I Am Thankful This Christmas

I am thankful this Christmas that science and humanitarians have allied to improve the lives of countless people.

I hadn’t recently read of the Carter Center‘s progress in combatting guinea worm, and this article was a welcome reminder of the important accomplishments of President Jimmy Carter. There is precedent for the eradication of a human pathogen – smallpox was eradicated under the direction of the United NationsWorld Health Organization.

Smallpox was a perennial scourge throughout the world. Every American of my age carries the vaccination scar received in childhood to control the disease in the U.S.. Millions elsewhere died from this terrible disease – a disease so vicious that it had also been implemented by militaries as a germ warfare agent. Today, no Kindergartener or First Grader is subjected to a treatment which remains in my memory, 54 years hence.

Eradication of the guinea worm may be the next thriumph of mankind over nature. It is the more remarkable for being largely the responsibility of a non-governmental organization (NGO).

The list of diseases which have been alleviated, controlled, or cured by science (often with the active support of governments) is too long for a mere blog to list. Most readers of this blog know someone who has been aided, during the course of a serious illness, by modern medicine.

We must be vigilant against the forces of ignorance and fear which obstruct progress against disease. In Africa, AIDS denial has even led to government officials’ active obstruction of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. Even in America, superstitious and ignorant people have employed propaganda to obstruct vaccinations important to public health.

I have faith that, next Christmas, we will have witnessed additional progress against suffering. That progress depends upon our sincere support and active opposition to dangerous voices in our midst.

Peace be upon you and your families.

2 Responses to “I Am Thankful This Christmas”

  1. January 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm


    Thanks for this post. We can’t be reminded often enough of the value of science, particularly when it is tackling human pathologies. And although the combination of government and science can be terrifying (nuclear weapons, for instance), it is often a force for good, as you point out.

    Thanks again.


  2. December 26, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Jim S,

    Amen to that.

    I find it ironic that certain diseases attract more attention and more assistance than others, almost as though they have celebrity status. I suppose that is a function of the information bubble in which we live.

    IMO, malaria should be high on the list for a world-wide effort. I have read that this scourge of most of the tropical parts of the world could be greatly attenuated, or maybe even eliminated, simply by chemically-treated netting and the use of DDT in selective ways that would not damage the environment.

    Just as in the vaccination example you used, we all too often throw out the baby with the bathwater in over-reactions. This is the yin and yang of internet communications. May we all support Snopes.com!

    Jim W

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All original material Copyright James R. Stone 2010, except where specifically noted. Some images licensed under Creative Commons, or GNU Free Documentation License, or unlicensed and public domain.

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