Should we be worried that the head of research into respiratory drugs at AstraZeneca is called Dr Pangalos, given that his near namesake, Dr Pangloss, is a byword for foolish optimism? Dr Pangloss was tutor to Candide in Voltaire’s satire on Gottfried Leibniz’s work on theodicy: the attempt to reconcile why a benevolent and all-powerful God should allow evil, tragedy — or a pandemic — to exist. Dr Pangloss’s favourite phrase, ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’, encapsulates Leibniz’s belief that the Earth, for all its apparent faults, was the best that God could possibly have created. Dr Pangloss’s belief collides with the horrible reality of the Lisbon earthquake, which occurred in 1755, four years before Candidewas published. In spite of earning Voltaire’s derision, Leibniz played an important role in the evolution of scientific method, and would have appreciated AstraZeneca’s drug trials.
Calling the shots
Where are people most sceptical about vaccines? Percentage disagreeing with the general statement ‘vaccines are safe’:
France | 33%
Gabon | 26%
Russia | 24%
Switzerland | 22%
Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Iceland | 21%
Haiti | 20%
Bangladesh, Egypt, Tajikistan | <1%
India, Laos, Rwanda, Tanzania | 2%
Ethiopia, Ghana, Lebanon, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand | 3%
The UK figure is 9% and the US is 11%.
Source: Wellcome Trust
The Institute for Fiscal Studies expects public sector borrowing this year to reach £351 billion, or 17% of GDP. How does it compare with peaks of the past 60 years?
2009-10 | 10% GDP
1993-94 | 6.6%
1975-76 | 6.3%
1967-68 | 3.9%
1963-64 | 2.7%
Covid restrictions will be relaxed over Christmas. How many of us will celebrate?
— A 2016 YouGov poll found that 91% of the UK celebrate Christmas in some form.
— However, only 22% considered that they were celebrating the birth of Christ.
— 76% said they valued Christmas as a chance to spend time with their family.
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