Are We There Yet?
“Are we there yet?” asks Ernie, standing at the top of a chain-of-evolution sequence from sea creature to human being (in an old “Frank & Ernest” cartoon by Thaves). I’ve asked the same rhetorical question, wondering what evolution has in store for us. A nagging doubt continues to trouble me regarding progress, for it has plainly been off the mark as advertised. Technological evolution has advanced by leaps, but what about advances in human evolution?
The following off-beat sketch of our “evolution” is a hint of the disconnect between technological and human progress.
Americans born before the digital revolution could not guess that one day they might be:
- creating text and photos without paper, film, or machine that could be shared with anyone, anywhere in the world, instantly, with a pocket gadget that also serves for phoning, banking, shopping, playing games, research, studying, spying and getting oneself and others into deep trouble.
- having surgery without cutting open the body and going home the same day, and viewing television commercials for pharmaceutical drugs with extremely dangerous side effects.
- seeing ultra-premature babies saved and children with life-threatening afflictions healed, while unborn babies are slaughtered in abortion facilities, their body parts sold to biomedical firms, and children getting daily doses of unspeakably horrid song lyrics.
- hearing of plans to set foot on Mars, while bodies and minds of Earthlings grow flabby.
- having clocks and watches accurate to within one second in 15 billion years, while billion-dollar, extremely accurate, instruments of war terminate lives, unabated, in the name of “freedom” and “democracy.”
- having cars that talk to you and have “automatic everything” that tell you which way to turn, what shop or restaurant is where, what part or function of the car needs attention, whether there might be ice on the road, et cetera ad infinitum, and having to worry that some future accident might be caused by a malfunction of car brains instead of human brains -- the latter tending to atrophy from misuse,
- having chapter and verse of any Bible passage, on any topic, at one’s fingertips and be risking the loss of job or protection of law for acting upon it -- or even quoting it.
The negatives in these thumbnails of progress are added to point to serious problems routinely ignored when “progress in things” is separated from “progress in people” -- a task that lies beyond the reach of science.
Progress, taken as movement in harmony with what is best for humans as humans, got sidetracked when the obsession with scientific advancement in everything obscured the fact that science is a tool, not a driver of human well-being. Any needed “balance” got skewed when morality, which is a constant in the service of humanity, got replaced with “ethics,” a variable that typically serves politics.
Explanations for the disconnect between scientific progress and human progress has filled libraries since before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (1817). I won’t go there. But a clue that hit me in 1950 is worth bringing up. It was a statement chalked on a college blackboard by a student: “Damn the Absolute!” How, I asked, could anyone deny the very foundation of his own existence? The soul who wrote that was cursing himself!
I could not have imagined at that time that this curse against objective reality, against the very center of our being, would one day be quietly accepted by respected leaders and clergy, spreading the lie that anything goes, in the name of progress. Theologians, academics and other professionals fell in with the lie and with the “flow of the times,” oblivious to the reality that while times change, people do not. When I pointed this out to a minister hooked on “social evolution,” she chided me for being “negative.” How to explain to one “wise in her own mind” that constants don’t vary, that times may alter bodies and minds, but not what makes them tick?
And speaking of “negatives,” isn’t ignoring history a terrible one for any leader or professional who desires a better life for his fellow human beings? Shouldn’t a “leader” – however defined – be aware of past facts that bear on this goal?
Enlightening examples abound. Here’s one for members of Congress and the courts: When President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation establishing the Federal Reserve in 1913, he lamented: “We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the world -- no longer a Government of free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.”
Morally defective partisan leadership generates a hardening notion in society that truth is not needed in establishing sound policy and making important decisions. Such has been the track of our leadership for far too long. Making people believe (or else) that whatever their managers want them to believe takes precedence over what is truly best for them, including their psychological and spiritual well-being, is not only a violation of the Golden Rule but a flat-out contradiction of “liberty and justice for all.”
The cruelty of moral indifference permeating even our technological and misnamed “humanistic” schemes of progress is the reason why “we are not there yet.”
Anthony J. DeBlasi is a Korean War veteran and life-long defender of Western culture.