Common Question

In 2021–22, CQ asks you: What is Progress?

Where does the term “paradigm shift” come from? Can protest lead to change? What does it really mean to forgive? How did COVID-19 vaccine development depend on basic science research? How does the trajectory of humankind look on a graph? How many rungs on the ladder to heaven?

The sources below consider progress from creative, scientific, and humanistic perspectives.


Start Here

  • John Naughton, “Thomas Kuhn: The man who changed the way the world looked at science” (2012)

    “He singlehandedly changed the way we think about mankind’s most organised attempt to understand the world.”

  • Ryan Coogler, Black Panther (2018)

    “What happens now determines what happens to the rest of the world.”

  • Anonymous, Celadon Box (no date)

    “Over 500 years ago in Japan, a repair technique was developed that celebrated the beauty of imperfection.”

  • Senator Barbara Mikulski, “Helping You To Be You” (2021)

    “Explain the mission. Where are we? How can I help you be you?”

  • Jeff Orlowski, The Social Dilemma (2021)

    “Social media isn’t a tool waiting to be used. It has its own goals.”

  • AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, “AIDS Protests at the NIH” (1990)

    “One month after this protest, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the National Institutes for Health began directly including people with AIDS in determining policy on the drug trials.”

  • Philip Yeagle, “The potent power of basic research” (2021)

    “Why should we fund scientists to perform experiments…that at the time may seem to lack relevance to immediate societal issues?”

  • Myisha Cherry, “What Does it Mean to Ask Blacks to Forgive and How Should They Respond?” (2016)

    “To forgive…is to offer an appropriate, proportionate, and reasonable response to injustice.”

  • Toni Morrison, Wellesley Commencement Address (2004)

    “The process of becoming an adult is not inevitable.”

  • Atul Gawande & PBS Frontline, “Being Mortal” (2015)

    “What did we forego by consistently pursuing treatment…which made her sicker and sicker?”

  • Anonymous, The Ladder of Divine Ascent at St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
    (12th century)

  • Steven Pinker, “Talks at Google: Enlightenment Now” (2019)

    “Intellectuals hate progress.”

  • Miranda July, “The Swim Team” (2007)

    “But instead of dying, I said: I can teach you how to swim. And we don’t need a pool.”

  • The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research

    “Psychedelics have real potential as medicine.”

  • Anthony Abraham Jack, “What does it mean to be a poor student on a rich college campus?” (2019)

    “Being accessible and being inclusive are two different things.”

PDF Document:
View list of source and image citations