It’s a Good Time to Be Born

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen – 18 October 2020

I grew up in a medical household.  My father was one of the leading pediatricians of the Greater Los Angeles, California area.  Every single day I was greeted with pragmatic, practical news on the advances being made in medicine, public health, and especially in the treatment and care of children and their diseases.  And every day, it was plain, when my father came home, if he had lost a patient that day – he was stoic and realistic, but every baby lost, every child that died,  crushed part of him.    That was in 1950.  There was a vaccine for smallpox but almost nothing else.  Children were expected to suffer through measles, mumps, chicken pox and German Measles (Rubella).  We almost all did.  The worst was the dreaded risk of polio. 

Most kids in the United States got through the raft of childhood diseases just fine.   But the death toll of the 1950s would be considered terrifying in the world of 2020.

Dr. Perri Klass tells in a recent article in the New York Times, which promotes her upcoming new book  “A Good Time to Be Born”:

Despite the crises of 2020, parents can realistically expect that children born today will outlive them. That wasn’t always the case. “

Before 1950?

1800: Demographic research suggests that through to at least the year 1800 more than one-third of children failed to reach the age of five. Despite estimates in 1800 coming with substantial uncertainty, it’s expected that in some countries rates could have been as high as every 2nd child. Let’s think about what this meant for parents of this period. The average woman in 1800 had between 5 to 7 children.1

Parents probably lost 2 or 3 of their children in the first few years of life. Such loss was not a rare occurrence but the norm for most people across the world.

— “From commonplace to rarer tragedy – declining child mortality across the world”  by Hannah Ritchie

In the North America of the 1950s, 4% of children died before their 5th birthday – that seems awful today, but in Europe it was over twice that.  In many parts of the world,   one-in-five or even one-in-four was common – and in Africa, one out of three died before they were five years old. 

What a difference one generation makes. 

Today, less than 1% (0.68%) of U.S. children fail to reach their 5th birthday – and two thirds of those failures are neonatal deaths (newborns aged 0–27 days).  That means if a baby lives through her first month, she will most likely be one of the 998 out of 1000 to make it to elementary school age.

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The majority of those neonatal (newborn) deaths are from two causes.  Low Birthweight and Congenital Malformations.   Sadly, often here is little to be done about congenital malformations;  something has gone wrong in the genetic material or in fetal growth – some of these are repairable, some not.   For example, there has been substantial progress in surgical correction of heart problems in neonates saving many infants that would have died in the past. Premature babies get support in life-saving Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs).  There has been success with prevention of low birthweight and premature birth through better and more intense prenatal care for mothers and this has been especially important for very young mothers (under 20), older mothers (40 and above), poor and socially disadvantaged mothers  and those mothers with mental and/or emotional problems, such as depression, alcoholism and other substance abuse. 

Postneonatally, the most common causes of death are: Congenital Malformations (like heart valve problems, internal organs that don’t function right, etc), Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Unintentional Injuries (accidents).   There are continuing advances dealing with postneonatal  congentital malformations with surgical and other interventions.  The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement making recommendations about prevention of SIDS reinforced the Back-to-Sleep Campaign and SIDS deaths have been reduced by about 40%.   Aggressive action on safety issues affecting children have reduced accidental deaths – such things as safer crib designs, high chair design, car seats and age-appropriate toys.

As Dr. Klass summaries it:

 “Collectively, as human beings, we changed the game. It took science, medicine and public health, it took sanitation and engineering and safety legislation, and it took many different kinds of education and parent advocacy. And it took vaccines and antibiotics, those 20th century game-changers.”

Vaccines and Antibiotics

Many readers here are of the “pre-vaccines” generation.  We attended elementary schools (kindergarten through 6th grade) in the early 1950s – we are the post-World War II Baby Boomers.  The oldest of us got only small pox vaccinations and then received polio vaccines as they were developed.  We gained our immunity against the five common childhood disease from having them — but our children benefited from the new protective vaccines. 

In 1950, the only effective antibiotics were sulfa drugs and penicillin – and both were “miracle drugs”  saving untold numbers of lives.  Most of today’s antibiotics, or their precursors, were developed from 1940-1962.  These drugs keep our children alive when their bodies are attacked by infections against which they have not yet developed adequate defenses.   Where these antibiotics are not readily and affordably available, child mortality is unacceptably high. 

The role of Public Sanitation in preventing child mortality is seldom understood by the general public in modern Western societies, such as Europe, Japan, ANZO and the United States.  One needs to have experienced the conditions found in the poorer areas of Third World countries to really “get it.”   My local water department issued a “boil water order” last week because some water pipe had broken lowering general pressure in the mains, which “might have” allowed some tiny amount of ground water to enter the water system.  Compare this to:  No clean safe drinking water (unless purchased in a plastic bottle), no flushing toilets, no running water (cold or hot) for hand washing, dish washing, or bathing.   Privies and animal waste washed into the local drinking water supply with every rain.    Rampant childhood under- or mal-nutrition and homes with no windows or window screens thus open to mosquitoes and all the diseases they spread, worsen the situation.  These factors coupled with no or few local health clinics – or a health clinic with no medicines available – lead to the still sadly high child mortality in less developed areas, despite improvements over the last 70 years.   

