Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An admirable apology

We are all well aware of the Supreme Court's big decisions regarding gay rights last month. But you might not have heard the parallel story of Exodus International. They were the driving force behind “conversion therapy”, the movement that “helps” gays and lesbians change their sexual orientation through prayer and therapy. Well, they just announced that they were closing and that they had been wrong all along. The founder apologized for all the “pain and hurt” the organization had caused, regretting breaking up gay relationships, and saying now that gay couples can be “every bit as capable of being amazing parents.” (from The Week, July 5-12, 2013)

This seems pretty remarkable to me, since it's rare to hear public apologies that aren't required by law or necessary to win votes. It would have been much more likely for this organization to simply dwindle away until they ran out of business and the last guy closed the doors and slinked away, never mentioning his former "career" to any of his new coworkers at whatever more normal job he ended up at. Not that an apology makes up for the incalculable amount of absurd pain the organization caused, but it's still a nice gesture.

This announcement of course dovetails nicely with the Supreme Court’s historic decisions. The Court is in step with public opinion, which has been changing fast, perhaps faster than for any other marginalized group in history. Here are some charts from the New York Times’ Nate Silver:

The first chart focuses on the U.S., and the second on the world. It's interesting that both articles focus on same-sex marriage, and in recent years it's intrigued me that this is the locus of our debate about gay rights. It's not that marriage isn't an important issue, but it's worth remembering that in previous civil rights movements in earlier decades and centuries, groups were fighting for equal representation in voting, in hiring and pay, and in ending violent acts (lynching, burning, you name it.) It's a sign of progress that those issues thankfully don't need to be the primary concern of this particular fight for equal rights today.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Yet another good vaccine

This is from last week's The Week, "The lifesaving effect of HPV vaccines". A new study has shown the new HPV vaccine to be very effective. "The rate of infection with the cancer-causing strain of HPV has been cut in half among American teenage girls since 2006, when the [CDC] first recommended [the vaccination]." That's particularly impressive since the vaccine is controversial and so only a third of young girls have received it. HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer, and if we were able to up vaccination levels to 80% (like many other countries have done), we would prevent an estimated 17,000 more cancer deaths. Let's do that.