Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Making It ‘Moral’

Well, that certainly didn’t take long.

Less than two weeks back I observed that people are getting vaccinated for all sorts of reasons, the vast majority of which are pragmatic rather than moral or religious.

The difference is easy to illustrate. Pragmatic arguments for vaccination include “If you don’t get vaccinated, you may lose your job”, “If you don’t get vaccinated, you won’t be able to go to a restaurant or a football game”, or even “If you don’t get vaccinated, you won’t be welcome in my home for Christmas.”

Contrast that with my favorite strained and unconvincing recent attempt at making the issue moral: “If you don’t get vaccinated, you’ll kill your grandmother.”

Okay then ...

Such an argument is transparently manipulative and quite impossible to demonstrate. It borders on caricature. But it’s definitely an attempt to engage the conscience rather than the brain and to produce guilt, fear and shame rather than intellectual conviction. Moving the argument into moral territory gives vaccine propagandists a better chance of persuading the unpersuaded — or at least so goes the theory. It also has the benefit of enraging the vaccinated and turning them against unvaccinated family members, reinforcing the current narrative. Who knows, maybe social shaming will succeed where statistical arguments have not.

But then New York Governor Kathy Hochul took it to a whole new level this week when she brought God into it personally. Once she made the pro-vax argument religious, she just couldn’t stop herself:

“I prayed a lot to God during this time and you know what — God did answer our prayers. He made the smartest men and women, the scientists, the doctors, the researchers — he made them come up with a vaccine. That is from God to us and we must say, thank you, God. Thank you.”

It goes without saying that the smartest men and women in the world have come up with lots of things that have been a great blessing to this world, and we are all grateful for those discoveries. But I take such things as coming from God in a very diluted sense, which is to say that he gave these folks their big brains, allowed them to accumulate degrees and gain positions of influence, and gave them access to knowledge other people don’t have. But it does not follow from such general providence that everything the smartest men and women in the world do with the gift of knowledge they receive from God is automatically good, especially when these authorities and experts themselves reject the idea of God entirely. As Steven Kreis points out, science, which has given us all kinds of good things, has also given us fluorocarbons, heroin, nuclear waste, dioxin, sarin gas and the atomic bomb. On the spectrum of scientific discoveries, from unmitigated good at one end to rank evil at the other, where exactly the current crop of COVID vaccines fits in remains to be determined.

But Hochul didn’t quit there. She was on a roll:

I need you to be my apostles. I need you to go out and talk about it and say, we owe this to each other. We love each other. Jesus taught us to love one another and how do you show that love but to care about each other enough to say, please get the vaccine because I love you and I want you to live, I want our kids to be safe when they’re in schools, I want to be safe when you go to a doctor’s office or to a hospital and are treated by somebody, you don’t want to get the virus from them.”

Meanwhile, Hochul is calling in the National Guard to hopefully bolster New York’s medical resources once she unnecessarily dismisses thousands of unvaccinated health care employees in the New York system and creates the very crisis she claims to be at pains to avert.

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