Today I am pondering many things, among them technology, and mostly people and technology, and how do some people decide when enough is too much?
My friend Paul wrote a column for the local paper about his covid-19 ordeal, full of thanks for the staff at St. Mary’s Hospital, the health workers in Gunnison, his community, his kids and especially his wife. But he also devoted a fair amount of ink to the technology that saved him, and he thought about it far more than I usually stop to consider.
For instance, he was glad he wasn’t left writhing on a “floorless cabin” festooned in leeches which a couple hundred years ago were the standard in health care. And yes, that was a long time ago, but when you think about advancement we ought to broaden this concept and think about the human progress made everywhere, from flooring and wall systems to the advanced medical equipment that kept Paul alive.
So why are some of us willing to embrace the science and engineering that goes into some projects, but then reject other advancements as stuff and nonsense? Like, we’re okay with LED light fixtures by themselves (and the money they save), but we would never need to buy them on account of such thing as climate change.
We’ll tune into the weather — meteorological — predictions for the day, remark on how much bigger the hurricanes seem these days, watch as coastline gives itself up to the ocean — and then somehow completely ignore the research and effort that has gone into the study of climate and change.
Or rejecting the fields of geology, anthropology, archaeology, paleontology and lots of other ologies, all of which combine to give us a chronology of the planet on which we live that stands at odds with books of faith. Or rejecting the notion of evolution, when some of that — like the peppered moths I learned about in elementary science classes, whose coloring changed under basic observation as the Industrial Revolution turned cities blacker — can be witnessed in real time.
My battery-powered stud finder, once I finally learned how to work it, is an approved advance in science and technology, but a vaccine (relying on the science of 150 years) is not.
I also often wonder, without knowing anyone in these faiths, about the Amish and the Mennonites. At what arbitrary point do any of us say, “This is just the right amount of technology; we don’t need anymore”? It’s okay to button but not to zip clothing; a buggy is a good use of the wheel but (for the Amish, sometimes) a car is not; using a hammer is okay but not a nail gun.
I mean, I still have all my VHS tapes and a VCR, but I am slowly adapting to Lynn’s Amazon Firestick whether I like it or not.
We don’t all adapt to various technologies at the same rate — for instance, I’ve used a hammer for decades but only this year tried a nail gun, and I button rather than zip my pants, although my car is electric — but there’s a lot of technological advancement none of us give a second thought to.
We all turn on our plasma high-definition televisions using our new voice-activated remotes, and never really give it a second thought, even though when we were little we used to have to get up off the floor, walk clear across the whole entire room, push a button, wait for the black-and-white, what-is-stereo-surround-sound TV to eventually get a picture, and then manually rotate a dial to see which one of three entirely different programs we might want to watch.
We text people, or even talk to them, on phones we carry around in our pocket. It’s like the Jetsons: we can see the people we’re talking to, even if we’re on completely different planets. (Or at least in orbit above this one.)
And yet I have a friend who stops short of using the “hoax” word, but who is very much in doubt this virus, the one that nearly took Paul away from us, is worth any fuss at all. He uses technology — the internet — to prove his point, but I think we’re using two different internets.
His internet tells him this is no more a contagion than a seasonal flu; my internet says that number of Americans dead by flu in any given year is 12,000, while we have climbed past 50,000 killed by covid-19 — most of those in about one month.
His internet tells him Gunnison County has more cases of HIV than covid-19; my internet (not that I looked too hard) only offered statistics for larger Colorado counties, in numbers like 4.4 per 100,000. In covid-19 cases, we must be at about a total of 600-plus cases per 100,000; that would be an extremely alarming number of HIV cases, if 4.4 is considered high.
There’s no real point in arguing with him, because we’re on two different internets if not planets, but I wonder why science plays such a small role in his world view. I did not need Paul to get sick nor Bob Teitler to die to convince me this is a scary virus, both lethal and highly contagious, and I wonder how my friend, who is my age with underlying medical conditions and parents in the decade of 8% of all Colorado cases but over 50% of the deaths, can reject all the science to just know that this has been completely overblown from the federal to the local level.
In good conspiracy fashion, although I did not think he operated this way, he feels every elected official is just going along with this because they’re in too deep to back out now without looking bad. That’s really some pretty twisted thinking, if you stop to think about it.
I just don’t understand willful ignorance. I don’t understand how you can be willing to try the very latest medical science and technology have to offer for your own malady, but then reject the notion of medical scientists trying to warn you about a pandemic that is killing more Americans than entire wars have done. That’s the sort of unthinking that will get people killed.