Commentary: Change: One step forward, two steps back

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Editor's note: The following commentary was written by Gene Hall, Public Relations Director for the Texas Farm Bureau and published on the Texas Agriculture Talks website.

I had some fever last week with my bout of bronchitis, which normally would be no time to plan a blog, but I got carried away.

What if, I surmised in my fevered state, the protagonists in some of America’s greatest true stories—those of scientific advancement—had tried to further their ideas in the age of the Internet and cable TV?

In the early 19th Century, Edward Jenner, the first to consider smallpox vaccination, might have received this response from a skeptic on his “Cowpox is Good for You” blog:  ”Are you kidding me? Inject a cow virus into MY body?  Who’s making money off this, you corporate hack?”

Jenner, of course, figured out that folks who worked with cows and were exposed to cowpox did not get sick with the great killer of the age, smallpox.

On the blog, Jenner might have responded: “I have proven that a mild case of this lesser disease would provide immunity from smallpox.”

“NO!!!  IT HAS NOT BEEN TESTED!!” yelled the skeptic in 19th Century all caps.

“Actually, it’s been in practical use now for years, with millions of successful immunizations,” Jenner responds.

“How much money have you made, you immoral slug?” the skeptic asks.

When the steam locomotive was first put into use, there was great fear that the human heart could not withstand the unheard of speeds—as much as 35 miles per hour—the hurtling locomotive could achieve.

I can only imagine the critics: “I saw on the Susan B. Anthony Show that this thing will cause heart attacks!”

And more: “I read on backtothe17thCentury.com,  (don’t look for this—I made it up) ‘If God had meant for people not to walk, he’d have put wheels on ‘em.’”

Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of The Green Revolution, is credited with saving more human life than anyone else who ever lived with his dwarf wheat varieties.  His discoveries paid off in the 1950s and 1960s.

But today, by the light of glowing computer screens, some critics have said his work is not “sustainable.”  By some estimates, Borlaug’s work “sustained” the lives of about a billion people.

The world has managed to move forward despite resistance to change.  Change is uncomfortable and sometimes hurts, and nothing is more necessary.  I’m just glad Borlaug didn’t have to deal with MSNBC.



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