I have a friend — an acquaintance, really — who is a very public anti-vaxxer on Facebook. She believes that vaccines are both dangerous and ineffective. Most of the time I don’t bother with people like this, but she posted something which really got my goat, something that made the preposterous suggestion that the unvaccinated would end up in a gas chambers. So I wrote back. I was not polite.
We went back and forth a little bit, and then she asked a question which I was willing to answer. Here was her question:
And here was my answer:
You asked a reasonable question, so let me try to give you a reasonable answer.
There are many things reasonable people can disagree about. Sometimes those disagreements are dressed up as science. So, for example, John Edward Mack, who was at one time a professor and the head of the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, became a fervent believer that alien abductions were real. There are very serious people with fancy degrees who believe that people can come back from the dead, who believe in homeopathy and astrology, and who believe that the Bible is literally inerrant. For the most part, these disagreements are relatively harmless (with the exception of biblical inerrancy). But the belief that vaccines are ineffective and dangerous is not harmless.
You recently posted an article which you quickly took down, entitled “The Pandemic of the Vaccinated.” Of course, that article was not making the point that vaccines are ineffective. It was making the point that there are enough people who have either refused to take the vaccine, or don’t have access to vaccines, that the virus has mutated so much that it is now infecting many people who have been vaccinated.
I haven’t wanted to be drawn into debates about the science behind the vaccines because I’m not a virologist. And neither are you. If you want to debate a virologist, you could try debating Pamela’s daughter Hilary, who literally worked in a Nobel-prize winning lab. But I doubt you’d be able to get her attention or, frankly, follow her explanations. In any case, there is a reason that I believe the scientists.
I believe the scientists because scientists have been able to create airplanes, helicopters and other things that fly, including flying to the moon.
I believe the scientists because scientists have been able to create microchips, and computers, and the Internet.
I believe the scientists because scientists have been able to figure out how to transplant hearts, and livers, and lungs, and on occasion even a face.
I believe the scientists because scientists have been able to produce a remarkably effective set of vaccines, at least two of which use messenger RNA, which had never been used to produce vaccines before. And they did it in less than a year.
Now, in mathematics, answers are, for the most part, either right or wrong. Science is a little less black-and-white than mathematics. But there are many areas where a scientific consensus has emerged. The effectiveness of vaccines is one of those.
In addition, there have been something like 8.53 billion doses of vaccine administered worldwide, and there have been almost no adverse consequences. In addition, it is well known that the ICUs in American hospitals are overwhelmingly filled up with unvaccinated patients. The empirical evidence is staggering.
Now I don’t know where your devotion to junk science comes from, but just like the driver who continues to insist there is no danger in their driving drunk, I just want you to stop. Some of your acolytes have accused me of being impolite. And I have been impolite. But I believe that the time for politeness has long since passed.
I’m tired of having to wear a mask all the time. I’m tired of having to curtail my social activities all the time. But mostly, I’m tired of you and your fellow antagonists risking the lives and health of all of us because of your quixotic devotion to junk science. That’s why I’m enraged. And I get especially enraged when you post items (as you have) that clearly imply parallels between vaccine enforcement and the holocaust.
Epilogue: as expected, we didn’t make any dent in each other’s thinking. It’s a fact of cognitive dissonance that people, once they acquire a false belief, cling to it with increasing determination as the evidence against it mounts. But she’s hardly the only one. The Boston Globe recently reported on how Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of all people, has built an anti-vaccine juggernaut.
But I really am done “debating” with these people. And I no longer feel any need to be polite about it. It won’t change any minds, but as the famous saying goes “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” And right now, the anti-vaxxers are oppressing all of the rest of us.