Those interested in humanitarian efforts to “save the children” should concentrate their giving to organizations that work specifically on these issues: safe drinking water, local health clinics and childhood vaccination, public sanitation and anti-mosquito-borne disease programs.

But for the vast majority of those reading here, those living in North America, Europe, Japan and Australia/New Zealand and the more developed parts of other nations:

“Because, believe it or not, even in 2020, parents in the United States and in many other countries, and not just the very richest, are among the luckiest parents in history. We can, for the most part, hope and even expect to see our children live to grow up, and we live in a society shaped and colored by that expectation. And for all of the anxieties and terrors of this present moment, as parents, we are actually on the lucky side of a divide that separates us from the parents who came before.” — Dr. Perri Klass

It is, indeed, a Good Time to Be Born

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Author’s Comment:

I welcome each and every newborn child I meet with the salutation:  “Welcome Aboard!”  with the knowledge that the ship-of-life they’ve boarded is far safer and kinder and fairer than the one I climbed aboard so many years ago.   It’s not a perfect world, but with faith and hard work, almost all of them will make a go of it and have a good life.

The madness of the moment will eventually pass, probably soon after the upcoming U.S. Presidential election, and things will return to their pre-pandemic boom conditions.

My father, the pediatrician, told every new mother with a new baby in her arms, “That’s a fine baby!”   I do the same, in his honor, because it is true – every baby is a “fine baby”.

Yes, there are other worthy projects that help children: Poverty Vitamins, Deworming Medications and Vitamin A programs, supporting basic educational programs with school kits and program materials and childhood vision programs.    I have been involved in all of these and witnessed a great deal of success. 

If your comment is meant for me, please start it with “Kip – “  so I don’t miss it.  Thanks.

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Dan Sudlik
October 18, 2020 2:42 pm

Kip, that child mortality graph from 1950 is absolutely stunning. I was 9 back then and remember the fear of polio especially. I have pictures of me and my brother with cloths tied around our head and chin due to mumps. What a difference. Now it is people my age worried about Covid while youngsters are mostly going to be ok.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 18, 2020 3:21 pm

When I was in the 7th or 8th grade I remember they gave us all a TB test. I was the only kid in the room that tested positive. Quite the buzz in the classroom. But I tested positive because of what happened years earlier. (details
Covid testing has increased. I wonder how many of these “new” cases are really old cases that had Covid and recovered from mild symptoms months ago? They just hadn’t been tested for the antibodies till now?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 18, 2020 5:07 pm

I just saw this study co-authored by Dr. Antony Fauci that suggested the majority of deaths during the Spanish Flu were actually caused by secondary bacterial pneumonia. (Study: ) You can find pictures of people wearing facemasks during that pandemic, and they weren’t medical facemasks like we have now. It makes me wonder if the same thing is happening now with the way people wear non-medical facemasks or soiled facemasks religiously.

And COVID-19 is definitely not the flu. The flu kills young and old, healthy and unhealthy. COVID-19 only kills the old or unhealthy. If it was such a bad disease, why do you have to be tested to know you have it?

Chris Wright
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 19, 2020 3:34 am

Kip, you’re absolutely right.
Here in the UK we’re in the grip of second wave hysteria. Yes, cases and deaths are up since the summer – but that’s what happens every winter. A very good source of death statistics for all of Europe and the UK is:
It shows the z-scores for all the countries (it allows a direct comparison between countries). For England and the other UK countries the z-scores since early summer have been almost flat and well within the normal range. For several recent weeks the z-scores have been negative, indicating below average deaths for that time of year. For the previous week all UK countries show a negative value – Wales is way down at -6.91 (but the latest data for last week may be changed).

Overall, since around May deaths in the UK from all causes have been very close to average.
Around 500,000 die in the UK every year. The UK covid death toll is still well below 50000, so it’s a bit less than 10%. If all the covid deaths had been evenly distributed throughout the entire year people would hardly have noticed.

Of course, every death is sad. But we should keep it in perspective. Fortunately more scientists are starting to speak out against this lockdown hysteria, most notably Gupta et al. I’m fairly sure that the economic and human destruction caused by the lockdowns will be far worse than anything the virus could have done.

The parallells with climate hysteria are remarkable. Recently the UK government scientists published an appalling hockeystick graph. They also claimed that cases were doubling every week. Even a cursory examination of their own data showed that to be completely false. It just happens that, according to a Daily Telegraph report, one of the scientists responsible for the covid hockeystick just happens to have £600,000 worth of shares in a company working on a vaccine.
Clearly, it’s not just climate scientists that are corrupt.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 19, 2020 12:37 pm

Kip I am sure that what you say about deaths in the US is true. Just this morning I had a discussion with a friend in the West Virginia panhandle. She was telling me that the hospitals are now clogged up with new cases of Wuflu. In Portugal no one is sick and they are not seeing new Wuflu cases at the hospitals,but we are being told there is still danger of infection.

I had day surgery last Thursday at a local hospital and can speak with a certain amount of authority to this. NO one is in hospital with Wuflu. What makes me angrier is that I don’t know anyone who got sick or died. None of my friends, either in Portugal or the US, knows anyone who became ill or died. If this is such a terrible and contagious disease, how can this be?

Everything is open here but we are still wearing masks in shops and at open air markets. One must wear a mask to enter and leave a restaurant but not while seated. All the servers are masked….

