This essay discusses progress and directionality, both in nature, in science and in society, treating as its starting-point the reflections, parallelisms and comparisons of Ruse’s essay, ‘A Threefold Parallelism for Our Time? Progressive Development in Society, Science and the Organic World’, but reaching substantially different conclusions. The essay thus ranges over progress and directionality in the world of natural evolution, in the sciences and the humanities, and in history and society. It defends non-relative progress in science and the humanities, criticising here both the approach to these disciplines of the strongly evolutionary epistemology of Hull and the more moderate evolutionary epistemology of Ruse. It further defends the possibility of progress and directionality in history and society, and also, following Rolston, in the course of evolution within the world of nature, where the kind of directionality to be found has multiple directions rather than being unilinear. Subsequently it relates conclusions about these fields to theological reflections (characteristic of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) about the creation of nature and society by a value-loving intelligence.
J.B. BuryThe Idea of Progress: an inquiry into its origin and growth (New York: Dover, 1955; first published1932); John Baillie The Belief in Progress (London: Oxford University Press 1950); Robert Nisbet History of the Idea of Progress (London: Heinemann 1980).
See Karl PopperThe Poverty of Historicism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul1957) and The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism (London: Hutchinson 1982); for his refutation of historicism see The Open Universe 62–64.
See MidgleyEvolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears (London and New York: Methuen1985) 34; also Stephen Jay Gould Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1980) ch. 3.