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Thread: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

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    Senior Member calamus's Avatar
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    Default Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Many people see a culture war taking place right now. What is considered good and wholesome is open to heated debate. What one side calls traditional family values, the other side calls hate; what one one side calls a woman's right to choose, the other calls murder of the defenseless. What does this mean? Is one side right and the other wrong? Are both sides wrong, or part right and part wrong? And what of society itself? Does that fact that so many people are now embracing what was considered seriously disordered if not outright evil not so long ago mean that society is "evolving," or that it is degenerating? What does history tell us about this?
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    Senior Member azkid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    I tend to take a very long and broad view of history, as well as looking at human nature, when this question comes up.

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    FP Enthusiast Emeritus mhosea's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    The Wikipedia article on infanticide is fascinating, BTW. One would have thought it was always repugnant to advanced civilizations, but it has not been so.

    I do not really think there have been any significant societal changes with respect to abortion or infanticide in the US recently. Left-wing politicians are competing for attention and, more importantly, for political support by trying to exceed what their Democratic rivals have been willing to do. What's made this worse is that while the political debate used to be somewhat ideological in nature (smaller versus larger government, regulation versus deregulation, etc.), it has shifted to populism on both sides of the aisle. It is just a different brand of populism with a different story about who has been ignored by the current order of things, not to mention radically different ideas about how to fix it.
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    Mike

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    What is happening now is not fundamentally different from what has happened throughout recorded history.

    A key characteristic of evolved life is selfishness. While some self-less acts do occur, the overall balance is very much skewed the other way.

    I was thinking along these lines the other day with regard to the Fermi paradox, and a specific idea arose in my mind and it was this: there may well be countless planets in the Universe that harbour sentient life, but what if the cost of being able to go to the stars can only be met by exhausting the entire resources of your planet? That all sufficiently advanced species perish on their now barren worlds, the thought of escape a faded dream?

    That is the current path we are on as a species.

    I get the feeling that the moguls who have all the money and all the influence know this. Know that there is no long term future, so why care. Live it up now. This is your only time.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    While I share EOC's bleak outlook for the future of Earth's resources, I am more positive in this way: the general arc of human history has been toward greater justice, equity, and health. I agree with Pinker that the world, overall, has never been better off than it is right now. Yes, there are very serious problems and terrible abuses, but humanity and its laws is on a track toward progress overall. A "culture war" is a lot less toxic to humanity than a plague or a world war. But whether we can survive the consumption of our natural resources and the pollution of the planet is another problem. This may be the next coming "plague" and Dark Ages.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by azkid View Post
    I tend to take a very long and broad view of history, as well as looking at human nature, when this question comes up.
    Me too.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    .....

    I get the feeling that the moguls who have all the money and all the influence know this. Know that there is no long term future, so why care. Live it up now. This is your only time.
    I worry that this is felt by more than just the rich. After all, what influence do the poor have on controlling policy or industry? I sense a broad helplessness and lack of will, for many reasons. We are, after all, addicted to our stuff, no?



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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    I think that throughout history people have been primarily motivated by what they perceive as their self-interest, and that throughout history there have been more poor people that rich people, and that poor people in general have had and continue to have less power than wealthy ones. I don't see any of that as having changed.
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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by calamus View Post
    I think that throughout history people have been primarily motivated by what they perceive as their self-interest, and that throughout history there have been more poor people that rich people, and that poor people in general have had and continue to have less power than wealthy ones. I don't see any of that as having changed.
    True. I would only add that there are fewer people, proportionately, who are truly destitute around the world. The great progress around the world over the past hundred years is the expansion of medicine and clean water and above subsistence living into a larger middle class. Generally. But yes, the poor are still just that. China's progress, alone, changes the world's stats.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?


