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Sample Response to Real GRE Issue Questions

Issue # 10: "Humanity has made little real progress over the past century or so. Technological innovations have taken place, but the overall condition of humanity is no better. War, violence and poverty are still with us. Technology cannot change the condition of humanity."

The discussion of this statement turns on what is meant by "little real progress" from the first sentence, "the overall condition of humanity" in the second sentence, and "the condition of humanity" from the third sentence. To be sure, war, violence and poverty are still with us and we as mankind are probably more aware of these problems worldwide than ever before thanks to advances in technology and communication. But depending upon the definition of progress and the condition of humanity, this would appear to be an incorrect statement.

First of all, the phrase "little real progress" from the first sentence must be defined. If the author defines progress as elimination of death, war, violence and poverty, then perhaps it could be stated that humankind has not made much improvement over the past one hundred years. People are still dying, wars are still being fought, violence is present almost everywhere and there are most likely people in every country in the world living in poverty. However, if the term "progress" is defined not as elimination of these problems but rather a reduction in them, then great progress has been made over the past century. Life expectancies are up in nearly every country of the world due to improvements in medicine and the scientific study of the human body. War and violence, although still present, has been reduced and to a large part confined to certain areas of the world rather than the global wars of the past such was World Wars I and II. Poverty has also been reduced as international trade has lead to economic improvements in many formerly impoverished nations. Very real progress has been made in these areas over the past one hundred years.

Secondly, the phrases "the overall condition of humanity" and "the condition of humanity" must be defined. If the terms mean that we are all still born into pain, suffer many tragedies during our lives, and still die in the end, then of course the overall condition of humanity is no better than it was one hundred or even one hundred thousand years ago. Life is still life, and no matter what technological innovations come along, it is unlikely that the basic facts of living as a member of the human race will ever change. However, if the term means how we are able to live our lives during the time that we are given, then again tremendous progress has been made during the past century. Cures have been found for many diseases, some of which have officially been completely eliminated. Medical treatments for other diseases have made them less deadly or less debilitating. For example, many cancer victims that would have died in the past can now go on living comfortably and cancer-free after treatment. Diabetics who would have died in the past can now live nearly normal lives. Even poor eyesight can be effectively eliminated through laser surgery. It would seem to be beyond argument that overall, the condition of humanity is much better now than it was one century ago.

If one takes a very narrow definition of "progress" and "the condition of humanity", it could be fairly stated that mankind has made little in the way of advancement over the past century. Millions of people worldwide still live in poverty. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is killing millions of people with no cure in sight. War and violence continues in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. But to take this narrow point of view would be to ignore the obvious tremendous advances that have been made over the past one hundred years by the human race. As mankind continues on into the twenty-first century, it would be preferable to consider all that has been accomplished over the past one hundred years and to look ahead to future advances over the next century instead of ignoring mankind's obviously improved circumstances today.

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