The Battle: Science vs. Idiocy

Breakfast with Bwana

By Anil Madan

Many years ago, I was chatting with a law school classmate. We were musing about the fact that many of our fellow graduates were really not that smart despite having attended the top law school in the country. My classmate waxed eloquent as how some people are book smart, i.e., they can read and regurgitate and thus test well. There are very few, he said, who can understand the big picture and how the trees fit to make up the forest. Mixed metaphors aside, I think he got the concept of Rembrandt and Eucalyptus about right.

Some months ago, one of my right-wing yahoo friends wrote: “Bwana is so smart, he’s dumb.”

There’s actually a lot of truth to that statement, but not quite in the way that he meant it. The more I learn the more I realize how little I know. On the other hand, my right-wing yahoo friends and their ilk represent another part of the spectrum of ignorance. The less they know, the more certain they are of the rightness of their opinions and the relative rectitude of what they perceive to be the moral imperative of their positions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration review confirms vaccines are safe. It’s Covid-19 that’s dangerous. Pic – Bloomberg

Put simply, their lack of knowledge of a subject is no impediment to the expression of their “learned” opinion on it.

So, it has come to pass with the subject of vaccinations and Covid-19. The idiocy of my friends—an idiocy shared with many across the nation—has now risen to frightening levels.

One of the basic truths about vaccines is that no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease. Yet, the right-wing yahoos cite isolated occurrences of so-called “breakthrough” infections as evidence that vaccines don’t necessarily work. Note that even a 96% effective vaccine is not a guarantee that vaccines necessarily work. But I must point a finger at the CDC (the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) here. The CDC has been remarkably ineffective in communicating the basic idea of how vaccines work.

The principle is simple. A vaccine spurs the body to produce antibodies in response to an infection, viral or bacterial. In other words, getting infected is the key to having the vaccine do its work. The vaccine does not prevent infection; it mitigates the effect of the disease produced by the infection.

The point is that a person who is not vaccinated may not be able to mount a sufficient immune response to avoid serious disease. But a vaccinated person has a significantly better chance of avoiding serious disease and death.

Neither should it be surprising that a vaccinated person can transmit a virus. Think about it for a moment and the truth trumps the idiotic response. If vaccines are not foolproof, a vaccinated person can be infected by the very virus that the vaccine is designed to attack. But, for the vaccine to actually work, there has to be a viral attack to trigger the body’s immune response. Meanwhile, the virus having infected the vaccinated person can be transmitted until it is vanquished.

Nor should a person who has had the smallpox vaccine expect it to protect against measles. So, the Delta variant of the coronavirus is essentially a different virus. But it shares enough characteristics with the original coronavirus which we know to cause Covid-19, that the vaccine may still prevent serious disease and death because it is effective in neutralizing the attack of the variant. This is what experience shows. So far.

Nevertheless, the right-wing yahoos seem to rejoice that the presently available vaccines do not necessarily work against a new form of virus. This is idiocy.

My right-wing yahoo friends have responses to all this. After all, the less they know, the more certain they are. Let me share three of their laments.

  1. This is an experimental vaccine

I have tried hard to explain that they don’t understand what “experimental” means.  I point out that every drug, even aspirin, undergoes trials. These are all experiments. When a person takes any drug, any time, it is an experiment to see if it works. In other words, if you take an aspirin tablet, it may or may not get rid of your headache, and it may or may not prevent your heart attack or stroke. I point out that Emergency Use Authorization is granted only when trials have proved so successful that the cost-benefit analysis favours immediate use of the vaccine.

I tell them that there is not one single drug that is not an experimental drug every time someone takes it. The simple fact is that may or may not work. Nothing is 100% effective. Except stupidity and idiocy.

  1. Bill Gates and George Soros are involved

There are two claims here. (a) Bill Gates is seeking to implant a microchip via the vaccine into each of us so that our credit card and social security information is at risk; and (b) Bill Gates and George Soros say there are too many people on this earth and they want to eliminate millions. The vaccines are the way to do this.

My response is: (a) a microchip implanted in your body or bloodstream is not going to transmit your credit card information or social security number because those numbers are not in your circulatory system; (b) Gates and Soros are right that there are too many people on this earth, some 7.8 billion. However, if they wanted to get rid of people, they would use the virus to accomplish that goal, not the vaccine. Capiche?

However, I do point out that if Bill Gates were to try to get rid of people, he’d probably want to eliminate the stupid people as much as possible. Therefore, I confess, my friends do have cause to be worried.

  1. We don’t know what the long-term effects of the vaccines could be

My reply is that this observation is correct, but misplaced. We know from experience that the vaccines are both effective and safe. The likelihood of an anaphylactic reaction is remote. And, by the way, that type of reaction has little to do with the vaccine ingredients and more likely to do with the solvents and inert ingredients common to many injectable products. Ah well. One of the right-wing yahoos goes on to say that he is young and healthy. That’s an exaggeration, but I let it pass.

Instead, I point out that this is true but if infected, he could and most likely would be ill and at risk.

He is unmoved. I tell him that I really don’t want him to die. He asks me why. I say “Because you are so stupid, you are free entertainment for me. Please don’t let me down by getting Covid.”


* Published in print edition on 3 August 2021

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