There is a widespread reverence for nature, a romantic idealization of nature, a human connection to it, that I simply do not understand. I was born and lived in a big city all my life up to a year ago, and the extent of my connection with nature was our pet dog Décibelle and the numerous mosquitoes what “connected” with me on our fishing trips. Farming for a living has never appealed to me or seem to me as anything but drudgery (although thanks to modern technology this is not as true as it used to be, and perhaps some day it will catch up to the delusion that farming is a romantic way of life).
I think there is a great desire for statists and religionists to see technology and progress as a corrupting influence. Given all that technology and progress have brought us- the incredible standard of life we now hold- their case is a very difficult one indeed, especially since they are dead set against the state of nature. If you first sold people on the belief that they are naturally selfish and overly individualistic, and must be dragged screaming and kicking out of the muck by the Church/the State/what have you, then a natural way of living is unlikely to now appeal to them.
They buttress their anti-modernity claims with all sorts of nonsense. Priests and ministers railed from the pulpit against the hot air balloon, the car, and the aeroplane. Windmills and weaving machines have been destroyed by ignorant minds who associated technology with evil and impoverishment (such ignorant minds still exist today: we call them environmentalists). Nowadays, it has become fashionable to say that anything that affects human genetics is an attack against “human dignity,” any foodstuff made by gene splicing (an accelerated version of the process that has brought us the fruits and vegetables we love all through the centuries) is a “frankenfood,” and the Internet lurks with untold menace to the poor souls what venture within.
Pro-nature claims are buttressed with pseudo-science in the best cases, outright quackery in the worst cases. Statists claim that global warming must be countered by a worldwide reduction in industry. They seize our land and our money to protect “endangered species,” and claim a worldwide mass extinction, without any scientific evidence, and constantly moving the goalposts. They promote global recycling programs that do more harm than good. From Adam Smith’s dire pronouncements to armies of activists pushing the latest food scare, it has always, and will remain, a safe bet that any time someone takes nature’s side against science and technology, they are outright lying.
All of these things are based on our old friend FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). In fact, the environmentalists have a term for it: the “precautionary principle.” Their principle is: unless you can prove that your new technology is 100% safe, it should be rejected. If we had adopted such a policy from the onset, we would have been protected from such potential evils as the telegraph and the telephone, vaccination, cooking your meat before eating it, and of course that symbol of technological hubris and great danger if there ever was one, the wheel (remember, drivers don’t kill people, it’s the wheels that kill people).
Even without the debilitating influence of State and Church, I grant you that some people will desire to live without modern technology, and they should definitely be allowed to do so. But we should be careful to distinguish between prosaic reality and collectivist hubris.