Andy Espersen
Reply to  Dan Sudlik
October 18, 2020 3:15 pm

Dan – I was 15 in 1950 – and trust me, I am not in the slightest worried about Covid, I am very ready to die – have been for years. I am much more worried about my children’s and grandchildren’s economy being destroyed by industrial lockdowns. And, only 10 months into this pandemic (and it is usually impossible to get a grip on just how these develop till after a couple of years), it is already evident that the death rate turns out much the same, irrespective of the severity (or even the presence) of lockdowns.

Kip, like you I have personal knowledge of the real progress in this area – but we may now be coming to a pause in the progress. Our woke generation has a lot to learn – harder economic times are coming. They will be mightily humbled within a decade (says this old fellow!)

Reply to  Dan Sudlik
October 18, 2020 3:17 pm

No reason to fear. The doctor who developed the triple antibiotic treatment for peptic ulcers said it’s an easy illness to treat (easier than flu) and this doctor concurs: 1900 covid patients treated, 1 – 90 years old, 1 hospitalization, zero deaths. Early treatment works.

Reply to  icisil
October 20, 2020 6:34 pm

Youtube doesn’t like the voice of hope

Start at 21:05

John Tillman
Reply to  Dan Sudlik
October 18, 2020 5:04 pm

I nearly died with Asian flu, caught at school in 1957. It k!lled both young and old. Yet we didn’t close the schools or businesses. Some 100,000 Americans died, equivalent to 200,000 today.

Happily, we didn’t have to wait for herd immunity to end that pandemic, as with Spanish flu, since a vaccine became available in 1958. The Asian flu virus, H2N2, is now extinct in the wild. H2N2 evolved into the Hong Kong flu of 1968, H3N2. I, like most Asian flu survivors, was immune.

The Spanish flu, H1N1, still exists, but in a much less virulent strain, as is normal with pathogens. It’s in their interest to evolve less lethality. The last H1N1 pandemic was the 2009 swine flu, which carried off perhaps 12,000 Americans.

Some think that the Russian flu of 1889-90 wasn’t actually a flu, but a coronavirus which is now one of the four which cause most adult colds. It and another are betacoronaviruses, like SARS-2, so might confer some immunity, helping to explain the high number of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.

Reply to  Dan Sudlik
October 18, 2020 6:07 pm

Polio, mumps, chicken pox, measles, tuberculosis . . . –
us kids in the 50s were are a petri dish, weren’t we ?

Gunga Din
October 18, 2020 2:52 pm

My Dad was also pediatrician. He started his private in 1951 and continued it for 50 yrs. until he died.
I remember him lining us all up to get a sugar cube he’s put a drop or two of a purple liquid on. The polio vaccine.
I don’t have “direct” memories but I have pictures from when I was in the hospital when I was 18 month’s old.
(I was there because Dad noticed symptoms and convinced another Dr. to do a spinal tap on me. I had tubercular meningitis.)
Anyway, in one picture I’m feeding cake to a skeletal girl and in the background are a couple of older girls in iron lungs.
It is a good time to be born.
When is it not?

Gunga Din
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 18, 2020 3:58 pm

No, not selfish. Just grateful.
It would only be “selfish’ if you owned a DeLorean and could have changed anything.

October 18, 2020 2:55 pm

Occasionally I am perturbed that I’ll never know how/why everything began, and don’t know how things will end, especially wrt Man. I liken the situation to reading only the middle chapters of a murder mystery, inferring how things arrived at this state, and guessing at its conclusion.

I am, however, fairly certain I, we, are living at the apex of Man’s existence. It looks to me like the peak was in the 1990s. The last four years have brought us back to that peak but looks to be an anomaly. The events, no, the SUPPORT, of the events in Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and else where, convinces me that rationale people either have, or are rapidly becoming, the majority. I think we are quickly headed for a cultural collapse in the U.S. that will resonate throughout the world.

I believe Western civilization has been overwhelmingly positive for the condition of Man. The current self-flagellation of it not being perfect does a great disservice, and is sowing the seeds for its collapse.

Since I have no children, and perhaps a fifteen-year life expectancy, none of that bothers me. Those bringing about the future I foresee deserve it. I hope the rest can find refuge somewhere, and be ready to take over when the dust settles,

Dodgy Geezer
October 18, 2020 3:10 pm

This IS a good time to be born, compared to the 1950s. And the 1950s were a good time to be born compared to the 1900s.

The 1800s were a good time to be born compared to the 1700s. So long as humans are allowed to improve their world, EACH generation will be better off than their parents.

Unfortunately, there is a move afoot to reduce our living standards back to those of the 1500s. And this web site is foremost in the fight against that.. .

Gunga Din
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
October 18, 2020 4:00 pm

+ a bunch

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
October 18, 2020 4:49 pm

Well stated Dodgy

October 18, 2020 3:30 pm

Poverty kills., not relative poverty, not income inequity, but real hard absolute poverty. This article is about medical advances and the benefits of public sanitation. These are the first tier of progress. The low hanging fruit so to speak. The second tier is a reasonable standard of living. Such small things like being able to afford a toothbrush and a change of clothes or two contribute to longer life spans. A shower a day, cooling when it’s hot and heating when it’s cold, these are not just about comfort. Comfort means less stress which means lower cortisol which means a longer life. People who downplay the benefits of rising living standards because some people get very rich might be miss-informed but are likely malicious.

