I say, therefore I am right. That is the central tenet of the fastest growing belief system in America - Webextentialism. We can see how disruptive a mere handful of protesters can be anywhere important ideas are being discussed. Multiply that a million times with all those fingers on the keyboard sharing all those insightful emails and postings and the signal to noise problem becomes almost impossible. There is no law that prevents those whose cognition is compromised by an unfortunate posture requiring that they breathe their own methane, from sharing their rather mucosally limited view of the world. A lot of it has to do with finger pointing. Uncomfortable with the notion that a great deal of our existence basically boils down to 'stuff happens' we are always looking for someone or something to blame. I suppose some of our believer friends could point out that 'God's mysterious will' was an extremely useful panacea against much of this unproductive hand wringing, and I don't necessarily disagree. But one would hope that we could get to a point where we'd approach these questions with a more scientific approach. It isn't hard to find examples of this sort of thing. But the particular example I will cite is regarding vaccinations.

In my not completely ill informed opinion, germ theory and vaccinations are highest in the Pantheon of medical science in numbers of lives saved. That vaccinations have saved millions of lives is without question. So successful have they been that thousands of people whose lives might well have been saved by them have no memory of the devastation wrought by epidemics of what we now think of as minor conditions. Take a look at the impact of these minor conditions on indigenous peoples across the globe and you might change your opinion. Vaccinations, like all effective prevention efforts, have a harder and harder time penetrating our thick skulls the further removed one is from the trigger events.

Of course there is much more to it but vaccines confer immunity to the individual to a particular agent by stimulating the reactive immune system that Jared nicely outlined over at Mors Dei. But that's only part of the effect. 'Herd Immunity' is just as important. Herd immunity is pretty much what it sounds like. If enough individuals within the population are immune, then the nasty agent has a much harder time finding suitable hosts and reproducing within the population. Your chances of encountering someone infected is reduced. Fewer hosts means fewer infections. Fewer hosts may also affect the mutation rate within the population of nasties. Vaccines are very much an example of being your brother's keeper.

Do vaccines occasionally cause problems? Duh! They are medical treatments. And like all medical treatments they are a double edged sword. That is true of any treatment. A fact that many woomeisters fail to come clean about. Anything used to treat a condition (including doing nothing) can have undesired consequences. Risk / benefit is an important consideration. The established complications of vaccines are well known and pretty rare. Most of the Webextentialist ranting about vaccines has nothing to do with any of the science.

I recommend that you visit the Respectful Insolence site (link is to the right) and read about the case of Desiree Jennings. I think it's a pretty good example of the phenomenon.


Michael Lockridge said...

Love the dung beetle. I adopted that creature for my mascot, a symbol of my career. I have been retired from law enforcement just a bit over a week. It feels... different.

I look forward to seeing just what the democratization of the Internet does to humans. This is a very significant transitional period, and it has no real parallels. Very exciting. Probably dangerous.

This is a true democratization, the state that the founders of the United States aspired to avoid through building a representative republic.

The impact is modifying the government of China. Can control be maintained in the light of information flowing? It should be interesting, in a very Chinese way.

What will it do here, where control is less direct and the information flow less contained?

Keep in mind that Post-Modernism challenges not only ancient institutions but also the Logical Positivism your expressed beliefs have reflected. I may be wrong in the observation, but your expressed thinking seems to reflect that discipline more than any other of which I am aware.

I think webextensialism is an excellent term to describe the emerging way of thinking/non-thinking. Hmmm.

Interesting times.

Jared said...

There's also rapid total immunity of an entire population which can eliminate diseases which have only a single host. Smallpox is a good example of this. I think something similar could likely be done with any virus which relies exclusively upon humans for survival.

Another interesting point about vaccines is that not everyone can get them; the immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, for example. They rely upon herd immunity to prevent them from becoming severely ill. Anyone thinking a vaccine only benefits the person who receives it is severely missing a considerable quantity of the science behind vaccines.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Micheal - your response obviously lead to the next one ;)

Jared: Good points. The elimination of smallpox fell short only through the evils of mankind wanting to hoard a weapon over their perceived and contemporary enemies.

You make the point better than I did that national vaccination programs benefit populations as much as the individual.