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In the beginning the Earth was without form, inanimate objects lay dormant, chemicals worked their magic; then the miracle of a single cell, and life began to evolve. Individual cells grouped themselves accordingly, and then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, life gave birth to awareness, a consciousness that soon began to turn inward upon itself, a self-reflective tour de force, the commencement of an ever-evolving, always-expanding, mind, one that would soon turn “the stolen fruit of the Tree of its own Knowledge” against the very breeding ground of its own birth.

Assuming that the Earth had been given to him, that this “marvelously blue-marbled island in the sky,” this, as yet, “unformed glob of clay,” was his to shape as he saw fit, man declared that he would take possession of the Earth, that from this time forward he would dominate the planet, that he had surely been given the supreme right to tinker with Eden, to exploit, to extract, even to gouge from its very bowels anything and everything that might serve to give him comfort, anything that might make it possible to add a few precious years to that of his life, anything that might enable him to postpone the inevitability of an appointment with death………. and that he would do such a thing in a manner that would preserve the integrity of the planet, protect the fountainhead, the source of every breath that he would one day breathe.

First was the cerebral gift of prehension, an outer coat of brilliance, enabling man’s mind to think, even to reason. Then as man began to associate with others, he would share what he had learned about the world around him; thus an accumulation of knowledge. Not that such could have been avoided, since the survival of the group depends upon the parceling of information. Then, as life would have it, knowledge began to be arranged and then even codified in such a manner that science became a reality. Accordingly, there were those who realized that science could be applied, that science could be used in such a manner as to improve the plight of man; hence the rise of technology. However, given man’s propensity to enrich himself, no doubt, a natural tendency to hoard food, money, or whatever (an apparently inevitable breach of human character referred to as greed), one must wonder if there would have been any who might have been willing to share the results of an inventive mind with others while not expecting a fee in return? Thus, the advent of business (home-bound trades, the local store, partnerships, associations, companies, syndicates, cartels, and eventually the rise of transnational corporations), a nearly unquenchable desire for men to make as much money as possible in that of one lifetime which unfortunately led to a manifest disregard for the needs of “Mother Earth,” a self-serving choice to allow the byproducts of personal gain to pour out onto the land, into the sea, and throughout the air, recklessly destroying the very Eden of man’s birth.

Although I am sure there are many factors that have given rise to progress (developments that have enabled life to be a bit more pleasurable, those that have reduced the poverty and pains of life, along with man’s natural need to create), I have come to the conclusion that the primary cause of, the fundamental catalyst for, progress is nothing more than a rather simple fear of death, a determined attempt, on the part of man, to add a few more years onto life, an indigenous effort to postpone the inevitability of one’s own death. Really now, except for those who are terribly depressed or are experiencing horrible physical pain, who is it that would not like to extend the extent of one’s stay on Earth before being forced to “give up the ghost?” But…… at what cost? And herein lies the problem, a bafflement for that of man; a conundrum so difficult to understand that it has become nearly impossible for man to realize that progress, the mantra for the forward movement of life, an addiction to the fruits of his own labor (cars that speed us on our way through life, asphalt highways that snake their way through the landscape, cities filled with cement parking lots, plastic gadgets, gismos, even nuclear bombs ready to put an end to life on Earth), has become a corridor, a conduit, leading the way toward the eventual destruction of life on Earth.

How utterly amazing, in attempting to distance himself from that of his own mortality, man, after all these years, has finally managed to construct “a tower for the Babel of his own destruction”……… the one sure way for him to die!

Perhaps we, as a race, have reached a time that demands that we face up to the fact that we have lost the right to “have our cake and eat it too,” that we comprehend how terribly foolish we have been, that we realize that having once been allowed to roam the pharmacopoeia of valleys prepared for man, a blind devotion to the “golden calves” of our times, things made by the pride of our own hands, has placed us upon a course that is leading to ruin, the destruction of an Eden no longer fit for life!

