By: Phil Silberman
Discussions and articles about vaccines often delve into what science is and what it is not. Vaccine promoters might accuse vaccine skeptics of being “anti-science”; of equating the audacity to question the safety and efficacy of vaccines with the theocratic doubting of the roundness or ancientness of the earth.
Vaccine skeptics, in turn, charge pharmaceutical enthusiasts with employing “tobacco science”; of using the same methods and manipulations the tobacco industry used for decades to “prove” their products were safe. While the analysis of data is crucial to the conversation, the game of dueling scientific studies can become tiresome. So perhaps we should probe deeper into this concept of science. What is “science”? How did it begin? And how does it get hijacked?
Science began, and always begins, with careful observation. The first scientists may have been prehistoric mothers who used their attentiveness to solve real problems. Their vigilant discernment enabled them to learn which plants, prepared in what fashion, caused what effects, and cured which ailments. Imagine the vastness of the collective wisdom gathered and held by those early countless generations of mothers.
Endless study and experimentation. This herb heals the skin. That tree bark reduces pain. They didn’t have fresh white coats with pocket protectors and sterile laboratories with beeping equipment. They did, though, possess the awesome power of intuition and the cognitive desire to protect, to heal, and to remember.
Human knowledge did not start from zero in the 17th century. Throughout the Renaissance thousands of women were burned at the stake for the crime of being female. Sure, much was gained in science and the arts during this time, but what was lost? Women. The wise, the healers, the leaders, the sacred ones who held those countless generations of carefully accrued knowledge were lost in the flames.
Trust was also methodically destroyed. How could one trust their neighbor when the wrong words could be reported as blasphemy or an innocent question become a fatal rumor of heresy? Trust itself was persecuted. One could no longer speak without fear to a friend in the village square. Revealed secrets of the earth long passed from matriarch to woman to girl ceased to flow.
The most human act of sharing information, of communicating ideas, of learning from each other was shut down. Trust was to be placed only in the Church. Knowledge was to be disseminated only from men to men within the confines of the newly sanctioned universities.
In their conquest of New World, explorers and colonizers annihilated native cultures that had for millennia collected knowledge of the Earth. The Spanish conquistadors in South America crushed into archeological dust countless libraries of clay tablets inscribed with eons of indigenous intelligence. The Medicine People of North America; the counselors and healers of their tribes, met the same fate as their revered and once abundant buffalo. Their knowledge of healing herbs and sacred sweat lodges came from the Earth and, when the last Ghost Dancer stopped, returned to the Earth.
Perceptions of the world based upon deep interconnectedness were rapidly and violently replaced with linear, dualistic dogma. And as our knowledge and technology grew, so did our infatuation with our thoughts and our machines. Rather than looking to and learning from nature, the study of the material world took an incestuous turn and focused on human technology. Everything, from the cosmos to the human body, came to be understood as moving parts in a clockwork. Plotting the trajectory of a cannon ball, however, is much different from plotting the path of a falling snowflake.
When the number of parts in a machine are limited and all of the variables are known, the outcome of any given input can be predicted. But what happens when multiple inputs are introduced into a complex system containing innumerable components with countless variables? That outcome cannot be calculated or accurately predicted.
For all of our pride in our scientific endeavors, we have little ability to fathom non-linear systems and have failed in managing and caring for complex systems such as the earth, or culture, or the human body. We should have learned by now that the mechanistic conceptual model is, at best, imprecise. Yet, we still strain to perceive our world by peering through this cataracted, distorted lens.
Health is looked at through that lens by trained professionals. They tell us that the human body is an autonomous machine which is under constant attack by germs that only they and their medicines can defend us from. Human bodies, however, are unique ecosystems; each more complex and diverse than the Amazon rainforest.
Each body actually contains more microbial life forms than human cells. The diseases we try to cure are symptoms of those ecosystems being out of balance. Microbes, until the turn of this century, have been seen as ‘the bad guys’ who must, by any means necessary, be defeated and destroyed. (Pay no attention to the wonders of wine and beer, of bread and cheese!) Microbes are germs and germs are bad. After years of antibiotic overuse and the successful hype of antimicrobial soaps there is now, finally, a growing awareness of the folly of this type of thinking.
Today we are told that the science on vaccines is settled. Manufacturers and providers tell us vaccines are safe and effective. Further study is a waste of money. Public health agencies pressure legislators to demand absolute compliance with their vaccine recommendations. The vaccine promoters refuse to engage in a serious public debate for fear it would only provide a platform for “anti-vaxxer misinformation”.
Researchers have recently gone so far as to claim that mother’s milk should not be viewed as superior to formula. After all, we mustn’t glamorize nature over science. And the media, complicit with them all, refuse to do their jobs. Without question they endlessly echo stories about that ‘one doctor’ and his one ‘debunked’ study.
Let us remove the mechanistic spectacles and examine the issue through eyes of ancient wisdom and clear lenses of contemporary discovery. Remember, each body is unique. It has recently been ascertained that every heart beat has its own distinct rhythm. Yet, a premature baby, not fully developed and weighing a mere two pounds, gets the same dose of HepB and Vitamin K at birth as does a full term, robust eight pounder. A 10 year old, 65 pound, waifish girl with an eating disorder gets the same shots as her hefty 110 pound, athletic male class mate.
How is it remotely conceivable that this ‘one size fits all’, ‘every child / every shot’ paradigm could be scientifically plausible? The internet is a massive library. Explore it. Social media is today’s village square. Do not be afraid to meet there. There are hundreds of studies both defending and questioning vaccines. Read them. You possess intelligence and intuition. Reclaim them. Many thousands of parents have endured the anguish of observing vaccines injuring or killing their children. Listen to them. Science begins with observation.
Phil Silberman is a founding member of the Colorado Coalition for Vaccine Choice. He is a designer, writer, and editor. He and his wife are passionate about keeping their daughter healthy and vaccine free.