May 5, 2011 - New and Improved?
By Scott Harrup
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore recently conducted a study of hands-free faucets installed in its facility and made a surprising discovery — the electronic faucets that allow hand-washing without any contact harbor higher levels of bacteria than standard faucets.
Who knew? Apparently, the complicated system of valves needed for the hands-free faucets makes them harder to clean. A technology designed to reduce germ levels has inadvertently raised those levels.
Surprising, isn’t it, how what would appear to be a benefit actually turns out to be harmful. In his 1997 book, Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences, science journalist Edward Tenner cited cases of what he calls “revenge effects.” Wide use of antibiotics has led to hardier strains of bacteria. “Safety” equipment in sports, such as football helmets and boxing gloves, has allowed athletes to hit each other harder and cause greater injury.
In his 2009 book, Born to Run, Christopher McDougall cites an array of researchers who are exploring the benefits of barefoot running. Turns out, running shoes protect the feet from harmful terrain but also promote the weakening of tendons and muscles. “Your foot’s centerpiece is the arch,” McDougall writes, “the greatest weight-bearing design ever created. The beauty of any arch is the way it gets stronger under stress; the harder you push down, the tighter its parts mesh. ... I’ve worked with over 100 of the best Kenyan runners, and one thing they have in common is marvelous elasticity in their feet. That comes from never running in shoes until you’re 17.”
Human ingenuity is always looking for ways to improve our material quality of life and keeps running into roadblocks. I think that holds true with our spiritual lives as well. Ask anyone if he or she is trying to be a better person, and you will almost certainly get an affirmative response. But when you look at society, it doesn’t appear we’re making consistent progress. In the past 50 years, for example, life in these United States has seen great strides in racial equality and huge setbacks in the sanctity of life.
Like the apostle Paul, I’ve discovered my efforts to be a better person are terribly flawed. Sometimes in the very area I’m trying to improve I’ll see my greatest failures. Paul expressed it this way:
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24,25, NIV).
With Jesus in the picture, there are no “revenge effects.” There is no area in my life where accepting Jesus as my Savior has brought about some unforeseen disaster. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’m reconciled with God, so I’m avoiding the eternal disaster of facing His judgment. I’m enabled to live for Him each day thanks to the ministering presence of His Holy Spirit. I can trust my Heavenly Father to bring about His best plan for my life now and also to prepare me for eternal life with Him.
In the meantime, I’ll put up with the continuing uneven benefits of technology. I’ve never been too crazy about those hands-free faucets anyway.