John Tillman
Reply to  Starman
October 18, 2020 5:19 pm

Before vaccines, even being rich didn’t guarantee you life.

Born on June 6 1872, Princess Alix Victoria Helena Louise Beatrice was the fourth daughter and sixth child of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Through her mother, who was the second daughter of Queen Victoria, Alix was the twenty sixth grandchild of The Queen and spent many holidays with her ‘Grandmamma’.

As a child, Alix was given the nickname of ‘Sunny’ by her parents, and led a carefree childhood with her siblings at their home in Darmstadt, Germany. But their happiness was not to last – when Alix was six, she contracted diphtheria, as did most of her family. Sadly, her mother and her younger sister, Marie, succumbed to the illness, and passed away in December 1878.

Alix married her cousin Tsar Nicholas II, so survived another 40 years, until murthered by Communists, with her whole family, including hemophiliac son and four daughters.

Her dad’s palace in Darmstadt was modern and clean, but diphtheria is spread person to person, so no amount of good sanitation and cleanliness could stop the scourge. Only serum treatment, then a vaccine, ended this deadly disease.

Adam Gallon
Reply to  John Tillman
October 19, 2020 12:45 am

Prince Albert, Consort of Queen Victoria, died from Typhoid, as did three of his cousins in the Portuguese royal family.

John Tillman
Reply to  Adam Gallon
October 19, 2020 1:01 pm

Dr. William Jenner, the first to distinguish between typhoid fever and typhus, diagnosed Albert’s fatal illness as typhoid. However today Albert’s stomach pain, ongoing for over two years, suggests a chronic disease, such as Crohn’s, kidney failure or abdominal cancer, as cause of death

Reply to  John Tillman
October 19, 2020 9:50 am

One of my vague memories is of my dad doing a tracheotomy on a little girl on the back porch, leaving my mother blowing in the tube while he drove 20 miles to the nearest hospital to get a respirator. The girl survived. Diphtheria was a bad.

I grew up in the 1950’s India, when child mortality was starting to drop. But some things stick in one’s mind, like when I was 17, watching my mum tell a woman that this baby must be consigned to God’s care, but she could help make the next baby stronger. Like the couple from many miles away who came because they had lost 9 babies before their 2nd birthday. She treated both with a course of penicillin, assuming possible syphilis. The next baby was a beautiful healthy girl. When she was 4, she got an eye infection and horendous scars on her cornia. Today a lens implant is possible: then she was blind for life.

Juan Slayton
October 18, 2020 3:43 pm

Kip, we sing from the same songbook. Welcome each newborn as a new member of the family. It is sad that the new Malthusians see only a dangerous competitor.

October 18, 2020 3:53 pm

I was born in 1958. I remember several friends who had a parent with a polio limp…And my parents had siblings who had died before the age of 3…as did many in that generation.

So many real problems have been eliminated or drastically reduced that imaginary problems and concerns over trivial matters seem to dominate people’s minds these days.

Reply to  Steven
October 19, 2020 8:37 am

My father’s father was confined to a wheel chair because of polio.

Michael in Dublin
October 18, 2020 3:59 pm

My grandfather who was born in 1888 – 39 years after the Great Irish Famine – was the oldest child in his family. Five of his young siblings died. It makes me angry when people start throwing around accusations of white privilege. He worked up to the age of 76 and died the following year. It saddens me when history is relegated or politicized and no longer tells the story of the hardships and real struggles of the poor masses.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
October 18, 2020 4:33 pm

What happened is … what happened. Actual History.
History is not honestly taught today. No context of the times.
The past is viewed through today’s “Politically Correct” lens.

Andy Espersen
Reply to  Gunga Din
October 18, 2020 6:09 pm

Joseph Stalin and his politburo were very proud of the history curriculum taught in Soviet schools during their reign.

Are we any different now??

Reply to  Gunga Din
October 19, 2020 8:40 am

The other thing that bothers me are the claims that all whites of the past are to be judged by today’s standards. Jefferson and Washington owned slaves, therefor they must be written out of history.
On the other hands, non-whites, even those living today can’t be judged by today’s standards. That would be imposing our culture on them.

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
October 18, 2020 4:56 pm

The despicable professors of grievance studies say everything is the fault of the patriarchy. It’s all the fault of privileged white males.

OK, on behalf of white males I accept the blame.
I accept the blame for the fact that most children live to adulthood.
I accept the blame that women no longer have to worry about dying in child birth.
I accept the blame that poverty in the world is at an all time low.
I accept the blame that the despicable professors will live in comfort to a ripe old age.
I accept the blame that we are living in something like an Earthly Paradise.

The despicable professors, and all those they claim to speak for, are much better off than the chieftains, kings, and emperors in distant history. For this I accept the blame.

Everyone living today, especially in the developed world, has so much to be grateful for. The despicable professors and their acolytes have not a shred of gratitude. link They are clueless and they are swine of the first order.

Reply to  commieBob
October 19, 2020 8:41 am

They judge all, based on the mythical standard of the society that they believe they will create once they are in charge of everything.

John Tillman
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
October 18, 2020 5:10 pm

My grandfather was born in 1879 in Walla Walla, WA Territory. The year before, near his dad’s sheep ranch in Dry Creek, OR, a family lost four children to diphtheria in a single day. The two youngest went in the morning. The second oldest seemed to rally, but died in the afternoon. The oldest girl looked as if she would make it, but succumbed at sundown. My mom showed me where their cabin was.

