Welcome to 2017!!
A decade ago I had a book published about the situation of humanity and the environment. My working title for the book was The Good News, because it put forth the claim that contrary to what most people believed, almost everything was actually getting better, not worse. The publisher did not like the “religious” sound of the title. (I was already a Christian in 2007, but I kept that a secret, and I was not yet a member of any church.) So the book was published as Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet.
My field of science at the time was environmental health, and the book focused on the environment and public health. I had known that air pollution, water pollution, exposures to toxic agents, and rescue of endangered species had all been showing improvements for many years, thanks to environmental laws and regulations. I also found that many other things, like human lifespan, literacy, infant mortality, violent causes of death, disease and the spread of democracy were also showing positive long term trends.
Nobody wanted to hear it. There were a few people who read the book and were convinced that the general atmosphere of doom and gloom about humanity’s future could use some counterbalance. But many liberals thought I was being either foolishly optimistic or paid off by some industry, and many conservatives were not pleased by my emphasis on the value of governmental interventions as the catalyst for improvement.
What I learned from the experience is that good news doesn’t sell. Bad news does. Truth is not relevant. The result is a perpetual sense that we are right now living in the worst of times, which are only going to get even worse. I believe this might be the reason that with only two small deviations, we have alternated between Democratic and Republican presidents every 8 years for the past 70 years, regardless of the incumbent’s record of accomplishment. There is a constant sense that we must change things, because things are not good.
In retrospect, I should have insisted on calling my book The Good News, and I should have inserted some old-fashioned gospel preaching into it. Because I cannot at this moment think of anything more opposed to the overwhelming sense of gloom that everyone seems to share than the good news of the Gospel. Christ preached hope, along with His warnings and lessons. He and the disciples taught a message of ultimate victory over the forces of evil, both of human and supernatural origin.
This same optimistic message can also be found in the writings of the early scientists and philosophers who advanced the cause of reason. These people saw a future of peace and prosperity (which did in fact happen) based on rational thought, democratic institutions, and the benefits of scientific and technological breakthroughs.
But despite all this, my own message of hope and encouragement, based on historical and scientific facts, fell on deaf ears. Many theologians today, as well as many scientists, are no longer looking with eagerness toward a brighter future but are caught up in the prophesies of doom.
If I really thought that the pessimists were correct, I would be quiet, or join the chorus of weeping. But I know that they are incorrect, that the world is suffering from a mass illusion that stems from many causes, including a terribly distorted modern system of mass communication. Please check out this facebook post, a list of good news from 2016 that you wont find mentioned in any media. I do not contend that all the news is good; in my book, I discussed all the issues we still need to contend with, like climate change. But I did insist that, based on our overlooked historical record, all these challenges can be met.
As has happened in other (far, far worse) historical periods, we must seek out those isolated areas of light and reason among the miasma of false gloom. I pray that the Church can be one of these, and I hope that some branch of science can be another. We cannot give up on our species, we must not believe the lies and distortions that surround us day and night. We should not give in to despair, hopelessness and depression. The world is beautiful; human beings are wonderful; God is with us. This is a spiritual truth whose validity is proven by rational evidence. And it is our only way forward.