Please don’t mix traditionalism with anti-vaxxers

Observing the evolution of the civil debate, which is neither civil nor a debate anymore.

There are two camps. A mainstream where intellectual elites reign, handing down their indisputable truths. The dreaded populists as a reactionary force, reacting vehemently. Against everything.
There’s little room for dialogue or perspective: as a predictable consequence plenty of mistakes are made, although the former errs in a more sophisticated manner, the latter’s blunders are easier to unmask.
The same phenomenon is underway within the Catholic Church, in parallel.
Judging by appearances the World has already won the war. Key players in the hierarchy blabber about immigration, ecology, the European Union, “social justice”, inclusion (which is a code word used to gradually normalize the acceptance of gay marriage, married priests, divorce…)
The visible reaction from the pews: a longing for common sense, tradition, ancient rites and immutable dogmas.
Granted, this kind of backlash could have been almost impossible to predict in the 60s, but now it’s so intense that one wonders how come most bishops seem to be unable to register and acknowledge the reality. Especially when you consider the fruitlessness of Catholic progressives, a veritable empty womb.

 

Here I’m about a disquieting problem: due to massive polarization people tend to consider politics (and anything else that could be politicized) a package deal. You have to choose a side; eventually through social contagion you’ll end up aligning your ideas to those of your peers. Even on topics completely unrelated to each other and to your initial reason to join that particular side.
Consider the ideological patterns on the Left, even without daring to investigate the mystery of the lesbian who’s almost inevitably also a vegan.
Ever noticed how the Greenpeace activist who gets teary-eyed for a seal pup also happens to champion human abortion; a Kumbaya Catholic fervently animating Mass with guitars and clapping is also convinced we should fight global warming, homophobia and Islamphobia?

 

It’s disquieting but undeniable: this phenomenon is prevalent also on the Right. Reacting to the multicultural mono-culture by embracing shallow doctrines through tribal cultural osmosis.

Here’s a paradox: one the one hand the fact that the Revolution is the inevitable winning side makes us  “reactionaries” feel weak and isolated, facilitating the formation of small, self-referential groups endlessly locking horns with each other. Any loyal comrade could reveal himself to be an agent of the Enemy at any time! Suspicion reigns supreme. Cultural cold wars are fought between conservatives and traditionalists, classic liberals and libertarians, plus of course within each one of those categories; all in the name of ideological purity.
But on the other hand even through this extreme fragmentation, a know-nothing, anti-intellectual conformity tends to prevail, a dull fog painting ideas in shades of gray, conditioned by the call to be diametrically opposed to the swill peddled by the Newspaper Of Record and the Left.

That’s how those who want to defend the family, the Catholic faith, a culture and a tradition… end up sharing inane rants against capitalism, or proposing plans to save the economy through drunken-sailor style printing money and spending. Not to mention the spread of conspiracy theories, including anti-vaccination fears or even chemtrails.
As I’ve sadly become used to say, 20 years ago almost nobody in Italy seemed interested in publicly denying the evolution of the species, although I was aware of the opposition to the whole concept coming from American Protestants.
Through the years this naive, anti-science approach gained traction everywhere. A sort of intellectual agoraphobia, a malaise affecting otherwise commendable traditionalist circles.

My starting point was an observation of what is happening within the Catholic Church, but the phenomenon is widespread and you could easily apply it to your religious congregation or interest group.

 

It’s a pity. Why would you want to establish deep relationships with clueless ignoramuses, just because you’ve examined the expertise of unimpeachable experts and found it wanting!
Indeed a majority of the stuff that comes from the so-called rigorous and respectable sources is rigorous after all: to be taken seriously. Not everything is poisoned by propaganda; universities are still places of knowledge, at least in the hard sciences, notwithstanding the recent degeneracy.
Again, the issue is with a defective perspective, as I highlighted here: prevailing time and again over adversaries who refuse to deal with the facts of life, eventually you become overconfident, taking your worldview for granted and ignoring the possibility they may sometimes be right.
We base our judgment on countering the prejudices of the opposite side, missing the point: hard truths are hard to come by, and only through a lengthy research effort, interrogating nature and expecting the unexpected.
Unmasking the mistakes and hypocrisies of the enemy helps only when the subject matter is easily intelligible.

Bad journalism harms.

The present rant has been inspired by an article that deserves no further publicity, from an otherwise meritorious traditionalist Catholic online magazine.
The author chose to mash together different topics, including a critique of the alleged nonchalant approach of the medicine community to the problem of vaccines created using cellular lines that were derived from abortions.
This could indeed be viewed as an ethical conundrum, at least for a Catholic: should I choose to benefit from a cure/vaccine that was developed through illicit practices?
Asserting that we shouldn’t accept such vaccines, the article proceeds to interview a guy called 
Stefano Montanari as an expert in the field, who piles on by insisting that modern vaccines contain an astonishing amount of pollutants, heavy metals and all sorts of icky stuff.
Let’s address the ethical conundrum first: is it right/acceptable to use a medicine that was discovered/produced based on morally unacceptable actions, even if committed in a distant past?

Notice how we are able to discuss the problem without the need to reconstruct how things unfolded historically; the reasoning goes as follows.

