The idea of historical progress was initiated by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), an English statesman and intellectual under King James I. He was primarily interested in natural philosophy and scientific methodology. Due to Original Sin, he saw the human mind not as a tabula raza , not as an ideal plane which received images of the world, but as a crooked mirror with innate distortions of real material world. To correct these distortions, he emphasized the inductive method of reasoning, that is measured observations, its judicious interpretation and experimentation. He furthered reasoned that "men have been kept back as by a kind of enchantment from progress in the sciences by reverence for antiquity, by the authority of men accounted great in philosophy, and then by general consent." (The New Organon)

Today, "Progress is primarily associated with the growing dominion of reason, and this reason is obviously considered to be a force of good and a force for good. Progress is the overcoming of all forms of dependency—it is progress towards perfect freedom. Likewise freedom is seen purely as a promise, in which man becomes more and more fully himself. In both concepts—freedom and reason—there is a political aspect. The kingdom of reason, in fact, is expected as the new condition of the human race once it has attained total freedom." (Benedict XVI, Spes Salvi, # 18)

There is real and sustained progress in the development of the material world for sure but this is not true of the social order. The twentieth century saw the tragic consequences of progress as applied to the industrial revolution, the death of six millions Jews under Hitler who tried to improve the human race and the failure of Communism to create a just social order. And now, "Global Warming" caused by the misuse of natural resources. It will cause countless sufferings and deaths in the near future. The kingdom of God can never be created by men in time because each generation has free will and does not automatically inherit the moral progress of the previous generation. Further,

"Suppose that all your objectives in life were realized;
that all the changes in institutions and opinions,
which you are looking forward to,
could be completely effected at this very instant;
would this be a great joy and happiness to you?"

(John Stuart Mill)

The answer is no because man would no longer have something to look forward to, no incentive toward creativity, no new expectations. Even if death is eliminated would we be happy? Not likely because we seek the fullness of life which this world cannot give. But as it is, sickness and inevitable death will bring all hope of an earthly paradise to an end. We need to have an absolute trust or hope in the love of God because "When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me." (Benedict XVI, Spes Salvi, #32)

8. Mary, Star of Hope