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Considering the violence that occurred during the previous century, can the Western ideas of science and reason be considered "progress"?

The twentieth-century witnessed the most technologically advanced nations in the world (i.e. Britain, Germany, France, Japan, and Russia) engage in two World Wars which killed millions of innocent civilians. Not only did the wars itself create unprecedented destruction, but atrocities such as the Holocaust were perpetrated by advanced, "civilized" nations. Although we have not had a major world war in seven decades, the most powerful nations in the world have created nuclear arsenals with the potential to destroy ever inhabitant on the planet. Finally, the Western lifestyle, perfectly exemplified by the United States, is warming the planet and destroying fragile natural ecosystems. Can this be considered progress?

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  • Mar 3 2013: "...engage in two World Wars which killed millions of innocent civilians." "....atrocities such as the Holocaust were perpetrated by advanced, "civilized" nations"

    Early in the last century the problem was that people were still not educated as we are now and dictators were determining the nation's future. Nowadays, we have fairly educated masses, the Internet as means of unprecedented communication and criticism, governments more transparent than ever and the number of people killed world-wide keep steadily decreasing.

    " the most powerful nations in the world have created nuclear arsenals with the potential to destroy ever inhabitant on the planet"

    Nuclear weapon stockpile keeps also decreasing:
    http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21572195-why-barack-obama-may-now-be-able-start-cutting-nuclear-weapons-search-nuclear?zid=312&ah=da4ed4425e74339883d473adf5773841

    "Finally, the Western lifestyle, perfectly exemplified by the United States, is warming the planet and destroying fragile natural ecosystems. "

    Yes unfortunately sometimes progress causes other side-effects like global warming. However I see many positive trends. For example, technology is decreasing pollution created by cards, we are moving toward energy from solar panels, more energy efficient appliances and so on.

    I think we will overcome global warming, eliminate all arms conflicts and have better life for everyone in near future. The Internet is playing a major role in connecting people and teams to work and resolve these problems

    cheers
    • Mar 4 2013: I would argue that Germany was one of the best-educated countries in the world at the time of World War II. In fact, many of the supporters of the Nazis were not the "poor, uneducated masses", but rich, powerful German nationalists who believed in the racial philosophies promoted by intellectuals that interpreted the works of authors like Friedrich Nietschze to justify the superior Aryan race. I do certainly hope that this vision of peace for the future is fulfilled, but the past century and the current crises we face does not inspire optimism
      • Mar 4 2013: Yes Germany might have been one of the best-educated countries in the world at the time. However this cannot compare to today's level of education. We have much better education, people think in more abstract terms and what-if scenarios (there is a TED 2013 talk that is coming) and significantly higher number of people in highly cognitive professions.

        Also as I mentioned today, due to the Internet, people have substantially higher access to information, including videos taken by people everywhere and blogs, twitters etc. that report factual information. Government cannot any more easily control media.

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