Don’t tell me that vaccines don’t work. Royal and imperial families in Europe, with modern plumbing and sanitation, were hardly less devastated by that pandemic.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
October 18, 2020 5:42 pm

The afternoon case was what’s now called “terminal lucidity”, which even my mom with Alzheimer’s showed. The medical term for such an end of life rally used to be Latin for “false hope”.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
October 18, 2020 4:15 pm

As you say we need to remind people that the constant debilitating propaganda that everything today is in crisis and catastrophe is being put about by the terminally ignorant and corrupt and simply untrue. The scaring of young and impressionable people by cynical and self-serving politicos and sadly some scientists is unforgivable. Crisis, what crisis? Every decade sees improvement and advances in key areas.

October 18, 2020 4:16 pm

A lot of the third world could use these:

Basic clean water and sanitation just can’t be beat for improving life.

October 18, 2020 4:28 pm

It’s a good time to be conceived and unPlanned to birth.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 18, 2020 5:28 pm

Absolutely, and we have four choices: abstention, prevention, compassion, and responsibility, and the last choice that has been euphemistically mischaracterized as a right, mislabeled as Planned etc., and normalized in lieu of the first four.

John Tillman
October 18, 2020 4:55 pm

My dad caught polio in Puerto Rico after the war, in which he was a Marina aviator. There was an outbreak raging, but the US government suppressed that fact.

He eventually died from post-polio syndrome, aged almost 92.

In Portland, I was friends with one of the last girls of my generation to contract polio before the vaccines. I remember lining up for the sugar cube.

My childhood chicken pox came back as shingles after a near-death stormy nightime boating experience on the Columbia shortly after returning home from Afghanistan. Painful, but didn’t stop me from going camping, carrying a portable bar to commemorate a comrade KIA with a memorial in the Elkhorn Range.

We swim in a sea of microbes, viruses and other mobile genetic elements (MGE). They even get incorporated into our genomes. Indeed we and all other eukaryotes result from the viral infection of an archeon, creating the cell nucleus, and engulfing of a bacterium by same, to become the mitochondrion.

The question is: What came first, the virus (or other MGE) or the cell? Possibly both, ie RNA viruses before cells and DNA viruses thereafter.

John Tillman
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 18, 2020 5:31 pm

He still had all his mental faculties when the paralysis reached his throat. He’d be 98 now. His sister died last year.

There have been recent polio outbreaks in the Philippines and Africa, despite its having been thought almost extinguished, with natural transmission limited to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

John Tillman
Reply to  Jan Smelik
October 20, 2020 10:27 am

Yes, there is always the risk of bad batches, but polio vaccines have almost eradicated the virus.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  John Tillman
October 18, 2020 6:03 pm

John: I like your very visual description of swimming in a sea of microbes and genetic elements. Once while watching an old movie in which yowling bloodhounds were on the track of two escaped prisoners, it occurred to me that the ease with which we spread our DNA around on the ground, plants, everything we touch, might have some utility in the grand scheme of evolution.

Years later, early experiments with hybridization, l believe it was putting tobacco and some vegetable in a blender, led to some modified living cell of the combination.

And then there is the symbiotic bacteria living in us that are necessary for our health. Your description is the best I’ve read on this silent invisible living ambiance.

John Tillman
Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 18, 2020 7:57 pm

All life is connected, and has been since the beginning four billion years ago.

I’m glad that formulation resonated with you. Humans contain more nonhuman cells than human, but the aliens are smaller, so that in terms of mass, they’re only about 1.4 times “us”.

Beyond the “life on Man” symbiotic and pathogenic microbes are those within our genome.

Even the first animals were symbiotic with cyanobacteria, long before eukaryotes arose, let alone algae and plants. Many sponges are net O2 producers, because their oxygen requirements are low, and a lot of them harbor cyanobacterial colonies, taking advantage of the simple animals’ CO2 exhalations.

Life is an inextricable web, overall for good, but with instances of parasitism and disease rather than commensibilism and symbiosis.

Alan Millar
October 18, 2020 5:18 pm

Very good thread, it is quite nostalgic for me being in my seventies.

Younger people today have no idea of what today’s older generation had to face in health terms seventy years ago. I had the full range of diseases as a child ………. measles, mumps and chicken pox. I also got polio when I was three and then a few years later got TB.

Still here I am and pretty grateful that my daughter never had to face any of these diseases, she did get whooping cough though, which was quite distressing for a while.

The media is intent on convincing them that they have never had it so bad unlike the ‘privileged’ older generation.

I remember being privileged to live in a ‘two up two down’, with no hot water on tap, no indoor toilet, lino on the floor and a bath that was hung on a hook outside the back door.

Those were the days, we didn’t know we were born!

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Alan Millar
October 18, 2020 5:45 pm

Younger people have no idea that once upon a time you had to get up off the couch and walk across the room to change the channel on the TV.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Tom in Florida
October 18, 2020 8:04 pm

We had two channels in Saskatchewan in the early 70’s
And the sadists put them on 3 and 9
So we had to turn than knob 6 whole clicks!!

Can you imagine the suffering?

