Mandatory Vaccines – Science or Dogma?
Scientists investigate the structure and laws of natural phenomena and conduct research and advance knowledge. Science is ideally open-minded and uses an open-ended process to test theories continually and updated them based on evidence and logical thinking about empirical observations.
Scientists are willing to revise their beliefs when confronted with evidence. Science is a rough-and-tumble process of hypothesizing, public testing, attempted replication, theory formation, dissent and rebuttal, refutation, revision, and confirmation. It’s an unending process, as it obviously must be.
Today select scientists are exalted into a position of being an expert not just in their field of study but in other areas beyond their expertise. Often, these men and women achieved their positions not solely on merit but through a political process; appointments to a government agency, awarded prestigious grants, etc. Some scientists win the adoration of the progressive intelligentsia because their views align easily with a particular policy agenda.
When medical scientists advised a lockdown of economic activity because of the pandemic, they were not speaking as scientists but as moralists in scientists’ clothing. What are their special qualifications for that role? Did these scientists understand the consequences of a lockdown–psychological, domestic, social, economic, for the diverse individual human beings who would be subject to the policy?
Giving our assent to claims based on mere authority or assertions of “settled science” leaves us vulnerable to the dangers of scientism. For many people, science has become associated with a particular worldview. It is often maintained and defended like religion. We are led to believe that the political agenda is science. Scientism has justified some of the worst horrors in human history. Skepticism is the hallmark of genuine science and should be our guide.
Scientism is undermining the credibility of science itself. Merriam-Webster defines scientism as “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities).” Scientism takes science to be the only means of answering questions concerning human behavior and motivation.
Humans are radically different from animals or other natural phenomena. They have minds, consciousness, self-awareness, and most importantly, free will, the ability to act spontaneously and unpredictably. None of these attributes have yet been explained solely through science, and their existence still keeps humans and their behaviors a mystery. While social scientists discover patterns of behavior to hold under certain circumstances, there will always be exceptions that defy the norm.
Disasters of Scientism
Scientism has been historically disastrous. For example, Marxism did not present itself as a philosophical theory but as the science of history, comprising predictable, objective laws of economic and political development equivalent to the laws of biology and physics. The truth is that Marxism is more of a pseudo-religion, which explains why many today still cling to some of its tenets in the face of the overwhelming evidence of its bloody failure evident in the 100 million people killed in vain in its name.
The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century created social and economic policies justified by “race science.” A division of humanity into superior and inferior races based on Darwinian theories about the natural selection of species based on their fitness for survival. Armed with the authority of Darwin, eugenicists categorized people based on superficial and often arbitrary qualities deemed “unfit” for survival. If allowed to reproduce or intermarry with superior races, the inferior races would swamp the more civilized and advanced white ones. The scientism crowd applied irrational bigotry to objective science.
For the first three decades of the twentieth century, eugenics was a “settled science,” and adherence to its theories was a sign of intellectual sophistication and superiority. Professors and esteemed scholars from the nation’s most prestigious universities published eugenics research and started academic programs teaching this new “science.” Mainstream media, newspapers, and magazines popularized this research. States passed forced sterilization laws, as New Jersey did under Governor Woodrow Wilson in 1911. The federal government passed two immigration restriction acts in response to fears of racial and ethnic pollution from Chinese, Slavs, Poles, and Southern Italians.
With little genuine scientific evidence, eugenics and race science shaped decades of federal and state government policy. Resulting in a policy of illiberal and cruel policies. Programs of forced sterilization, racial and ethnic exclusion, and institutionalization of those deemed “unfit.” It took the horrors of the Holocaust, which followed these theories to their logical conclusion, to discredit eugenics and relegate it to the long catalog of other pseudo-sciences like phrenology, mesmerism, and alchemy.
There is an important parallel with the story of Galileo, who invited his contemporaries to look through his telescope. The Aristotelians and Church dignitaries refused to do so, as they had already decided that they knew the truth and didn’t want their worldview undermined. Dogmatic materialists refuse to consider and dismissed, out of hand, any evidence that contradicts their beliefs.
Most people are unqualified to judge most scientific conclusions. So we all need to rely on scientific and medical authorities, not in the sense of power but the sense of expertise and reputation. They are not qualified to live the lives of others. Medical experts saying, “Vaccine X is generally safe and effective” is different than saying “Vaccination should be mandatory.” Individual risks taken or avoided are not for science to determine.
John Stuart Mill believed even dissenters with demonstrably wrong views could have information of relevance. To our peril, do we shut people up, cancel them or shout them down as heretics. That’s dogma, not science. We must have the courage to look through the telescope of others because that’s science.