"Humanity has made little real progress over the past century or so. Technological innovations have taken place, but the overall condition of humanity is no better. War, violence and poverty are still with us. Technology cannot change the condition of humanity."
The discussion of this statement turns on what is meant by "little real progress" from the first sentence, "the overall condition of humanity" in the second sentence, and "the condition of humanity" from the third sentence. To be sure, war, violence and poverty are still with us and we as mankind are probably more aware of these problems worldwide than ever before thanks to advances in technology and communication. But depending upon the definition of progress and the condition of humanity, this would appear to be an incorrect statement.
First of all, the phrase "little real progress" from the first sentence must be defined. If the author defines progress as elimination of death, war, violence and poverty, then perhaps it could be stated that humankind has not made much improvement over the past one hundred years. People are still dying, wars are still being fought, violence is present almost everywhere and there are most likely people in every country in the world living in poverty. However, if the term "progress" is defined not as elimination of these problems but rather a reduction in them, then great progress has been made over the past century. Life expectancies are up in nearly every country of the world due to improvements in medicine and the scientific study of the human body. War and violence, although still present, has been reduced and to a large part confined to certain areas of the world rather than the global wars of the past such was World Wars I and II. Poverty has also been reduced as international trade has lead to economic improvements in many formerly impoverished nations. Very real progress has been made in these areas over the past one hundred years.
Secondly, the phrases "the overall condition of humanity" and "the condition of humanity" must be defined. If the terms mean that we are all still born into pain, suffer many tragedies during our lives, and still die in the end, then of course the overall condition of humanity is no better than it was one hundred or even one hundred thousand years ago. Life is still life, and no matter what technological innovations come along, it is unlikely that the basic facts of living as a member of the human race will ever change. However, if the term means how we are able to live our lives during the time that we are given, then again tremendous progress has been made during the past century. Cures have been found for many diseases, some of which have officially been completely eliminated. Medical treatments for other diseases have made them less deadly or less debilitating. For example, many cancer victims that would have died in the past can now go on living comfortably and cancer-free after treatment. Diabetics who would have died in the past can now live nearly normal lives. Even poor eyesight can be effectively eliminated through laser surgery. It would seem to be beyond argument that overall, the condition of humanity is much better now than it was one century ago.
If one takes a very narrow definition of "progress" and "the condition of humanity", it could be fairly stated that mankind has made little in the way of advancement over the past century. Millions of people worldwide still live in poverty. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is killing millions of people with no cure in sight. War and violence continues in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. But to take this narrow point of view would be to ignore the obvious tremendous advances that have been made over the past one hundred years by the human race. As mankind continues on into the twenty-first century, it would be preferable to consider all that has been accomplished over the past one hundred years and to look ahead to future advances over the next century instead of ignoring mankind's obviously improved circumstances today.
上述陈述中的探讨所围绕的是这样三个概念的含义，即第一句中的"little real progress"，第二句中的"the overall condition of humanity"，以及第三句中的"the condition of humanity"。毫无疑问，战争、暴力以及贫穷仍然伴随着我们，并且，作为人类，由于技术与通信的进步，我们可能比以往任何时候都更深切地意识到了这些问题。但除非将"progress"和"the condition of humanity"这样的概念进行清晰界定，否则，上述陈述将是相当谬误的。
首先，第一句中的"little real progress"必须予以界定。如果作者将"progress"定义为祓除死亡、战争、暴力以及贫穷，那么或许可以这样说，人类在过去的100多年中并未取得太大的进展。人们仍在不断死亡，战争仍在进行，暴力几乎到处存在，世界每个国家都有人生活于贫困之中。但是，如果"progress"这一术语并非被定义为对上述问题的消除，而被对这些问题的削减，那么，过去一个世纪中人类确实取得了重大进步。由于医学和对人体科学研究水平的提高，全世界几乎每个国家中人类寿命都呈上升趋势。战争与暴力，虽然仍然存在，却已被减少，且在很大程度上被限制在世界的某些地区，而再也不是像第一、第二次世界大战那样波及全球。随着国际贸易在许多以前贫穷的国家导致了经济改善，贫困也得以减轻。在过去的100年中，这些领域中已取得了极为真实的进步。其次，"the overall condition of humanity"以及"the condition of humanity"必须予以
界定。如果这些术语指的是我们所有人仍然降生于痛苦之中，一生中蒙受着许多悲剧，并最终仍然死去，那么，毫无疑问，人类的总体状况丝毫不比100年或甚至10万年之前来得更好。生活依然是生活，无论产生怎样的技术创新，作为一类的一员，生活的某些基本事实依旧不变。如果该术语指的是我们是如何在被赋予的生存时间中得以生活的，那么我们可以再一次说，人类在过去的世纪中取得了巨大的进步。对许多疾病，人类已找到了治愈方法，某些疾病已正式被彻底消除。对某些疾病的医治已使这些病症变得不再那么致命，不再那么毁灭性。例如，在过去有可能死去的许多癌症患者现在经治疗之后可继续舒服地生活下去，摆脱癌症的折磨。在过去可能会死去的糖尿病患者现在也能过上几乎正常的生活。即使视力障碍也能通过激光手术被有效去除。总体而言，人类状况现在远好于一个多世纪之前，这似乎应是不争的事实。 如果从狭义上去理解"progress"和"the condition of humanity"，则人们可以甚为合理的说，人类在过去的一个多世纪中几乎没有取得任何进步。全球数以百万计的人仍生活在贫困之中，爱滋病正在夺走无数人的生命，而治愈方法遥遥无期。战争与暴力在中东非洲以及阿富汗持续不断。然则，持此狭隘的观点则有可能使人无视人类在过去一万年中业已取得的昭然若揭的巨大进步。随着人类继续迈进21世纪，较为可取的做法应该是，我们应充分意识到在过去100年中人类业已取得的全部成就，并展望人类在下一个世纪中所有可能取得的未来进步，而不是对人类今日显著改善的生存状况视而不见，置若罔闻。