Much as daz eddy
's writeup interests me, and much as I agree with his notions of the first two revolutions fueling the Industrial Revolution--agrarian revolution
, and transport revolution
--I'm not so sure about his fourth: medical revolution
When people were thrown together in the less than ideal conditions of cities in nineteenth century England, disease was rife. Especially in the inferno of the industrial revolution--the first 25 years of the century--people who had lived and died within miles of where they were born, came close to people from the other end of the country, if not the world.
Any immunity developed in one's locale was not effective against germs from elsewhere.
There is much scholarship on this point, but a point made quite clear, is that the decline in infectious disease pre-dated the development of what daz eddy describes.
What we call childhood diseases today, were once anything but. After a period of early virulence, they have receeded into a kind of symbiotic relationship with us. All susceptible people, quite simply, die. Those who survive have, or have developed, immunity.
Along with the inevitable rise of immunity, there is also a revolution of sanitation. There is the story of the Pump Handle: An epidemiologist, whose name escapes me at the moment, through early cluster studies, realised that cholera, or maybe dysentery, was centered around a certain water pump.
Taking his beliefs in his own hands, he removed the pump handle. The incidence of disease fell off dramatically.
Simple, common sense measures have wider effects than any specific medical tecnology. And the widespread application of some medical technologies have the opposite of the hoped for effect: witness the resistance to antibiotics.
We all have a need to believe that technology, even just knowledge will help us when we face the agony and terror of disease, especially unknown disease. But so often, it is our very knowledge, technolgy, our drive to profit that bring agony and terror upon us.
daz eddy: Noding online, as I did above, is always the most exciting, but does not always provide the most clarity.
I am arguing that it was primarily the sanitational revolution that ended the widespread ravages of infectious disease. I attempted to make the point that the major decline in infectious disease happenned before the medical revolution.
Infectious Diseases became a endemic with the start of the Industrial Revolution--you throw people together, and without immunity, they get sick, especially if you mix in unsanitary, and crowded living conditions: Victorian England.
Finally, I am not arguing that the advances in medicine have made no improvement to our lives and are just there as a placebo when we 'face the agony and terror of disease'. On the contrary, members of my family, and I myself, have received great personal benefit from medicine, and its great advances in the last century.
I argue only that the invdividual interventions of medicine were of little benefit to the population as a whole during the Industrial Revolution, and that the major ravages were over by the time the Medical Revolution had gotten underway. It is resonably obvious, I believe, that for a population as a whole, common sense measures of sanitation have the greatest efficacy in elimitating infectious diseases.
I think an argument can be, and is, made that the use of antibiotics in the treatment of otitus media--ear ache--is a major contributor to the rise of resistence to antibiotics by bacteria.
There is a notion I learned in Economics 100 years ago--the only thing that I remember:
The FALLACY of COMPOSITION: What is characteristic of the individual, is not characteristic of the aggregate
What is good for the individual person, is not good for the population. Isn't this always the problem: Do we seek to benefit only our own, or people in general? And if we do benefit our own--what effect does it have on everyone else?
A good exposition of the symbiotic relationship between man and bacteria can be found in Hans Zinsser, RATS, LICE, AND HISTORY.