I hesitate to comment on something that has just about been beaten to death, however, my silence must be breached. There is much to consider and one must look at everything with an open mind and logical attitude. Deductive reasoning should be the watchwords.
If one will look at the great advances in technology we have made since our country gained independence, it will become apparent, more is at work here than evolution. From 1950 to the present time WE have accomplished more than all mankind, since records have been kept. Is it trial and error? Research and development? The wheel is an invention with millions of years of trial and error. And, in less than 20 years we put men on the moon and bring them back safely to earth. The time span was actually less than 20 years, but for argument’s sake, you know? For thousands of years humans died from simple diseases. There were some rather deadly, with the world population of that time suffering greatly. And, within the past 52 years, these deadly diseases of past world history, are just that, history. Certainly there are diseases today that keep our medical community working 24/7. But, there is always a strengthening of the species just before a major evolutionary advancement. And, in the grand scheme of things, what is a couple hundered years to get our act together? This is just a drop in an ocean of time.
We can’t house the homeless or find work for the poor? But we have a battle tank that can hit a target 5 miles away while traveling at full speed? There is no cure for the common cold or most forms of cancer, but we have aircraft that can target 12 different targets at the same time, lock onto them, and destroy all of them at the same time, without them even knowing we are there? We have children graduating from high school that cannot write their own name, but we possess enough armament to destroy our world, many times over? Who in our country prioritizes the needs of our people?
Advancement in technology and a superior human species are the goal. Are we proving our worth? It may take the brains of our world to solve this 52 year mystery, if they are not already in on the facts. I would suggest we keep an open mind and not be too quick to dismiss all the facts surrounding the possibility of visitors, not of our earth. There are pieces that do not fit any government explanation. Keep this in mind. Try looking into just our own galaxy with a telescope. Now consider the laws of probability. If all our other laws of nature have been proven correct, why would this one be the only one that is different?
Easyco, you need to tell us what column you’re ranting about, because I certainly don’t recognize it. I assume it’s got something to do with UFOs. Most of what you say is wrong, or unsupported, or irrelevant.
Try thousands of years, most of which was spent adapting the wheel to new uses and new materials. We’re still at that stage with almost all technologies. I suspect the wheel worked pretty well from day one.
Except for the ones that didn’t.
One disease is history, sort of. Smallpox has been eradicated, but is still in labs. ALL of the other diseases known to plague mankind still do so. They’re less of a problem than they were, but the 70-year-old discovery of antibiotics, the 200-year-old development of vaccination, and the centuries-old practices of sanitation and public health have greatly reduced their incidence. (52 years? Where in hell did that come from?)
Cite? For that matter, huh?
Whose goal? Not mine; the only people I know who are focused on a “superior human species” are mad scientists on television, and a few leftover Nazis.
Well, one doesn’t prove laws of nature – one observes them. One proves theories. The laws of probability, inasmuch as they exist, have been observed to be correct; however, since we know so little about the necessary antecedents of life, we don’t have any way of knowing what the probability of life is. In the absence of such knowledge, statistical prediction is impossible. (Hint: “probability” doesn’t mean “well, there’s a buncha 'em – sumpin’s gotta happin!”)
Welcome to the SDMB, Easyco, and thank you for posting your comment.
Please include a link to Cecil’s column if it’s on the straight dope web site.
To include a link, it can be as simple as including the web page location in your post (make sure there is a space before and after the text of the URL).
You’re grossly misrepresenting things. The current level of technological achievement is the culmination of thousands of years of human activity. Knowledge builds on knowledge. Events in history drive some groups to higher levels, followed by tragedies that cause the loss of knowledge. (Think Rome.) The achievements of the last 52 years (or even the last century) are the result of synergistic effects from simultaneous advances of knowledge in many fields. Plus, the social climate was right to allow these developments. For example, steam power was thought up by a Roman 2 millennia ago, but was largely ignored for social reasons - what would they do with all the slaves? Also, industrial methods of forging and machining and the development of steel made the rediscovery of steam power in the 19th century more accessible, therefore more economical, and society was primed for automation to replace manual labor.
Similar advances in medical knowledge (such as the famous germ theory discovery of Pascal, knowledge of vitamins and their dietary requirements, realization that blood-letting was useless and detrimental, study of anatomy and physiology allowing understanding how various organs work, discovery of the method of transfer of the bubonic plague - fleas on rats, etc.) cross-pollenated with discoveries in chemistry, biology, and physics. Advances in chemistry lead to advances in materials technology - from petroleum and steel to polymers, semi-conductors, and composites. Ideas in automation of industry built on one another, and used the materials developed to provide better machinery. Discoveries in physics and chemistry revolutionized our understanding of how things work, allowing us to develop newer and better ways of doing things. Free exchange of information, freedom from arbitrary authoritarian dogma limiting research (i.e. secularization), and the development of faster communication methods allowing more people access to each other and therefore more knowledge, all played a role in fostering the right environment for technological advancement to proceed at a rapid pace. Often, warfare provided the impetus to devote large scale resources into certain areas of research. Sir Isaac Newton said something to the effect of “If I can see so far it is because I stand on the backs of giants,” meaning all of his achievements were possible because of the voluminous amounts of information from previous scientists. That summarizes nicely why we have come so far - all that has come before.
