The Good News

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.

Happy New Year!!

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6 Responses to The Good News

  1. I thought it was a good book indeed, well balanced. The key was that we identified problems, and then we dealt with them through action. Today we deny them.

  2. Thanks David, I do remember discussing the book with you back in the old days. And I completely agree with your take. The fact that we have been able to deal with problems through action (mostly laws and regulations) should be a focus for future efforts to safeguard and extend those positive achievements. Simply moaning about doom, does nothing. The next 4 years will be a challenge, of course, and we will need to keep the message of past progress alive.

  3. SheilaDeeth says:

    Thank you. We bounce from rose colored spectacles to eyes bandaged and dark. Thank you for lifting the bandage.

  4. resonate47 says:

    Happy New Year, Sy. Great post, and I agree wholeheartedly. My main resolution this year is to treat every single person with more kindness, and to be proactive about helping heal in which ways I can. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Years; looking forward to reading your posts this year.
    P.S. I’m really interested in your book. I’ll have to order a copy soon and give it a read.

  5. Thanks Ethan, the holidays were great, but I welcome the return to normalcy (such as it is). Great resolutions! I havent made any, so I think I will borrow yours. 🙂


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