Science, the Spiritual and Vaccines

In the last couple of days I have received some comments and information from friends in different parts of the planet. Bruno Pezzuto, from chile sent me this article about the intoxicated dolphins (see my Jan 2 posting) for Spanish speakers. And David Andersson sent me this article about new research on the function of sleep.

These articles, and my Jan 3rd posting regarding the spatial registers of emotion in the body draw on recent scientific and medical research. I was going to post an entry about some of Silo’s ideas regarding science and siloism but the last few days has also seen some of our friends circulating (apparently with approval) an article on the evils of vaccination programs.

All this providing an opportune moment to meditate on the question of the importance and limitations of the scientific enterprise. Anyone who knows me — a not unlikely assumption if you’re reading this — knows I’m a big fan; Go Science!

Wait — let me present my credentials. I’m no neophobe or luddite (au contraire) I’ve been a dedicated amateur student of the history and philosophy of science and technology, and once long ago came close to pursuing that interest in grad school. A big chunk of my work as a documentary filmmaker has been as a science journalist. I also worked as a researcher, writer, director, and producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Science and Natural History unit off and on for 30 years, a number of them as the unit’s senior producer. When I was a little kid I’d like nothing better than to spend my allowance on a new test tube or some litmus paper — while other kids were buying baseballs or hockey cards… you get the idea. Not only that but I’m also a direct beneficiary of the science-technolgy-pharma complex; I’m a bionic man. Besides having received chemotherapy for cancer, I’ve got arterial stents, two replacement heart valves (one from a dead human and one from a dead pig — sadly I have to think he didn’t volunteer to be an organ donor), I also have an artificial aortic arch (dacron I believe), I’ve also been diagnosed with diabetes and hepatitis C — we’ll see how all that gets treated. The point is I’m admitting to a feeling of personal debt towards the researchers, scientists and medical personnel who made those interventions possible.

No wonder I think the scientific enterprise is — or at least can be the most spiritual of activities, though I’d be the first to say it can, and does also function as another arm of the System whose real goal is to assist in maximizing productivity, and consumerism while ensuring the masses are increasingly docile, compliant and manipulatable.

I understand people who are, I believe rightly, suspicious of big-pharma, of medicine focused on profit in place of people, and science or technology at the service of anti-humanist forces. But that is very far from rejecting science, medicine, technology or pharmacy or the advances they give us.

When I hear people talking about the evils of vaccination I wonder if they forget, or simply don’t know the scope and horrors of the polio, small pox and other epidemic diseases that have haunted humanity until advances by science and medicine overcame them.

Before you send me links to articles explaining the ineffectiveness of vaccines, or the evils of modern medicine please understand I’ve researched this pretty deeply. As someone used to reading scientific reports and who has an awareness of the statistical tools and traps I have yet to see anything compelling that shows vaccines are, in general, ineffective — or that their dangers outweigh their benefits. Maybe you should dig a little deeper. You could start here.

There are alternatives that could, at least supplement the dissection of the data recorded in the scientific literature. One might, for example, take a look at the human impact as recorded in the literature, media, journals and letters of the past. If you have a chance read the first hand reports from front line workers who were there when these measures first kicked in. They felt they were witnessing a miracle. I vividly remember talking to Mary O’Brien, a tough-minded Marxist, feminist, teacher of mine, who earlier in her life, had been a nurse in a Glasgow public hospital — her medical career extended before and after the introduction of Sulfa drugs. It was extraordinary how decades later she, now an old woman, still was overwhelmed by the impact those drugs made in peoples lives; one day, a minor scratch and a blood infection meant amputation and likely death the next day it meant nothing – just a minor scratch. Testimonials form patients, their families medical personnel, scientists etc, exist regarding the intro of Polio vaccines, the impact of vaccines on smallpox from before Jenner on to the present. Or look at the resurgence of these diseases when vaccination is abandoned.

And speaking of miracles, I’ll wrap up with this quote from chapter 13 of Silo’s, Inner Landscape – the third book of his Humanize the Earth trilogy where he’s talking about how “reason” as much as “faith” can be oriented in favour or against the human being. In the poetic prose of that work he writes:
“I want those saints who do not fear but truly love. I want those who day by day seek to conquer pain and suffering with their science and their reason. And in truth I see no difference between the saints and those who, through their science, encourage life. What better examples could there be, what guides superior to these?”