May 3, 2013

Has society’s immune system fallen victim to a variant of the Hygiene Hypothesis?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:43

An interesting take from Jonah Goldberg:

Is the American body politic suffering from an autoimmune disease?

The “hygiene hypothesis” is the scientific theory that the rise in asthma and other autoimmune maladies stems from the fact that babies are born into environments that are too clean. Our immune systems need to be properly educated by being exposed early to germs, dirt, whatever. When you consider that for most of human evolutionary history, we were born under shady trees or, if we were lucky, in caves or huts, you can understand how unnatural Lysol-soaked hospitals and microbially baby-proofed homes are. The point is that growing up in a sanitary environment might cause our immune systems to freak out about things that under normal circumstances we’d just shrug off.

Hence, goes the theory, the explosion in asthma rates in the industrialized world, the rise in peanut and wheat allergies and, quite possibly, the spike in autism rates. There’s also a puzzling explosion in autoimmune diseases. That’s where the body attacks healthy organs or tissues as if they were deadly invaders.

Which brings me to my point. If you think of bigotry as a germ or some other infectious disease vector, we live in an amazingly sanitized society. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, of course. And we can all debate how prevalent it is later.

My point is that the institutions — the organs of the body politic — that are the most obsessed with eradicating bigotry (as liberals define it) tend to be the places that have to worry about it the least. The Democratic party is consumed with institutionalized angst about prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry in America. But the odds are that relatively few of these people (particularly those under the age of 50) have been exposed to much real racism or intolerance.

1 Comment

  1. Goldberg also comments (in a link to this article from his “Goldberg File” email):

    One thing I didn’t get to (I found the idea of the Klan laying siege to Oberlin College too funny to ignore) is the obsession with the “Muslim backlash” in America that continues to elude us.

    When you suffer from an autoimmune disease your body thinks healthy organs are in fact somehow invasive threats. Last week, Eric Holder’s response seemed like an autoimmune misfire. Americans get blown up by jihadi immigrants and the body politic’s response is to unleash antibodies in search of anti-Muslim bigotry.

    This is of a piece with the Left’s instinctual, visceral need for terrorist attacks to be committed by white, Christian, conservative men. There’s some glitch in their metaphorical genetic coding that makes them want to fight the wrong threat. Some liberal writers remind me of obsessive-compulsive hand-washers. They have a plausible concern — dirty hands — but they take it to the point where they wash their hands into bloody stumps for fear of a wildly exaggerated threat.

    Comment by Nicholas — May 3, 2013 @ 13:32

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