You mention the wheel as taking millions of years. More like thousands, but the basic concept of the wheel is actually the axle - the rest is just refinements. Improved materials, better manufacturing techniques, development of bearings, tires for traction, etc are all advances that occurred through the culmination of knowledge.
You mention the moon landings within 20 years. You’re talking basically the extent of manned rocketry, right? None of that would have been possible without the development of steel, then of aluminum, of fuel systems and aerodynamics and electronics. The concept is an easy leap - humans have always been hands on explorers and looking for ways to experience new things and go new places. Suddenly going to the moon became a reasonable goal once the knowledge was in place of a possible way to get there. But that required an accurate knowledge of how the universe works in order to understand what the challenges were that needed to be overcome. Icarus would never be able to fly close to the sun with wax holding feathers on his arms. It took a better understanding of physics to know why, and develop aviation (first through balloons, then airplanes and helicopters). It took a theory of gravitation that explained how the heavenly bodies moved. It took knowledge of thermodynamics. Each of these pieces came together through the centuries of acquiring and refining knowledge.
The developments in medicine within the 20th century are staggering. To think in just one century people’s expectations went from seeing a doctor to tell you how you were going to die to seeing a doctor and expecting him to cure you. (That’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight.) But its all because of the work preceding it, that allowed more discoveries to be made. Until the church stopped preventing doctors from cutting up cadavers, the functioning of internal organs was largely a mystery. Once scientists and doctors could cut away the clouds of mysticism and actually study the details of how things worked, they quickly learned how to do things better.
There’s nothing mysterious or unexplained about it. It is centuries of hard work by millions of people building on previous knowledge, and then being able to share that knowledge with someone else to foster their innovations. No need to hypothesize alien visitors - good old humans are plenty exciting enough.
Our elected officials. Okay, I don’t see what any of this has to do with whether or not aliens are visiting Earth. And anyway, you’re comparing different types of challenges and saying why are one set done and another not, when the one set is inherently easier to do than the other. It is fundamentally easier to develop electro-mechanical improvements over political/sociological change. The common cold is well understood as millions of different viruses. It would be great if we could find one agent that would neutralize all viruses of any type, but that’s not likely anytime soon. Similarly, cancers are caused by different things, so being able to cure cancer requires addressing all the various causes.
What facts? Anecdotes? Hallucinations? And it’s good to keep an open mind, but not one so open as to let the mind fall out.
It is one thing to speculate on the possibility of other life within the universe. The universe is a vast place. It is quite another to jump to the conclusion that any life that may exist out there is visiting us here and now. Again, the universe is a vast place. Or to turn your statistics on their head, of all the places in the universe, why would an alien race decide to come here? Most of those places aliens might be are so far away that without a fundamental break with our understanding of how the universe works (i.e. relativity and light speed issues), it would be impossible for them to ever visit us if they had not started traveling our direction shortly after the Big Bang. Even within our own galaxy, the number of places that would even have a clue we exist would be so tiny a fraction as to be negligible. Even if we assume that 10% of the stars in the galaxy are inhabited by intelligent life forms capable of interstellar travel, the likelihood of one of them finding us is rather small. And if, by some chance, these aliens have managed to locate us and are visiting us, why the hell do professional and amateur astronomers have no clue as to their existence?
Actually it wasn’t the Romans, it was the Greeks. Hero of Alexandria, to be precise. He’s credited with creating a steam-powered toy called the “aeolipile.” It was a globe with two curved jets set perpendicular to the axis. When you heated the globe over a fire, it spun.
I’m not familiar with the theory that slave power contributed to people ignoring the steam engine, butthis site mentions it obliquely. I guess I was too focused on watching the fun spinning ball. :smack:
There’s probably some justice in saying that the use of slaves in the ancient world contributed to the non-use of artificial power. The Romans did have water mills, but used them only in mountainous regions.
On the other hand, though, the Hero engine wasn’t really good for anything except a toy. It’s not the same sort of thing as the engines which power locomotives or the like. The Hero engine is much less efficient, not suitable for replacing slaves in the first place.
People I know would attribute the speed-up in the pace of technology to the conscious use of the scientific method. Allowing people to save up and pool new good ideas with less loss of ideas through indifference, social opposition, lack of communication between scientists/inventors, etc.
I think the greatest reason we have seen so much advancement in the last century or two is that more people were working on the problems. There are more doctors, scientists, professors, and inventors today than in the whole of history.