Building herd immunity to reason

July 30, 2013 § 40 Comments

People are freaking out that some woman with anti-vaccine views has been given a spot on a popular TV show.

Vaccines are a pervasive and lucrative technology used to alter the biochemistry of the bodies of hundreds of millions or even billions of people.  As such, it is inconceivable that they have no significant downsides.

But vaccine skeptics are not treated as though they are merely wrong. They are not treated as if they are merely failing to see that the benefits outweigh the downsides.  Vaccine skeptics are treated as though they are wicked heretics and crazy kooks simply for suggesting that there are downsides at all.

One might reasonably argue that the downsides of vehicular traffic are outweighed by the benefits; but that doesn’t make the man who is upset that his family was killed in a traffic accident into a heretic or a crazy kook.

While certainly not dispositive, the fact that people who emphasize the downsides of a major technology are treated as heretics or crazy kooks who are killing our children tends to confirm, at least in my view, that the downsides are real (HT Scott).

The modern prescription drug regime rides, ideologically, on the historical coattails of the genuine successes of basic modern medicines like antibiotics. But it is in its current form an utter disaster, as (for one) Dr. David Healy documents in his many books, including most recently Pharmageddon.

Vaccines may be different — I for one have not done enough due diligence to have a firm opinion, although the way they are relentlessly presented as an unmitigated public good and critics are painted as not just wrong but evil murderous heretics does tend to peg the skepticism-o-meter. And I know better, now, than to trust Orwellian “evidence based medicine” and the clinical trial regime when it comes to evaluating vaccines, side effects, etc.

Yes, historically, vaccines have been enormously life-saving – statistically speaking – by creating herd immunity to some deadly diseases. Of course statistics aren’t all that meaningful to the individuals on the other end of the stick who were killed or maimed by vaccines. But give the Devil his due: public health has improved enormously with vaccination.

However, that historical account does not constitute a blanket justification of the current, present day vaccination-industrial-government complex. At all. Just because war has been justified and has saved lives in the past it doesn’t follow that today’s war is just.

What are you doing here?

July 11, 2013 § 7 Comments

Today is the day to read Elspeth.

Red Cardigan explains …

July 4, 2013 § 31 Comments

that when a trashy unrepentant entitled heterosexual single mom asserts through the courts that she has a right to be employed at a Catholic school, the correct course of action is to give her a job.  But if a trashy unrepentant entitled lesbian single mom asserts through the courts that she has a right to be employed at a Catholic school, that is “sickening”.

That thing you see poking out of the tent is the tip of the camel’s tail; that sound you hear from “conservatives” is the faint dawning of awareness that it doesn’t work to stand athwart the steep part of the slippery slope shouting “stop!”

(Read more under the “Pro Life Stockholm Syndrome” tag).

Reframing policy failures: an American tradition

July 1, 2013 § 9 Comments

Dalrock’s latest post exposes a common political gambit: the re-framing of a policy failure as a moral failing in the populace. This permits those who favor the failed policy, and therefore do not want to see it changed, to avoid taking responsibility and fixing the actual problem by changing the policy:

The liberal response to conservatives pointing out that high taxes are strangling the economy is to accuse those responding to the current incentives of being selfish or unpatriotic. We see the same pattern across a slew of issues, including stifling environmental regulations, capital gains taxes, minimum wage laws, and rent control. Liberals tend to want to shame actors into going against their own best interest in order to prop up bad public policy, where conservatives tend to point out the folly of using shame and moral coercion to overcome bad policy. The solution to bad policy, conservatives regularly point out, is to fix the policy, not to try to strong arm companies and individuals to go against their own best interest.

But all of this suddenly changes when the bad policy is regarding marriage. Then the same conservatives* who stand ready to offer a detailed lecture on the need to match risk with reward, authority with responsibility, and to have consistent and fair enforcement of contracts suddenly switch to the tactics of a liberal defending a 90% marginal tax rate**.

“Sure it goes against a man’s best financial and legal interests to marry under the current system, but making foolish choices regarding risk and reward is what being a man is all about! Where is your sense of adventure, your patriotism?”

This sort of denial, which enables liberals to maintain their support of policies despite the manifest failure of those policies (most modern self-identified “conservatives” have strong loyalties to liberalism, disagreeing with other liberals and more radical leftists mainly about the details of policies and priorities) — this denial has a long pedigree, going back at least to the American founding. John Adams, for example, preemptively stated that any failures in the American experiment would be attributable, not to weaknesses in the Constitution, but to moral failings in the populace:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Where Am I?

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