[extropy-chat] Are vaccinations useless?

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 14 05:35:16 UTC 2006

--- Hal Finney <hal at finney.org> wrote:
> >In most cases, an effective
> specific medical intervention
> > was not available until late in the period, well
> after the greater part
> > of the mortality decline had occurred.
> >
> > For example, the argument can be illustrated for
> the cases of respiratory
> > tuberculosis and a group of three upper
> respiratory diseases - bronchitis,
> > pneumonia, and influenza.  Mortality rates for
> these diseases fell to
> > relatively low levels prior to the availability of
> effective medical
> > interventions, whose availability occurred
> respectively after 1930, and
> > for some cases well into the 1950s and 1960s.  The
> picture is shared
> > by waterborne diseases.  About 95 percent of the
> mortality declines
> > in cholera, diarrhea, and dysentery occurred prior
> to the 1930s when
> > intravenous therapies became available.  Likewise,
> typhoid and typhus
> > mortality already had fallen to low levels by the
> beginning of the
> > twentieth century.

The problem with this argument is that it assumes that
medicine was as narrowly defined at the turn of the
20th century as it is now. Back then microbiology was
not strictly its own discipline as it is today.
Instead it was subsumed under medicine. Koch's
postulates and Germ Theory, (both crucial in the
development of medicine) was sufficient to allow
sewage treatment and other public health measures
against airborne and waterborne pathogens before more
disease specific interventions came into being. You
would have to understand the archaic theories of "bad
humor", "miasma", and "vapors" as causes of disease 
to really appreciate how huge of an impact germ theory
had on public health and medicine. For what it is
worth MOST of the early proponents of Germ Theory
(with the exception of Louis Pasteur who was a
chemist) were medical scientists as were many of the
pioneers of public health. If you throw nutrition and
epidemiology into the mix, you pretty much have most
of your life expectancy increase accounted for.


Stuart LaForge
alt email: stuart"AT"ucla.edu

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science [...] Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long-continued slow progress" 
- St. Darwin

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