for you is not the same as being able to actually make those decisions yourself.
    I haven't stated my "feelings" at all about this.

    Do you really need statistics about the increase in life expectancy around the world in order to accept the fact? I am not willing to make the effort to fill you in on modern advancements in medicine, food, and water.

    And "representative" democracy is precisely what I have described. It is of course not total freedom of will nor total control of outcomes by the voters. This extreme is not possible nor even a matter for reasonable discussion. Besides, the losing group in any election gets nothing.



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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    You know life expectancy in a lot of U.S. states, if not on average overall, is decreasing right?
    Also, you should realise the question originally posed by this thread is whether society is evolving or not, not whether the effects of society's relative development is benefitting the majority of people to a greater or lesser degree.

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    Cool Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    And "representative" democracy is precisely what I have described. It is of course not total freedom of will nor total control of outcomes by the voters. This extreme is not possible nor even a matter for reasonable discussion.
    A Swiss person might find that comment deeply offensive!

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Again, I say, yes, society is improving, especially over the last century and a half, toward greater longevity and suffrage and middle class comforts across all parts of the globe. Tyranny, war, and colonial injustice have all been reduced. Yes, I call this all social progress. My apologies to that Swiss person who may feel otherwise. I am, of course, trying to see beyond my own back yard and my own life time.


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    Last edited by TSherbs; July 1st, 2019 at 01:04 PM.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Society has improved/did improve, but is it still improving?!

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Being a mathematician, I tend to view "society" as a complex dynamical system. It is certainly not "evolving". An evolutionary process is characterized by tentative changes which either stick or don't stick, depending on whether they give advantage or not. I do not think it is "degenerating". That connotes a slow and steady process heading in the wrong direction. In some respects it is still improving, in some stagnated, and in others degenerating, so it is difficult to characterize the overall situation as degenerating. It is clearly changing, though. I think western civilization is (probably) at risk of destabilizing, and if it does, it could go to hell in a hand basket very quickly, erasing virtually all gains in social justice over the last century and most of the economic progress. We should commit ourselves to small incremental improvements, keeping an open mind about whether our changes actually are improvements or threaten to take us in wrong directions, either through direct unintended consequences or fomenting backlash (which can occur in some cases when change is too rapid or implemented in a ham-handed way).
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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    The 20th century did see a lot of violence, of all sorts. If you add up the global number of deaths in societies due to war, genocide, revolutions, basically all sorts of horrible events, an estimated 190-200 million people lost their lives. Yet, in the same century, the global population grew from a little over 2 billion to well over 6 billion. So yeah, things are improving.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Interesting. Yes, infant mortality is lower, and longevity is increasing, but that hardly begins to answer the question of the direction society is taking. The two factors mentioned here lead to two obvious further problems, namely overpopulation and increasing age-related morbidities that drive up health costs against limited resource availability.


    Also, the OP question makes no sense as it assumes that evolution is a process of improvement rather than a record of fit. That society is changing is not in doubt. Whether it is a desirable change, to our own sensibilities, is perhaps a better way of framing the question.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Maybe I should have added that unless you canvas the billions of people not suffering as much as 150 years ago, then our answers here might be skewed toward the priveleged way of seeing things. The recent month-long effort to have even the remotest of Indian villages participate in their elections (representative democracy) is another of what I would call improvements toward greater suffrage for the traditionally disenfranchised. And yes, I think that this matters a lot. Except for those who suffer the ennui of privelege. And I consider suffrage an important aspect of "society".

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    Last edited by TSherbs; July 4th, 2019 at 12:02 PM.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by Linger View Post
    The 20th century did see a lot of violence, of all sorts. If you add up the global number of deaths in societies due to war, genocide, revolutions, basically all sorts of horrible events, an estimated 190-200 million people lost their lives.....
    And most of this destruction came to an end in 1950s, seventy years ago. I would argue that this relative absence of genocide, purge, and war on the scale of a continent for this length of time has been a massive improvement for the mid-low economic classes around the world, living with food and water being preferable to dying on a massive scale.



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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Wallpaper bubbles, that's what it is like. Wallpaper bubbles. You know, when you flatten one out and another pops up somewhere else on the wall.*

    While it may be nice to point to specific improvements in daily living conditions, it is also imperative to consider what else has changed (or will change) because of them. In other words, there is always a cost (another wallpaper bubble). As I see it there are two paths ahead: one, where we manage our environment, and two, where the environment manages us.

    By 'environment' I am talking about not just the global climate but all available resources (renewables and otherwise).





    *with apologies to those who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Yes, our environment has been degrading. The "society"of Gaia has been degrading since humans denuded Europe and discovered coal.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Linger View Post
    The 20th century did see a lot of violence, of all sorts. If you add up the global number of deaths in societies due to war, genocide, revolutions, basically all sorts of horrible events, an estimated 190-200 million people lost their lives.....
    And most of this destruction came to an end in 1950s, seventy years ago. I would argue that this relative absence of genocide, purge, and war on the scale of a continent for this length of time has been a massive improvement for the mid-low economic classes around the world, living with food and water being preferable to dying on a massive scale.



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    Chinese Cultural Revolution - 196o's - 1 million or more killed killed - per NYT

    Killing Fields Cambodia - more than a million killed

    Rwandan genocide - 1994 - 500,000 to 1,000,000 killed

    Indonesia - 1966 - 500,000 to 3,000,000 estimated killed.

    Relative?

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by kazoolaw View Post
    I said whip it, whip it good


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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    I think society always tends to evolve, it only has good times and bad times. For example for someone who was born in '30's in Germany might have thought that it's the end of the world but for someone who was born in '60's it must be the best place in the world.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    As an anthropologist, I think this question is really interesting and the answer probably has a lot to do with your world view, upbringing, and field of study/profession. The upsets about "traditional values" are modern upsets for the most part that appear and disappear as cultures change and reshape their ideas about the culture itself. Even a lot of the identities of the modern day are fairly modern. I've lived in a pretty rural area for the past few years for work and the general idea here about attacks on so called "traditional values", usually LGBTQ related, simply wouldn't have existed a few hundred years ago. It isn't because deviants who violated the established norm didn't exist but more-so that the ideas of gender, sex, and attraction are shaped almost entirely by the more modern era and our memory is relatively short. Our ideas of what a family is and how we organize one is really recent! That is not to imply they don't have value though. If we went into another dark age tomorrow people would still make art, develop their scientific theories, change their ideas, and live/die just as happily as they had during any of the other. The Romans thought it was the height of culture to bathe in public and to have heated stone floors but that doesn't mean we're any less advanced for not having them. These ideas are just kind of fluid.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    When you consider the way most people view time - as a linear, one-directional thing - then the concept of "traditional" loses any meaning other than a temporary one.

    Secondly, when anyone raises the idea of society being "advanced", I am inclined to ask for a definition of "advanced" and what measures are used to determine it. Much of this is subjective. Yes, we live longer on average today, as an example, but on the other hand we suffer a great deal more age-related morbidities that rob us of joy and dignity. Or, yes we can travel easily and relatively cheaply anywhere we want, but it could be argued that this robs the journey and the destination of value both in terms of personal growth and discovery.

    Point being, there are many ways of examining the factors that are appended to the belief that we have an "advanced society", and I've only mentioned a couple of simple ones!
    Be a little more open into accepting other viewpoints, if you can, as it really deepens the experience. - Jon Szanto

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