Is Progress Always A Good Thing?

Progress has not always been a good thing. Humankind’s progress through time has seen the advent of many processes and ideas in the hope for a better existence. Progress in the disciplines of Science,  Industry, and Politics has often had dire consequences for some, if not all, members of humankind.

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Although Science has afforded us a wider understanding of many aspects of the world, progress in science has not always been positive for all of humankind. Our desire to understand the nature of things through science, has led to discoveries that make extinguishment of humankind by humankind possible. Nuclear weapons are inarguably capable of such mass extinction, and if not for progress made in the sciences they would not be within our capabilities. Science has also made available many substances that do not naturally occur in nature, and are unable to bio-degrade. This inability to bio-degrade creates tons of waste that cannot be reabsorbed into nature.

Progress in Industry, has not always been positive for some members of humankind. The ever evolving efficiency of industry has given humankind the ability to devote more time to other endeavors, such as Science, but this efficiency that we exploit has come with a price, namely, the environment, and the health of the very people whose lives we wish to improve. Pollution from factories and the power generation plants needed to power them do have adverse effects on our health and environment. The pollution associated with increased industrial activity has also put stress on earth’s bio-sphere affecting the life cycles of all living organisms.


The progress of Politics, in the context of societal ideologies, has been tragic all too often. As humankind progressed from groups of hunter gathers to modern society there have been many atrocities committed to impose or implement an ideology. In Russia, the forced adaptation of collective farms led to millions of people dying of starvation and many others had their economic and personal freedoms suppressed. The Nazi party of Germany created an ideology of a racial superiority. This belief in their own superiority effected the death of millions of people that were considered undesirable, and it also contributed to the creation of a generation willing to wage war.

Progress in many respects is certainly not always a good thing, although progress is necessary if humankind is to reach the goals we have set out to achieve, whatever those goals may be. It is quite clear that there are costs associated with progress in terms of human life and the very environment on which it depends. With the advent of nuclear weapons progress has given humankind powers akin to giving a child a loaded gun. Progress has made it possible for us to have more material possessions for the simple price of our health and the environment. Lastly our progress to establish a fair and just society has resulted in genocide, starvation, and loss of liberty. Whether it is an individual’s progress or humankind’s progress, it will most certainly come with a price. Let us hope the goals we strive for are well worth the price we pay.


Henry Lemmen



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