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This Element is an excerpt from Germs, Genes, & Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today (9780137019960) by David P. Clark. Available in print and digital formats.
Is there a “good” side to epidemics? It all depends on how you look at it…
The way epidemics have intervened in history shows that disease is not uniformly negative. An epidemic’s long-term outcome may be quite complex. Whether we regard any particular outcome as “good” or “bad” depends partly on whose side we are on and partly on the relative weight we give to short-term versus long-term effects.