No longer is it possible for rational man to deny that global warming (the ongoing demise of the world’s glaciers, the rising of the Earth’s seas, the progressive shutdown of the North Atlantic Ocean Current leading to the possibility of another ice age, the destruction of life in the sea, changing weather patterns, drought, floods, famine, starvation, the displacement of entire populations of people, and the eventual inevitability of world war) is a reality, that the intractable desire to consume more and more things has become that of our own worst enemy. Although I am convinced that there was no way for anyone to have known that our capacity to reason would have led to a world tittering on the brink of destruction, I submit that we, as rational beings, take responsibility for having chosen to have laid waste to the Earth. I suggest that we need to “tighten our belts,” that we realize that we must learn to live with less, that if we, as a race, are to retain a degree of dignity we have no choice but to face the fact that no matter how much we have learned, how many discoveries we have made, how many things we have managed to assemble, it is all for naught if we end up destroying the Earth.

I ask this question: What will historians (if there are any who manage to survive) say about a race who so effectively managed to lay waste to the planet? Will they perhaps come to the conclusion that progress was a terrible mistake, that it would have been much better if man would have learned to have lived with less, learned to have lived with what God originally provided, been willing to exchange a shorter span of life for that of a no doubt pristine world…….. if man would have had the wisdom to realize that life is best measured not by how long we live, but rather by how well we have learned to live?

G. Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.

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The following comments are for "Progress: Man's Greatest Mistake"
by dougsoderstrom

Yeah..... Very good points.

Thanks for the compliment.... the need for computers, etc.!

An Amish president....Huh.... probably, and no doubt that would be much better than a Southern Baptist president or that stupid evil bastard/George Walker Bush!

The best to you,

( Posted by: dougsoderstrom [Member] On: December 7, 2006 )

Dear Doug

You've put into words perceptions that go to the very heart of the human predicament. But then like a drug crazed addict we perhaps shall never get to the point when we finally say enough is enough.Like some monstrous unstoppable avalanche we stand condemned to rush on to our collective extinction.

One can help but wonder :if Man is not Lucifer's instrument for settling scores with the Almighty ; also whether at the culminating point of his progress Man ,succeeds in getting the better of hubris .

The irony is that did take the first hesitant steps in the right direction- way back at the Club of Rome in 1972. But then ,our innate greed and acquisitiveness kicked in . Since then it has been one long drawn out , perfectly glorious orgy of consumption and instant gratification.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: December 9, 2006 )

Progress vs. Fear
Before the advent of (even relatively) modern dental hygeine and penicilin, an ungodly huge number of people in their 30's and early 40's met their final end due to systemic infections caused by swallowed blood from abcessed teeth. If you don't care for teeth, they rot by around 35-45 years of age. When they rot, they abcess. When they abcess, they become infected. When infected, the infection travels to the intestines where it is absorbed into all kinds of other bodily systems and causes a variety of mortal ills. In short... if nothing else kills you, your own teeth will.

I will not appologize for the myriad ways in which we are dicking the planet and each other over. They are clearly legion. But to say that "progress" is to blame is ludicrous. Man has been behaving very badly towards man and towards his environment in ways both large and small since he was differentiated from monkey.

There is some evidence, for example, that tribes of hunter/gatherer, pre-human hominids caused far more damage to the overall environment than did early agrarian Man. Why? Because, acre-for-acre, more people could live off of farms than off of hunting/gathering. In fact, it may have been pressures from diminishing returns on the old hunt/gather lifestyle that drove early Man into the original farming measures; kill and eat off all the naturally ocurring stuff and the smarties in the tribe have to really go to work to figure out how to eat. Maybe we could plant some of this stuff out back and make it grow ourselves? Hmmm....

Progress means, literally, "movement forward." I would argue that longevity is, in fact, the best measurement of progress there is. Seconded by infant mortality. Thirded (is that a word?) by literacy. Fourthed by self-rule. Fifthed by standard-of-living. By any of those measures, we are well progressed over earlier ages, and have science and technology to thank for much of our advance, and sociological changes made possible *by* that science and technology for many other neat changes.

As late as the mid 1800s, it took more than 95% of the people in this country to feed the country. Now we're to the point where less than 2% of the people feed the rest of us. That frees the other 98% to work on some pretty cool stuff. Medicine, science, art, music, teaching, etc.

Yeah, some of it ends up being bad and crap and harmful, sure. But it's a heckuvalot better than spending your enitre short life looking at the south-end of a north-bound mule.

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: December 11, 2006 )

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