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.