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Alan Millar
October 18, 2020 8:02 pm

I’m 55, had all the vaccines available, remember having mumps and chicken pox (just got the first shot of the new shingle vax).

I think our biggest problem today is if they rush out some faulty covid vaccine that causes problems it will simply strengthen the anti-vax movement.

I’m not sure how much scientific truth is in their claims, It’s likely that vaccines aren’t 100% safe under all conditions but the point is it’s better than the alternative.

People keep looking for perfect, the enemy of the good

Reply to  Alan Millar
October 18, 2020 9:57 pm


Gary Pearse
October 18, 2020 5:25 pm

Kip: I worked in Nigeria for three years in the 1960s and had my wife and two children with me (the second one born there). A Dutch man and wife team – both Drs. – told me that only half of children born in Nigeria attained the age of 12 and you were no way safe even having reached that age. They said when a patient came to the main hospital in Jos (city in the cooler Jos Plateau country in Northern Nigeria), they were usually found to have at least three serious disorders – fevers, parasites etc.

There were a series of riots in the north that led to a civil war that lasted three years. I was there for the riots and half the war. More than a million people (some estimates up to 3 million) died largely of starvation in the south where they had tried to secede and form a separate state (Biafra). While I was in Nigeria, there were more than a dozen uprisings on tribal lines in other African countries. This was a feature of Africa’s unhappy history for much of the ensuing 50 years. I’m sure this added a significant factor to overall premature death rates.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 19, 2020 5:16 am

The life expectancy for a male in Nigeria today is only 55. When I traveled to Nigeria for work in 2001 I had to get a polio booster. Its still a country riddled with both poverty and disease b

October 18, 2020 5:27 pm

I, too, remember the polio epidemic and my mother telling us we could not go to the pool or the beach. Were we overreacting? At its peak, polio in the US killed 3,100 people a year and paralyzed 15,000 in a population half the present size.
But many ostriches on this website think we should ignore the coronavirus, which has killed 200,000 in the US alone and severely injured many more.
This year, the overall death rate in the US will be more than 10% higher than the year before, something that has not happened , or come near to happening, since 1918. The experience of S. Korea and Taiwan, with hundreds of times less mortality per capita, show that 99% of these deaths were avoidable. Those who selfishly ignore the danger, who view masks as a threat to masculinity, contribute to the spread of this disease and the wholly avoidable huge death toll.

Reply to  Eric Lerner
October 18, 2020 6:25 pm

Better system of outpatient treatment in S. Korea and Taiwan. The US medical system has it entirely backwards by demonizing and restricting outpatient treatments that are cheap, safe and reportedly effective, which forces patients to progress to serious illness which has lower survivability.

A Danish RCT on masks was recently done, but as of yet no journals will publish the paper. I bet the results are not what the covid mask cult wants to hear.

A lead investigator on the Danish mask study – the ONLY (as far as I know) randomized trial to see if masks protect from #COVID – was asked when it would be published.

His answer: “as soon as a journal is brave enough.”

Reply to  Eric Lerner
October 18, 2020 6:39 pm

Most excess deaths could have been prevented through judicious closing of Planned Parent, and destigmatizing early treatments. Most infections could have been prevented through controlling exposure of symptomatic (i.e. coughing, sneezing) patients and promoting good hygienic habits. Masks have inherently limited value to prevent pathogenic, especially submicron viral spread, and their effectiveness varies in both time and space (i.e. context). The virus has been observed to follow a spread in warm, humid, and closed, isolated environments that is consistent with fecal/oral transmission, so wash your hands and be mindful of hand to eye, nose, mouth, open wound interaction.

Tom in Florida
October 18, 2020 5:35 pm

Unfortunately, those born in modern societies today will never know the tranquility of not having the entire world stuffed in you face every minute, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
October 19, 2020 8:48 am

If that bothers you, cancel your cable.

October 18, 2020 6:09 pm

While exploring my family tree I became used to seeing records of births and no future mention of the child, also burial records of those only a few days or maybe weeks of age.

Then I came across my 2nd great aunt, Zibiah Jane. She was born in 1859. Then I came across a record of her death in 1870. She died at 10 years old. That was enough out of the ordinary and sad enough that I did a bit more digging. There was really no more information, so I paid for and received a copy of her death certificate.

I almost wish I hadn’t. The death was registered by a neighbor, presumably her parents weren’t up to it. The cause of death was listed as Enteritis/Exhaustion. These days a dose of imodium, and some electrolytes, and just maybe a dose of antibiotics and she would have almost certainly gone on to have a full life rather than dying in that unpleasant way.

When people ask me who I would like to visit if I had a time machine, it is most definitely Zibiah, armed with appropriate meds available over the counter these days.

October 18, 2020 6:23 pm

Ahh, pretty rosy future if children can reach birth.

Unfortunately, abortion rate (in North America anyways) is 15-20% of all pregnancies. If abortions are counted as child mortality, the graphs will look much different. Possibly not something a civilized society should be proud about?

Reply to  RelPerm
October 19, 2020 1:03 am

Elective abortion is the single greatest cause of excess deaths in every year since its legalization and progressive normalization. There’s Her Choice, of course; but, her Choice (i.e. selective-child) is an insane proposition, let alone topic of normalization, given that a woman and man have four choices: abstention, prevention, compassion, and responsibility, before Pro-Choice/wicked solution. Social progress: one step forward, two steps backward, indeed.

