« Annals of Misinterpretation | Main | Annals of Predictable Nonsense »

May 21, 2011

Annals of Disagreement

The World’s human population has never been larger, more knowledgeable, nor more contentious. Ironically, those three qualities are closely related. The size of the human population is a direct consequence of scientific progress which has enabled a greater life expectancy through better sanitation and medical care at all stages of the life cycle. Life expectancy increased first in more developed (richer) nations, but was experienced relatively quickly in the less developed “second” and “third” worlds. In addition to improved Public Health, food production and distribution were also greatly enhanced by technological progress. As the health and wealth of humans increased, so did their education and general level of knowledge and communication; we have never been better informed. Electronic books, newspapers, and scientific journals are now accessible in most countries and the internet makes much of it available without the need to travel.

However scientific progress has not made us happier, more peaceful, or less contentious; in fact, quite the opposite. The more we know, the more we disagree over what is “true,” what our major problems are, and how they should be dealt with. What has also become progressively more obvious throughout the last two centuries is that the resources of the planet will not sustain what a vast majority of humans now seem to want: a lifestyle comparable to that which had become available to the more privileged segments of society in virtually every nation by the third quarter of the Twentieth Century. Typically, recognition of that reality has been neither uniform nor complete because it, like just about everything else humans can disagree about, has depended on consensus which is never uniform nor peacefully arrived at. In fact, disagreement, by and among humans, has been the cause of theft, assault, murder and war throughout our known history.

A quick look at the most prominent news items of the past week is enough to confirm the above generalizations. Obama’s well crafted speech on recent events in the Middle East provoked agreement from many, but screams of outrage from many right wingers who accused him of “throwing Israel under the bus,” a sentiment that is probably shared by the soon-to-arrive Israeli prime minister whose older brother was the sole casualty of the daring raid on Entebbe in 1976.

And so on; I have a personal perspective on medical care and our generally dishonest Insurance industry that’s clearly not shared by many, but I remember when medicine and surgery were not as high tech nor expensive as they have become. Unfortunately, as medical “miracles” have become more routine, they have prolonged the lives of people who may require expensive supportive care for years for severe residual handicaps, but have little potential for independent living. Clearly, one’s opinion on whether such expenses are “worthwhile" (or affordable) for society will reflect several variables including one's medical knowledge and religious beliefs.

To bring that home dramatically from current news: the killings of student demonstrators at Kent state in May, 1970 had a profound effect on world and American public opinion. Compare that with the current response to the wholesale shootings of anti-government demonstrators in Arab and Muslim nations that have become a part of the world's daily news since January.

One doesn’t have to be a genius to understand that the contemporary human world faces serious existential problems and that recent history is not at all reassuring; particularly in light of the fact that overpopulation can’t even be a part of the discussion because of contrary religious beliefs.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 21, 2011 04:54 PM