Many years ago, I got in a tangle with a neighbor about the world’s state of affairs. I was living in Portland, Ore., at the time, and Linda and her husband lived across the street. Weekend mornings we would often have coffee together. I admired Linda for being an assiduous reader of the daily newspaper, which she read cover to cover each day and was always well informed about all that was going down in the United States and the world.
Like many news junkies, though, Linda would often spout all that was going wrong with the world. One day, I made this seemingly innocuous statement: “You want to keep things in perspective because, overall, the world is becoming a much better place.”
Her jaw dropped open. “Are you nuts?” she said.
A vigorous debate ensued, though neither of us relinquished our positions. Linda is far from alone in her gloomy outlook for Homo sapiens. A recent survey found 71 percent of Britons think the world