Time for a philosophical break on this journey. I started Vaccine Logic to see if I could teach vaccines and mathematical tools including logic. But as Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” And I realised that learning about vaccines and immunisation is also about emotion. We are emotional and not rational creatures, by instinct.
But we can and do over-ride instinct routinely. Isn’t that what it means to be civilised: to do what is moral rather than what instinct or pleasure dictates to meet self-interest? To over-ride our natural prejudices with deliberate logic. We can recognise our biases and address them if we choose, but it is hard work! Discipline and practice.
Love requires empathy, a feeling for others. “When parents use empathy and don’t react negatively to a child, they help the child stay in the upstairs part of the brain (more rational part) and not the downstairs (emotional).”
It is wrong to think of love as a purely human attribute. Love emerges in the animal kingdom with mammals and birds, who care for their young. Fish spawn and move on. Reptiles will carefully hide their eggs then leave them. Love starts with the care of the mother for the child; and there are many kinds of love. An army unit works as well as its members love each and will protect each other. At heart is the care for the other, and willingness to sacrifice for them.
The primate love instinct that we inherited has gone metaphysical: a love not just of other people, but also of ideas. Animal languages describe the environment, human language also has ‘fictive’ words. These words describe things that do not exist in the world, but live in our mind, in our collective consciousnesses. Three powerful ‘fictive’ words have driven human history: God, nation, and money. [Harari]
Unlike these, love is not ‘fictive’. It is a biological phenomenon, with its own hormones, neural pathways and internal calculus that decides how much sacrifice we are willing to make on behalf of another whom we claim to love. Yes, love can be a fiction, but it is not ‘fictive’. Love is a motivation to action.
When we expose our child to the risk of vaccines to protect them, we also help the wider community by reducing the spread of disease. This is an act of love, both the action to protect one’s own child, but also to keep the community safe. (With the exception of tetanus that’s not spread person-to-person, but results from a bug that is widely found in the environment, especially soil and sometimes our guts.)
Is it not an act of love to expose our child to the pain and risks of a vaccine to protect others? You need to make a personal sacrifice (time, money, transport, thinking or other resources) to give your child the protection of vaccines. A repeated sacrifice, since protection requires several visits. And injections are painful! Reactions do happen. But the risk is much less than the risk of not doing so. Though anti-vaxers claim otherwise. More on that later…and you can decide if it is an act of love as well as logic.
Vaccines work best when taken up by practically all in the community. Part of what Vaccine Logic seeks to show is how different and an issue looks different depending on your position. (“Where you stand, depends on where you sit”). In addition to individual differences, there is the difference of the individual compared to the community or population view. Understanding the other, or empathy, is both a human need and virtue.
Understanding the unity of not just our human family, but all life on this planet, and beyond that to the entire universe. We all obey the same law of physics. It just happens that the molecules are arranged in our brains to enable not only consciousness but a language that can describe ideas that do not exist, yet can be powerful motivators of action and understanding.
Consciousness does not start with the human brain, nor does language. Our self-consciousness is unique, and our ability to use words create reality has enabled our ability to develop amazing technology. Including an ever more sophisticated vaccine industry, that started with just one cow. And now is ready to use DNA as a tool to control a much wider range of human health issues than just infectious agents.
So, this is about vaccine logic & love, with a tip to the wonderful positive parenting programme. Love and Logic describes the supportive parent who allows their child to face and understand the consequences of their actions, and helps them to find a solution to fix what they broke or upset.
Vaccine Logic is the consequences of our choices, and learning that it is wiser to make risk decisions based on statistics rather than gut feeling: e.g., planes vs cars; sharks vs coconuts. This also means understanding the cognitive biases that lead to bad decisions. Our cognitive biases made evolutionary sense for our hunter-gatherers ancestors, who have just newly arrived at the top of the food chain a few thousand generations ago. They have led us to a peak of technological advancement and control of the environment where the largest risk we face as a species today is self-destruction. Or we can move toward God, Utopia, and recognising that all 7+ billion of us humans are part of one family, in a very small part of a huge universe.