October 18, 2020 6:30 pm

Born in 1947 I remember being told not to drink from the water fountain in the park as it could be the source of polio. Had chicken pox, mumps, measles, etc. Eventually got the sugar cube vaccine for polio. Penicillin was relatively new but it cured all of my sore throates, we thought. Most of our friends and relatives lost at least one child at birth including my mother who lost her first born at birth. Yep, the good old days.

John Tillman
Reply to  JimG1
October 18, 2020 7:58 pm

My aunt suffered numerous miscarriages after four girls in hopes of a boy, which at last resulted in my male cousin.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  JimG1
October 19, 2020 2:02 am

Another Class of ’47, I also had mumps with my brother, chicken pox also with my brother, measles, spent in a dark room to prevent blindness I was told, and whooping cough prior to the age of 4. We were concerned about catching polio but not fearful of it. A neighbor family contracted the lessor strain and were quarantined for a while but all three children recovered. What I most remember about polio is getting the Salk vaccine when in the second grade. It was a dreaded shot! All of us kiddos were herded down into the auditorium and Teacher Mildred held each one of us tightly, heads pressed against her body for comfort, while we received our shot in the right arm. I never got the sugar cube but my brother and cousin, younger by four years did. We also believed that oil slick on the streams we played in was causing polio and we called it “Polio Water” and tossed rocks in it…. Yes, suburban Philadelphia was a hotbed of ignorance back in the day.

October 18, 2020 7:18 pm

Yes, Kip, from a health viewpoint, this is a good time to visit the planet. My father may have met your father at LACMA. He did obstetrics (2000 or so births) until ’46 or ’47. I remember sulfa, penicillin, streptomycin, neomycin, terramycin, bacitracin, the new, smaller vaccination scars, ether, syringe sterilizers, diathermy, head mirrors . . .

Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 19, 2020 5:16 pm

I recall having taken each of those antibiotics, over the years, as they were developed. My father was on staff at, among others, California Hospital, where I was born and where he ultimately passed on. Possibly at Q of A, as well.

I still have two of his intern jackets, which are about 100 years old, now.

October 18, 2020 8:10 pm

We seem to be in the same age group Kip. My sister and I often comment about how lucky we were to be born in America when we were in more ways than health. Optimism, success, reward for hard work, prosperity, and freedom were all taken for granted. Reward for hard work is not one of today’s goals and optimism is a byproduct of getting what you want, not what you’ve earned. Freedom and prosperity seem to be dirty words today.

Al Miller
October 18, 2020 8:14 pm

It is a good time indeed to be born. We must never forget those lessons of history. I just had to give a brief history lesson to someone on Twitter who thought the current virus circualting was a “100 year virus”. Clearly it is not even remotely close to that. What is disturbing as well is how easily people give up their hard won freedoms. Freedoms they will have to fight bloody wars again to reclaim if they do not stand up to the wave of Marxism coming at us.

Reply to  Al Miller
October 19, 2020 5:23 pm

Now, Marxism. There’s a 100 year virus.

October 18, 2020 8:31 pm

Not now, mom. Just one more trimester, or two, or three. And, I promise, I’ll be born, and then we’ll party like it’s 1999.

October 18, 2020 10:25 pm

You believe this is good?
Children must die.
This is the natural selection.
The fittest survive, the others must die.
We switched this mechanism off.
Finally, this will endanger the whole population.

Reply to  Alex
October 19, 2020 5:30 am

I also wonder if saving the kids who have serious inherited problems is wise
theyd naturally be out of the genetic pool if nature took its course
the slim hipped women that only survive birth due to caesarian section, pass that issue onto their daughters
we may /we do have the power to save many we couldnt, but wether thats actually the wisest choice?
ditto I see many men here disagree with a womans option to terminate an unwanted pregnancy
so how many of those terminated may well have been seriously compromised BY issues of the parents addictions and other issues as well as inabiity to raise properly, even care much, for a baby they didnt want?
how much should society end up paying for the ongoing care for their at least 18yrs to adulthood?
or their mental health and other issues if theyre born but adopted? the abuse and neglect that tend to go with unwanted kids can be horrific..
we have (well some do) laws regarding breeding animals and kennel clubs etc are supposed to…keep an eye out for bad genetics as are the breeders
but we do Zero to ensure health in our own genetics. we are animals and our society is full of beings that if they were in any other situation would have been culled or sterilised to prevent the bad genes from continuing but we freak if such is mentioned for ourselves?

Reply to  ozspeaksup
October 19, 2020 5:36 pm

Oxspeaksup, be sure to say hi to your friend Adolf, next time you’re in Argentina. He believed the same way you and Alex do. It was that perfectionist belief that brought us the Holocaust.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
October 19, 2020 6:28 pm


You’re attempting to argue with rhetorical questions, which is to say that you have made no argument at all. But if I understand you right, you are arguing for eugenics. Self-annihilation is an unfortunately position to be in and not one that is defensible. I am sorry you see the world through such a small hole.

