From Black Mass by John Gray:
Secular thinkers find this view of human affairs dispiriting, and most have retreated to some version of the Christian view in which history is a narrative of redemption. The most common of these narratives are theories of progress, in which the growth of knowledge enables humanity to advance and improve its condition. Actually, humanity cannot advance or retreat, for humanity cannot act; there is no collective entity with intentions or purposes, only ephemeral struggling animals each with its own passions and illusions. The growth of scientific knowledge cannot alter this fact. Believers in progress – whether social democrats or neoconservatives, Marxists, anarchists, or technocratic Positivists – think of ethics and politics as being like science, with each step forward enabling further advances in future. Improvement in society is cumulative, they believe, so that the elimination of one evil can be followed by the removal of others in an open-ended process. But human affairs show no sign of being additive in this way: what is gained can always be lost, sometimes – as with the return of torture as an accepted technique in war and government – in the blink of an eye. Human knowledge tends to increase, but humans do not become any more civilized as a result. They remain prone to every kind of barbarism, and while the growth of knowledge allows them to improve their material conditions, it also increases the savagery of their conflicts.