I ran across “Science of Mom” the other day and thought it was a really smart blog. This post about vaccinations caught my eye, in particular. The lesson from ‘Grandma’ can be applied to different areas of study, and it also tells us something interesting about how we tend to view history.
We live in a time of peace and plenty and so it’s tough to pull ourselves out of the experiences of our time and imagine a totally different reality, even when that reality wasn’t so long ago. Our current state of safety and security tends to feel permanent, as though it is the natural state of things; like there is some kind of cosmic law which dictates that life will always be this way. Living in a prosperous society distorts our perception of risk. It’s easy to inflate the very marginal risk of vaccinations once you lose sight of infinitely greater risk of widespread disease.
This dichotomy applies also to debates around radical environmentalism or radical Islam. It’s easy to call for an end to fossil fuels when neither you nor anyone else you know has ever lived in an energy-poor world. Similarly, dismissing the threat of Islamic terror is so much easier when you’ve lived your entire life in Western liberal democracy and can’t imagine that others don’t share your ‘universal’ values (that in reality have emerged from a very particular Anglo-European and Judeo-Christian history).
If you’ve ever wondered why we don’t learn the lessons of history, this is a big part of your answer.
Enjoy the article:
Measles is back. The outbreak of this highly contagious viral illness that started at Disneyland in December has spread across the country and shows no signs of slowing. As of February 6, the CDC reported 121 cases in 17 states in this year alone, most linked to Disneyland. In 2014, we had 644 cases of measles in the U.S. This is a striking increase compared to the last 15 years, when we usually saw less than 100 cases in an entire year.
I’m sorry that so many people have been sickened in this outbreak and hope that it is reined in soon. This is no easy task given our mobile society and the fact that we like to congregate in places like Disneyland, schools, doctors’ offices, hospitals, airplanes, and shopping malls. Add to that the pockets of unvaccinated people where measles can easily spread, and we have a recipe…
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