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Comments: Week of October 2, 2017

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“Could we be on the cusp of an IVF baby-boom?” Stephen S. Hall asked in his cover story on the reproductive potential of “abnormal” embryos (A New Last Chance,” September 18–October 1). A few readers pointed out that the feature was groundbreaking in the field: @AlisonRosen tweeted, “In the very specific and not-all-that-openly-talked-about IVF world this is fucking huge.” But Eric Forman, medical and IVF laboratory director at Columbia University Medical Center, responded, “Few experiences are as devastating to a couple struggling with infertility as finally achieving a positive pregnancy test only to have their dreams crushed by miscarriage. There is incontrovertible evidence that chromosomal abnormality is the leading cause of age-­related infertility, failed IVF, and miscarriage. Our ability to safely biopsy and test the genetic status of embryos has dramatically improved in recent years. Is this technology perfect? No. But through these technologies, delivery rates with a single normal embryo equal those from transfer of multiple unscreened embryos, dramatically reducing risky multiple pregnancies and miscarriages. To regress to transferring multiple, possibly abnormal, embryos and hoping that one implants, while accepting the risk that three or four might, would be a major setback for the field of assisted reproduction.” Another doctor at CUMC was more impressed. Zev Williams, director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the center, wrote, “Stephen S. Hall’s article highlights the reality that despite the tremendous progress in in vitro fertilization over the past decades, there are still far too many for whom the dream of building a family is not realized.” For many, the article left them wanting more work on an under-covered topic: As the Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey tweeted, “​This fascinating story on IVF/ethics is why we need more reporters covering a ‘reproductive beat.’ ”


What if the nation’s HGTV addiction is leading to something a little more insidious than an overabundance of greige?, Caitlin Flanagan asked in the latest issue (Beware the Open-Plan Kitchen,” September 18–October 1). Karen Howard responded exuberantly, “Praise Jesus! Someone is finally talkin’ real about the twisted madness that HGTV is pumping into American households. Caitlin Flanagan’s article deserves a freakin’ Pulitzer.” Evie Eysenburg added, “When HGTV originated in the mid-1990s, the hosts actually explained principles of design by offering tours of beautiful homes. No house flipping. No cookie-cutter designs. No scripted conversations. It was truly an educational network. The shift to what it has become was a gradual but inevitable one. Today’s house hunters insist on granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and kitchen islands. Now the programming on HGTV is a reflection of a society that chooses conformity over individuality and glitz over substance.” A handful of readers would’ve liked to see more data (in addition to the National Bureau of Economic Research study Flanagan cited) on the connection between house flipping and the Great Recession. Others confessed that probably nothing could break their Flip or Flop–watching compulsion. Or as the Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon put it, “I both feel shame for my HGTV addiction and also will never stop watching it.”

Andrew Sullivan argued that tribalism — “the default human experience” — poses an existential political threat to the country (America Wasn’t Built for Humans,” September 18–October 1). “He’s dead right here,” tweeted @Trenchman003. Isaac Chotiner, writing for Slate, wasn’t so sure: “Sullivan is ultimately undone by failing to distinguish between the different strands of tribalism that ail us and refusing to reckon with the depths of right-wing pathology.” And the writer Chadwick Moore, whom Sullivan described as a “parody of MAGA conformity,” fired back: “Here’s a little about Sullivan’s tribe: they’re the ones in the safari hats reporting back to the Empire on the curious ways of the barbarians. To borrow a word he used to describe me, Sullivan’s become a parody of the mopey, usurped neoliberal elite. To whine about tribalism is polite society’s way of displaying moral superiority. It’s high-minded virtue-signaling. The issue is not that tribalism is infecting everything, but federal seizure of power is preventing tribes from having their own space.” For some readers, though, a depressing diagnosis yielded to hope. L. Aimetti wrote, “Sullivan has exposed my tribalism and in doing so, lessened my fears. We can work through this age—together. Thank you, Mr. Sullivan.”


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