(Note: for a variety of reasons, I feel it necessary to direct my readers to the very serious Deonandan.com disclaimer -4/16/06)
It’s the end of the fiscal year at my office, and we’re all running about trying to get our “deliverables” done. Clumsy mutations of otherwise elegant English words have always bothered me. Use of the nouns “party”, “impact” and “network” as verbs irks me, as does anyone’s chronic inability to spell “definitely” without an “a”. Similarly, North American society’s glaring ignorance of the difference between “less” and “fewer” is maddening. (Hint: in the grocery store check-out lane, the sign should say, “Eight items or fewer“.)
But this “deliverable” nonsense is a whole new sort of verbal heck. It is, after all, an adjective (and a questionable one, at that) that is misused as a noun. Is it now okay, then, to refer to one’s spouse as a “fuckable”?
Thanks to Purva R. for bringing to my attention this article by one of Indira Gandhi’s nutty daughters in law. Maneka Gandhi is known for her ardent support for animal rights, which is not a bad thing. But in this article, she suggests that avian flu, and before it SARS, are a conspiracy perpetrated upon the world by the pharmaceutical industry, duplicitous scientists and, of course, the American government.
Now, duplicitous scientists have existed in history. But they tend not to be smart enough or sly enough to pull off global conspiracies. And the pharmaceutical industry and the American government are guilty of a great many moral infractions, but this is not one of them. Gandhi’s article is a wonderful example of what idiocy results when a tiny bit (and I do mean tiny) of scientific knowledge gets into the hands of a dogmatist. For the record, SARS was a real disease that caused genuine havoc in Toronto in 2003. Whether that havoc was an appropriate response proportional to the threat is another matter, but there is no evidence it was egged on by either the drug companies or the Americans. (I wrote about SARS at the time here.)
Similarly, avian flu is a real disease with a high degree of lethality. Gandhi writes, “[people contracting avian flu] have not died of this virus as it cannot spread to humans – which every scientist has admitted.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. People can contract avian flu directly from birds, it’s just difficult to do so. When they do, however, it is extremely lethal. The threat of pandemic comes when the virus infects a human being who is also infected with regular human influenza. Then, the viruses can exchange DNA and produce a deadly pandemic strain, one with both the lethality of the current avian flu virus and the human communicability of the traditional human influenza viruses. (I wrote about it here.)
Ahh, the danger of letting non-scientists write authoritatively about scientific matters. Sadly, her article is already being cited by many looking for even more ammunition to use in a flailing war against the Man. Such a war is not without merit, but let’s fight it with facts and not with empty and laughable accusations, okay?