The Power (& Responsibility) of Idea-Sharers

25 04 2011

The cartoon above is by David Horsey, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.


“An idea is like a virus: resilient, highly contagious.  The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define, or destroy you.”
Inception (2010)

It is worth mentioning, again, that vaccines have been scientifically proven over and over to not be a cause of autism.  I mention this here today because even though the original scientific paper that suggested MMR vaccinations as a potential cause of autism has been retracted, and the author completely discredited, this idea is still alive and well today.

An article by Generation Rescue (the anti-vaccine organization supported by Jenny McCarthy) published a month ago (March 30, 2011) protested a new vaccination requirement against pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus in California, with one argument being that there was no diphtheria outbreak last year in the US.  Yes, there was no outbreak, but that’s because widespread vaccinations largely eradicated this illness in many industrialized nations.  If herd immunity (i.e., the vaccination of a significant portion of a population provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity) did not exist to protect the entire community, illnesses like diphtheria would be allowed to return to our communities.

But my post today is not about the ridiculous arguments against vaccinations, or how these incorrect notions are extremely detrimental to public health and our society, though I’m always happy to be part of those conversations.

No, my post today is about the infectiousness of an idea, just like they described in the movie Inception.  An individual’s ideas can determine the course of one’s life – his or her ambitions, decisions, careers, and passions.  A society’s ideas shape a community’s laws, morals, dreams, and beliefs.

Barack Obama arguably became the President of United States because of a campaign of ideas: “For Obama is a man who recognizes the power of ideas, and in particular the idea of hope.”

China bans Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and censors Hong Kong news when it mentions certain instances of rebellion against the government, because they are afraid of the spread of ideas.  Every city in China has a mayor in charge of maintaining and solving the problems of the city, but every city also has an appointed governmental official more powerful than the mayor, in charge of maintaining the minds and political beliefs of the citizenry so they are in line with what the Chinese government wants.

I mention the above as examples of how powerful ideas are, and how they shape our world.

Ideas can obviously be used for both good and evil (yes, and shades in between), and I believe it is this notion that TED talks were predicated on.  TED is all about “ideas worth spreading”: free talks available online given by great thinkers and doers, challenged to give the best talks of their lives.  I value TED for its inspiration and their belief that good ideas belong free to the community so that they can be built upon by others, but most importantly, I see TED as an organization that promotes ideas that are well-founded and truly novel over ideas that are fear-mongering and false.

It is because of my shared passion of discovering and spreading good ideas that I decided to get involved with the 2011 TEDxMcGill, an independently-organized local event in the Montreal and McGill communities that is licensed by TED.  My hope is that we will find some undiscovered, phenomenal idea-sharers in our community and help propel their thoughts to the world.

If you are similarly passionate about the power of ideas and you’re interested in volunteering with TEDxMcGill this year, please check out and apply before the end of this month (April)!

This was a well-disguised promo piece, don’t you think?

I leave you today with two TED talks.  The first is about the dangers of denying science (where the anti-vaccine movement is featured).  The second is about how science can answer questions of morality.

Good ideas, in my opinion, are not necessarily ones that everyone will agree upon or even believe in 100%, but they are thought-provoking and relevant conversation starters that change an individual or community’s perspective on matters of daily importance, based upon sound evidence and building upon previous ideas of the world.

Thus, I present the two TED talks below because they certainly are fascinating thoughts…






2 responses

1 05 2011

Haha, nice promo piece. Just a quick comment though: the diphteria vaccine is a toxoid, like the tetanus vaccine. They don’t protect you against the bacteria themselves, but against their deadly toxins. For toxoids, there is no mechanism of herd immunity at work. However, due to the good sanitary conditions and less crowded populations of developed countries, few people come into contact with diphteria, so even the people whose immunization didn’t stick are safe. At least, that’s what I learned in microbio.

16 05 2011

Thanks for the correction, Rosa! I knew the tetanus vaccine is a toxoid, but during my research for the post, I didn’t find out that the diphteria vaccine is also a toxoid! We just started our Immunology unit in school – hopefully that is a good enough excuse for why I was mistaken! =P

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