Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Wingnuttery kills

Among the sexually transmitted infections, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV, to its friends) is among the least glamorous. Everyone knows syphilis and gonorrhea, but for some reason HPV doesn't share their celebrity. It should, because some strains of it cause a very common and highly unpleasant problem, genital warts -- or warts wherever people's parts happen to interact, and you can use your imagination. Other strains cause cancer -- cervical, genital, anal, oral and pharyngeal. In fact, HPV is basically the cause of cervical cancer.

So it doesn't take a sodomite to see that a vaccine which is highly effective in preventing transmission of HPV would be a good thing for humanity. Or so one might think. Texas Governor Rick Perry found out the hard way that this isn't so by doing the right thing for what may well be the one and only time in his term in office, and mandating that adolescent girls get the vaccine. All the lovers of Jesus  in Texas immediately raised a massive outcry because they knew that the only reason their daughters weren't having sex with the entire football team was fear of genital warts. Michelle Bachmann figured she had a knockout punch in a Republican primary debate in 2011 when she raised the issue, and said after the debate "There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences." Sarah Palin weighed in with some cheer leading.

Hoo boy. It turns out that in Australia, the people are not insane. They've been vaccinating girls since 2007, and guess what? The diagnosis of genital warts in women and girls under 21 went down from 11.5% to .85%. It's too soon to say what will happen to cancer, but presumably in a decade or two we'll see that going way down as well. We have not, however, heard of an epidemic of sexual promiscuity in the land of the  wallaby and the billabong.

So let's be clear. Religion is bad for your brain, and your body, at least if you make it a guide to any sort of decision.  We've eradicated smallpox and we've almost done with the guinea worm and polio -- but religion has turned out to be the main obstacle to finishing the job with polio, in this case Islamic leaders claiming the polio vaccine is a Christian plot to sterilize muslims. HPV is potentially eradicable as well. But first we have to eradicate the ravings of idiots.


Anonymous said...

But, C, is it really Religion?

Or rather the politicization of certain ‘fringe’ issues? (I realize they are important.) Taking for granted that some have to be so sometimes, otherwise the difference between the 2 parties and partisan fights diminish. Ppl need to be kept riled up and on ‘their’ side.

After all, the polio vaccine, tetanus, etc. are seen as essential victories (or something, and setting aside the autism-vax madness which was not religiously / republican / conservative driven afaik.) This one of course is tied to ‘girls’ and to ‘sex’ so maybe one can argue down that path. But still.

An ex. to illustrate what I mean - gay marriage so more social than medical and in France - Gay marriage was promoted by Socialist Prez. Hollande. Huge, vicious demos, endless fights in Parliament, for and against, wouldn’t expect that in F, would one? (In any case F has a long standing civil partnership for gays and non-gays which is almost marriage.) It became a pol. issue. 80% or more of Socialists supported gay marriage, 70% plus of the UMP (Sarkozy’s party) opposed it, and the most traditional conservatives, the National Front, were supportive (43%) or indifferent / or opposed, i.e. it was not an issue for them, their opinion is roughly ‘average’, and their leaders did not speak up.

Well, the problem with relating this to conservatism, religion, family values, traditionalism (note I purposely make no difference between these) is that Hollande’s voters are Catholics or ex Catholics, family values ppl, rooted in tradition, have larger families, far fewer full time working women, etc. (Sociologist call them zombie Catholics.) The UMP voters come from the secular or more Protestant part of F (those responsible for the Revolution in fact), more individualistic, more libertarian, as well as sexually ‘free’ and not family oriented (each person must succeed on its own.) Economically, one can say there is no difference; these are not poor-rich or urban-rural divisions, but regional / historic.

In short, the demos, the polls, the votes, arose only out of adherence to a pol. party, to a leader, to a team. A sort of proxy issue. Believe me, very few French ppl care about gay marriage in the wider sense. Much the same argument could be made about abortion in the US. Most likely, ‘republican‘ or ‘christian‘ teens have more abortions than any other group. And for the vaccine issue, it is the same.


Cervantes said...

Tribalism is definitely important in politics -- but religion is different here than in Europe. It's far more pervasive, more political, and more primitive and superstitious. Religion is really the basis of tribalism for many conservatives. And it is religious puritanism that's behind the opposition to HPV vaccine, largely. You're right though, anti-vax quackery in general knows no religion or politics.

Anonymous said...

OK, I see. Thx for responding. Ana

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