October 18, 2020 10:54 pm

Unfortunately, Leftist public-school brainwashing is about to abolish the tremendous economic, social and medical advances enjoyed over the past 50 years…

Healthcare has mysteriously become a “right” as opposed to a privilege and a majority of people believe someone other than themselves must pay for it…

Leftists also believe: CO2 will somehow destroy the earth, money printing will not debase the dollar, federal and state governments spending 50% of GDP makes perfect sense, cloth face diapers and 9-month economic shutdowns prevent COVID19 infections, free speech is not a right, society owes them a living, defunding police will decrease crime, belief (not DNA) determines gender, business is evil, the US is evil, Orange-man evil, socialism works, etc..

We’ve become a nation comprised of 50% Orwellian morons…

Reply to  SAMURAI
October 19, 2020 5:42 am

oh I reckon basic health care IS a right in asmuch as if its going to ensure the health of the society in general byt providing it, let someone live with pain and rotting teeth and they develop heart issues later which ruins employment or makes then a bigger drain on health systems? with bad or missing teeth theyre less likely to get a job as well.
provide eye checks and cheap specs so a kid can see andlearn and be safer is a no brainer ditto testing hearing, worming and general support as required. prevenative maintenance.
I DO take exceptionto Bidens manifesto touting free sexchange and all the other newage foolery hes endorsing for vote buying
while hundreds of thousands of the poorer working amerians go without or lose homes due to insanely priced health care controlled BY insurers and big pharma.
free health care saved my life, so as payback to society i now volunteer to help people who , like i was, need help the social services cant provide for all in need. its my way to repay the debt I feel , but have no way to repay bar doing what i can when i see need.
in my small town a good third of the population do the same for our elders as a matter of course, because there isnt staff or funding spare for it.
and I recently got called a senior….and am rather miffed;-/

Reply to  ozspeaksup
October 19, 2020 7:09 am


A “right” doesn’t involve coercion and the initiation of force in its execution.

If coercion is involved, it’s called tyranny, not a “right”…

Examples of a true rights are: life, liberty (freedom from tyranny) and private property rights.

Under your definition of a “right”, the reason people exist is to work for the food, housing, transportation, clothing and livelihood of others, which is called…. slavery…

October 19, 2020 2:50 am

How dare you not steal my childhood!

Tim Spence
October 19, 2020 6:10 am

Kip, as always, great article. But I’m inclined to think that the great era has passed and we have entered an age of nonsense.

We can see it happening and if we don’t fix it we’ll be going astray for a while.

To Mr. MatthewSykes above, LOL, priceless.

Steve Keohane
October 19, 2020 6:18 am

I remember in the 50s when one child in the neighborhood got mumps, measles or chicken pox, all the kids were herded to their house so we all got sick at once, and were done with it.

Andy Pattullo
October 19, 2020 8:15 am

This article is an excellent reminder of how lucky we are now, how progress is in the right direction, and how the gains we have made in health are for the most part due to wealth, nutrition, infrastructure (sanitary sewer, water and food systems), public health measures (vaccinations, food and water quality management) and only a very small amount due to modern health care within hospital facilities and clinics. I work in the latter but I despair that the largest part of our health care resources are devoted to repairing health injuries at high cost which could be prevented with much more attention and investment in the traditional public health processes noted above.

Nutrition, physical activity, trauma (mostly related to transportation accidents) and substance use explain much of what we spend trillions of dollars on in health care such that many people can’t afford the care. The nutrition problem now is one of too many rather than too few calories, and the wrong mix of sources (largely due to bad advice from the healthcare system), leading to a tsunami of obesity, diabetes and multi-organ dysfunction. The physical activity deficit began following WW2 with wealth, automation and spreading suburban living. Because of modern automated transportation, one of the largest explanations of years of disability-free life lost is traffic accidents.

The substance use issues of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs should be self-evident, and so too should be the strong link to social determinants such as poverty, marginalization, early life traumas, education deficits etc.

All of that said, if we think we can do better, and I believe we can, it should be obvious that just building more hospitals, buying newer and more expensive drugs and training more people like me is not the solution. These are social and public health problems not medical/surgical problems.

Pam M
October 19, 2020 9:28 am

In 1944, I was treated, as a newborn, with sulfa for a dangerous kidney infection, and then, in 1954, with penicillin for mastoiditis (also a dangerous infection if not stopped). I also had the Asian flu in 1957, which kept me out of school for two weeks, but at least school was there when I was ready to return. Like other commenters, I am willing to take my chances at almost 76 if it means children can go back to school and if it means life, for the most part, can return to normal. I will be cautious, but I would rather take responsibility for my health than have the government assume that role when it comes to day-to-day decisions on exposure.

October 19, 2020 11:17 am

Clean water and sanitation are wonders and investments like electric grids. Let’s not lose those gains or call them something else.

October 19, 2020 12:26 pm

Indeed, thankyou Kip.

I expect mortality rate of birthing mothers was also high. Todays surgical techniques and disinfection (which practice in serious form is only 150 years old) improved life.

Though perhaps warping the gene pool.

Robert Balic
October 20, 2020 1:11 am

When you see someone making $10 000 a day being a social media influencer, you know capitalism works. That might be offensive to those who really work but it’s the result of excess resiurces for the many.

Farmer Ch E retired
October 20, 2020 8:23 am

In 1981 our middle child of three was born with Pulmonary Atresia. Thanks to fast action by the medical staff and a life-flight to Children’s Hospital in Seattle, he survived three surgeries and is doing well today. The surgical sequence had just been developed at that time – we were told that the oldest survivor was only age 6.

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