Bumper Crop

“Simple Living Saves Lives.”

So proclaimed the window sticker I saw on a car today, the words written around an old-school windmill. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the naturalistic fallacy stated so succinctly and so wrongly.

Yes, Simple Living Saves Lives. Unless you’re an infant. Or a premature birth. Or deformed. Or exposed to common viruses and bacteria as a child. Or injured in accidents with “simple” technology. Or injured by animals. Or ingesting parasites from insufficiently sanitized food and cooking utensils. Or infected through unsanitary living conditions. Or infected with one of many dangerous STIs from insufficiently-protected/informed sexual encounters. Or pregnant. Or infected with a disease that’s only treatable by modern medicine. Or requiring modern surgery. Or a cancer patient. Or a person with a heart condition. Or someone with a propensity for strokes. Or an elderly person. Or a myriad of other things that endanger people’s lives, and that are only correctable through modern, “complicated” living.

The sentiment is naïve pastoral nonsense, and what’s more, we’ve known it for at least four hundred years. Sure, technology causes new problems, but the whole reason we have it in the first place is because it solves problems as well. Pastoralists forget that, which means they also implicitly forget an important part of that: in the past, we still had problems.

So, yes, there are lives that would have been saved if we all still lived in agrarian societies with limited technology. You wouldn’t see people dying due to radiation poisoning or plane crashes or air pollution due to car exhausts. But you’d probably see a lot more people dying of heatstroke or injuries from domesticated animals or ergot poisoning. The increasing world population, the increasing number of healthy elderly and the decreasing infant and child mortality rate in the developed world are testaments to the point that the complexities of modern life save more lives than they end.

And no lives are saved by forgetting history and idealizing the past.

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3 Responses to Bumper Crop

  1. Techskeptic says:

    hmm. I thought this was going to be an asshat post.I was just having this conversation with someone who was lamenting the loss of the values of the 50's. this guy is 30, he doesnt even know wha the 50s were like. Things were simpler in the 50's, he says, none of these shootings, none of this exposure to carcinogens, less regulation etc etcI spat out a similar litany: even if that were true, its only better if you were white, male, straight, religious. But those who wanted an abortion, those who were married to abusive alcoholics, those who wanted to be able to know what goes nto the foods they eat, those who wanted to be treated equal regardless of skin color, I doubt they share his enthusiasm for the 50s.

  2. Mythnam says:

    I've never really dealt much with these kinds of people, and I'm curious as to what they would say if you asked them for a single objective measure of how "good" a period in time was. If they choose life expectancy, for example, the good ol' days are clearly inferior. If you choose violent crime rates or something it gets more complicated, but I still think there's a good argument to be made for modern times.Specifically regarding the 50's, there were still carcinogens out there (asbestos, anyone?). Not to mention the fact that literally at any moment the world could erupt into thermonuclear war and human life would be eradicated from the face of the Earth.Good times, good times.

  3. GDad says:

    Weirdly, my verification word is "bardings". It sounds like the pantaloons worn by playwrights in Elizabethan England.I'm about to turn 40, and I recall horrible things from when I was a kid. Things aren't any worse now; it's just that the bad things are newer, and people my age are frightened of them.You kids and your Sega Genesis.

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