Diamond’s Vengeance

by Jon Mandle on May 19, 2009

Around four years ago, there was some controversy about Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel (and, I gather, a PBS documentary based on the book). Various bloggers at savageminds.org – a group anthropology blog – for example, here and here and elsewhere – attacked Diamond for various reasons, up to and including calling him racist. Brad DeLong replied by accusing the critics of being “positively green with envy at Jared Diamond’s ability to make interesting arguments in a striking and comprehensible way, and also remarkably incompetent at critique.” Henry discussed the flap here, here, and here, writing: “I strongly suspect that the ‘Diamond=racist’ claim is a more-or-less pure exercise in boundary maintenance – I certainly haven’t seen any substantial counter-evidence to date. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a real, substantive argument to be had between different ways of knowing, or that there aren’t advantages to anthropological approaches which can’t be captured in a big, sweeping structuralist account like Diamond’s.” And he linked to Tim Burke, who here and here offered a critique of Diamond that was more – shall we say – nuanced (and interesting!) than the one at savageminds.org.

Now there’s a new controversy. About a year ago, Diamond published an article in the New Yorker called “Vengeance Is Ours.” Abstract is here – full text available to subscribers only (I think) from that link.
[click to continue…]

Planning for Pandemics (repost and update)

by John Quiggin on May 19, 2009

As governments and the WHO wrestle with the decision on whether to divert resources from the production of seasonal flu vaccines to develop a vaccine against H1NI (swine) flu, I thought I’d repost this piece from 2005, suggesting an expansion of vaccination against seasonal flu, in part to expand production capacity to prepare for problems like this.

Thinking a little more, and with the idea of global public goods in mind, it seems obviously in the enlightened self-interest of developed countries to go beyond domestic vaccination programs and contribute both vaccine supplies and organisational resources to encourage routine vaccination in poor countries, as well as ensuring a further expansion of production capacity.

The same goes, I think, for more extensive use of antivirals like Tamiflu, which apparently have the nice property that the flu virus does not develop resistance to them.

[click to continue…]

Nicholas Winton is 100

by Harry on May 19, 2009

I prevaricated. [Update 1] Do you congratulate someone who has avoided the limelight? Or do you risk providing it? In the end, if he didn’t want it, he should have avoided it more successfully. Anyway, many happy returns to him.

[Update 1] JQ says I vacillated. He’s right.

Yuck!

by Henry on May 19, 2009

Via “P.Z.”:http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/chest_bursters.php (but put under the fold so as to protect the delicate sensibilities of CT’s readership).
[click to continue…]