Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Was rich stay-at-home-mom Ann Romney detached from the real world, or just a hard-working mom devoted to rearing her offspring? The media told the story both ways. The only mistake Hilary Rosen made was to apologize for saying Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life." In the context of holding a job, Hilary was right. "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys," Ann Romney said; "Believe me, it was hard work." But few women today have that choice; they need their job to help feed their families. Many wouldn't want it any other way. The rate at which women are assuming leadership positions in government and industry is unprecedented. The invention of "the pill" in the 1960s freed women to explore their potential as equal members of the human race. So does it matter that Ann Romney decided to stay home and have babies? Of course it matters; this tiny planet belongs to all of us. A fertility rate of 5.0 is typical of the desperately poor African dictatorships; advanced nations are closer to 2.0 (no growth), but even at 2.0 the environment will continue to deteriorate. The total world population of 7 billion is far more than the Earth can support. As China has come to realize, the fertility rate must be kept below 2.0 for a very long time. Sound hopeless? Not at all; but it can't be done overnight. We must get started. "The pill" may be the most important invention in the 200,000 year history of Homo sapiens.


There was never a time before people knew that falling trees and large animals with teeth can kill. Microbes are another matter. They had been killing us for perhaps 200,000 years before Antonie van Leeuwenhoek showed them to us. Paul Offit and two colleagues worked for 25 years to develop a vaccine for the rotavirus, a cause of gastroenteritis that kills as many as 600,000 children a year worldwide, mostly in underdeveloped countries. The vaccine is credited with saving hundreds of lives a day. Offit wrote "Autisms False Prophets" in 2008 exposing British physician Andrew Wakefield for falsely claiming the MMR vaccine is linked to autism. Vaccination prevents more suffering than any other branch of medicine, but is still opposed by the scientifically ignorant who accept the upside-down logic of the alternative medicine movement. Because vaccination of schoolchildren against virulent childhood infections is ubiquitous, crackpots, scoundrels and gullible reporters get away with linking it to unrelated health problems as they did in the 1980s with the ubiquitous power lines. We still hear echoes of the power-line scare in the cell phone/cancer panic. Paul Offit has just written "Deadly Choices: How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. We need to do everything we can to stop it.

Bob Park can be reached via email at whatsnew@bobpark.org
Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the University, but they should be.