TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Mar 4 2013: Yes, as long as we avoid nuclear war and continue in the development of practical clean energy.
    • Mar 5 2013: I feel that this statement is an oversimplification of the ethical dilemmas facing science today that cannot be answered with a simple, scientific answer. For example, I think most people can concur with the statement that not destroying the planet is generally beneficial to everybody involved. Most people can also agree that practical, clean energy is a noble objective. However, when we look deeper at ethical issues, such as human cloning, embryonic stem -cell research, animal rights, preserving ecosystems, prenatal genetic testing etc... science does not have an answer. Just because we can do all these things, does not mean we should. We need to look deeper to find an ethical framework to wisely choose which of these advancements can be considered "progress", and which of these advancements should be thrown in the same garbage bin as Mercury thermometers, eugenics, nuclear weapons etc...

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.