 

Even the most fanatic anti-vaxxers ought to acknowledge the fact that smallpox and diphtheria have been eradicated (and with polio we’re almost there). Vaccines undoubtedly gave enormous benefits to humanity.
Could we really believe that God created a Universe in which those few abortions from 50 years ago were strictly necessary to obtain the vaccines, so that we’d be forced to choose between the principled opposition to abortion and a decisive solution to various illnesses for billions of people?
No, I don’t think so. Precise, artificial restrictions of this sort wouldn’t sound plausible even within the parameters of a blind, heartless universe as envisioned by atheists.
The connection is incidental, due to the fact that the physicians involved in those lines of research couldn’t be bothered with bioethics. Therefore they employed those cells without a second thought.
We cannot undo the mistakes of the earlier generations.
History is replete with wars and massacres: the ultimate outcome of those bloodbaths is the advanced civilization we’re the happy beneficiaries of. If we were to apply the same principled standards we couldn’t do anything, since our entire reality is rooted in the sins, murders and abuses of the past.

The science.

 Now, about the alleged scientific criticism of vaccinations.
As I said  Doctor Stefano Montanari was presented as a reputable scientist, yet he’s just a pharmacist who conducted some research with his wife in their home lab. She graduated in physics and is described as an expert in “9/11, Balkans and nanoparticles” (mmhhh…)
They published a study on vaccine contamination on a zero credibility, zero impact factor journal. Yet he candidly revealed that he was almost surprised by their decision to go along and publish it (though their entire model is per-pay: rejection is not on the table for journals of this sort).
So much for the science.
After their paper was criticized for its significant flaws by real scientists, Montanari declared (in 2017) that he had decided to abandon his research in this field, citing alleged, hardly credible accounts of “threats” (because, of course, his courageous fight was inconveniencing the greedy pharmaceutical multinationals).
As for the content of the study: the couple asserted they found a vast range of contaminants in various commercially available vaccines, most of which certainly harmful.
The paper is incomplete since it doesn’t detail the methodology, more importantly there are no control samples (which are indispensable to verify any external intervening factors, including contaminations from the laboratory itself).
But the crux of the problem is, as evidenced here (in English) that the very data they published, when properly interpreted, defuses the anti-vaccines scare:
The investigators think that what they found is that vaccines are contaminated with all sorts of inorganic metals. What they really found is that the amount of inorganic contamination is so low as to be biologically irrelevant. In fact, what they found is that vaccines are incredibly pure products.
This is the difference between the real world and the projections of our biases and expectations: you should acknowledge that impurities and contaminants are everywhere. Good observers aren’t happy with seeing a trace of something, they focus on relevance and quantification.
The moral of the story: dilettantes pretended to pose as cutting edge researchers, accusing The System™ of poisoning children for monetary gain.
People in good faith are buying into this nonsense, becoming hostile to science and preventive healthcare.
Such rhetoric is pushed even by unrelated sources -like the traditional Catholic liturgy magazine where I found it- and even after the interviewed guy was discredited and said he was throwing the towel.

The anti-establishment rhetoric soup

It’s saddening: not many people refuse to jump on the revolutionary bandwagon; our ranks are then further culled by this kind of ideological traps.
If you start as a barber shop erudite who’s always one step ahead of everybody else you’ll die a conspiracy theorist. ENOUGH!
You don’t want people to feel sorry for you. Many accomplished thinkers cannot perceive the dull contours of the barren intellectual desert they’re immersed in: a place completely devoid of wisdom. But they can easily spot close-mindedness. Close your mind and they’ll shut down theirs. A lost opportunity, but in the name of their correct call on your anti-science mistakes.

If we want to defend the rational basis of our faith we must first and foremost be on the side of reason.

 

 

 

A word for Catholics who love the treasure of our tradition.
Consider the following thought. “You lost this brother, one for which Jesus Christ died on the cross, because even if you were ignorant you acted like a know-it-all, while he was well versed on the matter. He ran away in disgust. He won’t come back:  you convinced him that outside his circle of skeptics he’d find only pathetic losers who could just as easily believe in apparitions of the virgin Mary or take the Flat Earth for granted”.

Update – vaccines unmasked… again?

What a coincidence. Just today the Italian newspaper Il Tempo -and others- advertised a new study, according to which a couple of vaccines were found to contain assorted contaminants. Plus one of them didn’t contain the measles antigens: that would prove it completely ineffective against one of the 4 illnesses it was meant to prevent.
This study has been presented by the president of the Italian Order of Biologists Vincenzo D’Anna, which sounds impressive, but on the other hand it was pushed directly to the press with no prior discussion in the scientific community.

The thing is, the traces of unwanted contaminants allegedly found, ranging from aluminum to pesticides to fetal cells and bacteria, represented extremely small quantities.

It goes without saying: the vaccines meme went viral, everything I said before in this article applies.

 

The assessment by Roberto Burioni (a virologist that in Italy has become a controversial anti-antivaxxers star) leaves no room for doubt: those alleged findings are just laughable,

the study is a concentrate of nonsense and experimental errors, of which someone will soon feel ashamed, when they’ll be examined and unmasked.

Everything points in the direction of a mistake similar to the one committed by Montanari: when there’s a laundry list of asserted contaminants in minute amounts (nanoparticles) this must mean you didn’t do a proper job.
If you basically find everything you’re looking for, perhaps in quantities close to the minimum detectable amount, that just means you don’t know how to look.

At most there may be some issues with a single product, a production mishap. Nothing calling for a rethinking of the whole concept of vaccination policies. Even D’Anna here agrees wholeheartedly: the utility of vaccines shouldn’t be attacked.

There’s a dangerous game being played here by journalists and foolish activists, exploiting understandable fears.
Again, let me reiterate: let’s not fall for these traps.

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