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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    The 20th century should have taught us about the dangers of the totalitarian state, and how easily a civilized country such as Germany or Russia can become a nightmare state. I worry much more about that than fluctuations in climate. In particular, if a totalitarian "one world" government were to come into being, I think we'd be really screwed, because there would be no escape and any rebellion would almost certainly be easily crushed.
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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Neo-feudalism is a very real threat.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by calamus View Post
    The 20th century should have taught us about the dangers of the totalitarian state, and how easily a civilized country such as Germany or Russia can become a nightmare state. I worry much more about that than fluctuations in climate. In particular, if a totalitarian "one world" government were to come into being, I think we'd be really screwed, because there would be no escape and any rebellion would almost certainly be easily crushed.
    The 20th century also saw fascism fail.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by calamus View Post
    The 20th century should have taught us about the dangers of the totalitarian state, and how easily a civilized country such as Germany or Russia can become a nightmare state. I worry much more about that than fluctuations in climate. In particular, if a totalitarian "one world" government were to come into being, I think we'd be really screwed, because there would be no escape and any rebellion would almost certainly be easily crushed.
    The 20th century also saw fascism fail.

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    Totalitarian Communism is still alive and well, and its ideology continues to spread. And in a very real sense, does it matter if one be crushed by the right boot or the left boot?
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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by calamus View Post
    Totalitarian Communism is still alive and well, and its ideology continues to spread. And in a very real sense, does it matter if one be crushed by the right boot or the left boot?
    No, it does not matter. Sometimes the totalitarian jackboot is neither right or left, but simply intolerant of any dissent. The San Francisco Bay Area is a perfect example. There are still some awesome people here, but also many that are petty, preachy, elitist, self-centered to the point of narcissism, show scant regard for human life or the welfare of others, are very greedy, and quite ill-mannered. It is a rather shocking societal shift, and stands in stark contrast to society in times past. I would say that is a very marked decline, and might be due to behavioral sink.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by SIR View Post
    Neo-feudalism is a very real threat.
    Would you care to elaborate? The term has been used in deiiferent contexts to mean very different things. Who do you think may be the emerging feudal lords? I fear it may be the global elites, who appear to be striving to wipe out national borders to further their multinational financial interests. This could well be a step toward the totalitarian one world government I believe those interests are trying to create.
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    Senior Member SIR's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    There still exist very powerful and influential monarchs who continue to subvert democracies through landowning, business influence, and political manipulation through degrees of separation; then there are theocratic influences and controls - the 'soft-skills' of landowners and slave traders since Pharaonic times; and let us not forget the governments themselves... 'representative democracy' is not democracy, the people have no control, and there elected representatives can give as little care for the concerns of the people as they like.

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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by SIR View Post
    .... 'representative democracy' is not democracy, the people have no control...
    Yes, it is. Representative democracy gives voters a degree of control. You have been describing things in absolutes, in reactionary terms. Our representative democracy in America has been improved over the last 150 years through the expansion of suffrage to include all races and genders and economic classes. Are there other forces at play limiting citizen control? Of course. But the general progress has been toward wider suffrage and involvement. The world is a better place, the best it has ever been.




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    Default Re: Is Society Evolving or Degenerating?

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    The world is a better place, the best it has ever been.
    Democrat? No, the world isn't the best it has ever been; though perhaps in your own locality compared to others in the world, maybe...
    read the signs - serial killers, terrorism, government use of extra-judicial murder - where do you think this is going and which side are you on?

    and no again, representative democracy doesn't give voters any degree of control.

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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
    The world is a better place, the best it has ever been.
    Democrat? No, the world isn't the best it has ever been; though perhaps in your own locality compared to others in the world, maybe...
    read the signs - serial killers, terrorism, government use of extra-judicial murder - where do you think this is going and which side are you on?

    and no again, representative democracy doesn't give voters any degree of control.
    Pick one region of the world where disease, nutrition, and health care (average life expectancy) is worse than 150 years ago for the common folk of that region. Even deaths from warfare (world wide) are currently at the lowest they have ever been. You are writing more about your fears than you are about objective conditions that are measurable. There are more people in the middle class around the world with access to food and clean water than ever before in modern history. And there are many more hundreds of millions of people who have been given the right and access to voting for leadership in their countries.

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