How Do We Measure Progress and What is the Opposite?

Evolution is a theory that explains how living species change by adaptation. Humans evolved from hominids, that arrived about 15 million years ago, to Homo Sapiens roughly 200,000 years ago with tremendous intellectual progress. Earliest life forms began in the ocean over two billion years ago as single-celled organisms created from building blocks (elements) of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Evolutionary biologists measure progress in species adaptation to changing environments while extinctions are the permanent opposite. I recall seeing in a German museum an extinct Irish Elk that grew antlers so large that eventually they could not lift their heads. Charles Darwin coined the term "survival of the fittest." Making progress for people may include diet and exercise that makes us healthier as well as improving our safety by making peace with our neighbors. Ironically, too much of anything (food, wealth, sunshine) can be detrimental so we must find a balance in everything.  Western society can greatly benefit through efficient and effective conservation.

So what is the opposite of progress? Considering pros and cons, perhaps it is congress! This is not a political statement on any one legislative body but rather reflective of polarizing partisanship which is off balance, no longer seeking common ground.

Labels have emerged for the “Do Nothing Congress, Gridlock, Nuclear Option, and Drain the Swamp.” Perhaps a deeply divided congress cannot function to make bipartisan decisions. By analogy, if two married people cannot work out their problems then they may need to get divorced. Anyone happily married knows it takes a lot of give and take, forgiveness, and compromise by putting the other person first!

I attended Guilford College, a liberal arts school founded by Quakers who strove to achieve consensus in decision making. Guilford’s website states the school provides, “a challenging academic program that fosters critical and creative thinking through the development of essential skills: analysis, inquiry, communication, consensus-building, problem-solving and leadership.”

Maybe all of us can work harder to understand diverse view points and strive towards building consensus by focusing on our commonalities rather than our differences.