Vaccinations; Miracles and Science; and other matters

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.

James Burnham

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

“Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Immigration without assimilation is invasion.



Tomorrow I go to the ophthalmologist who will presumably schedule a cataract operation for my right eye. I’m not risking much, since my right eye adds little or nothing to my vision: indeed, I can read better with an eyepatch over it than with it. It might aid in my driving, but I don’t expect to do a lot more driving unless my vision is improved. I conclude that the upside is good and the downside if everything goes wrong is not great, and I have a lot of encouraging message from all of you as well as friends I know well: I believe you when you say that cataract surgery has improved greatly since the days when they waited for cataracts to “get ripe”, meaning get so bad that anything was better than your present condition.

Roberta didn’t make choir practice, largely because it’s up in the choir loft and she’s a bit intimidated by the stair climb, but it looks as if the internal infection was cured by the week of infusions, and the infusions took the place of the medicines causing the allergy reactions, and we’re back to the normal chaos of Chaos Manor. We seem to have her SKYPE working properly again, so all’s well there, too.

All this has made my posts here a bit thin on the ground, but that should improve too. I’ve developed a series of unpleasant but evocative exercises for when I get up, and Tuesday I should be back to the Five Tibetan Rites which have always helped in the past; I missed doing them all last week.


The election news is interesting. Peggy Noonan describes the situation well in The Year of the Reticent Voter, also in the Wall Street Journal):

The signature sentence of this election begins with the words “In a country of 320 million …” I hear it everywhere. It ends with “how’d it come down to these two?” or “why’d we get them?

Another sentence is a now a common greeting among Republicans who haven’t seen each other in a while: “What are we gonna do?

The most arresting sentence of the week came from a sophisticated Manhattan man friendly with all sides. I asked if he knows what he’ll do in November. “I know exactly,” he said with some spirit. “I will be one of the 40 million who will deny, the day after the election, that they voted for him. But I will.”

A high elected official, a Republican, got a faraway look when I asked what he thought was going to happen. “This is the unpollable election,” he said. People don’t want to tell you who they’re for. A lot aren’t sure. A lot don’t want to be pressed.

That’s exactly what I’ve seen the past few weeks in North Carolina, New Jersey, Tennessee and Minnesota.

She has a lot more to say, but it adds up to, nobody knows what’s going to happen. The Democrats have the best ground game, but it’s not so clear that getting out Democrat voters is the key to the election. Normally, in anything like a close election, the winning strategy is to have the best ground game. Most close elections are won by the opposition staying home, as the Republicans did in the elections of Clinton and the re-election of Obama. I do not think that will happen here, and neither do the Democrats; there are districts where getting out the vote for Democrat incumbents in the House or the Senate really getting out people who don’t much like Mr. Obama, and are really turned off by Hillary. The best ground game may not elect Mrs. Clinton, although it may cut into Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. There are even those who think this might be the best possible result.

We do live in interesting times.


I intended to write an essay on vaccination, but I’m pretty tired, so I suspect this will look more like an outline of an essay.

First, be clear: I do not oppose compulsory vaccination for those who attend public schools, or expose people to their contagious diseases. One of the triumphs of the 20th Century was the near extermination of small pox and polio. Small pox immunization required vaccination, not just a painless inoculation or sugar cube, The vaccine serum was spread on the skin – generally the upper arm for boys and the inside of the upper thigh for girls, since it left an ugly scar – after which the vaccinator punctured the skin a dozen or more times with a vaccination needle. The sire swelled up, became inflamed, and remained painful for days: that way you knew the vaccination had “taken”, and if it did not, many were required to have another vaccination. If that didn’t take, it was usually concluded that you were already immune, and in any event you were not likely to contract small pox.

When I was young, almost everyone got vaccinated or they didn’t got to school. That included Christian Science children and members of other religious denominations who refused vaccination. If you joined the armed forces, you got another vaccination, even if you could show a vaccination scar –which I definitely could. No matter. I got another, which didn’t take, but the Army didn’t demand a second attempt. I kept my first vaccination scar into my forties, but eventually it faded away. I presume I am still immune to smallpox. If I didn’t, I’d go demand another even at my age. I knew some smallpox survivors. I sure didn’t want that, and don’t want it now.

We also got tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis) inoculations. In my case, in the early thirties, it was three separate inoculations, and it wasn’t compulsory. In later years it became a DPT shot, which is what my children all got, and it was compulsory in California and Washington as I recall. Later other immunizations were added to the package, and at one time there were, as I recall, clinics giving a package immunization for some 15 to 20 diseases, including childhood diseases most of us went through: measles, mumps, that sort of thing. Some states resisted making those big package shots compulsory, but under pressure from the Federal Government threats to withhold Federal Aid To Education most states gave in.

About this time, autism, which occupied less than a week in the Ph.D. in Psychology program, became more common, and ADHD – attention deficit hyperactive disorder – which did not appear in any of my abnormal psychology or psychiatry textbooks – was invented. Astounding numbers of boys were drugged with methamphetamines, a practice continuing in some places to this day. Add Ritalin and 15 disease inoculations, and you have a witches’ brew that I doubt anyone understands; it is certainly an insult to a developing body. Whether that could make autoimmune disorders more common I haven’t the competence to declare, but I certainly would not be surprised if it did.

Leave out the Ritalin. Immunizations are intended to alter you immune system, inducing it to produce antibodies that attack invading organisms and viruses. When those diseases are often fatal and are very contagious – as smallpox and polio and diphtheria are – requiring those inoculations as a condition of living in normal society makes a great deal of sense. Add Tetanus, which is not contagious – there’s plenty of it around horse stables among other places – but easily contracted from untreated minor wounds – and inoculation is highly desirable, and one can make the argument that failure to immunize minor children is child abuse. One can make that case; do not confuse that with my accepting it. And I’ve already said I saw to it that my children all got DPT shots.

Now add the other 15 or so diseases we have discovered immunizations against. Measles. Mumps. Various other diseases, some not so easily caught. Development of the vaccines is expensive. Passing the FDA test to be allowed to market them is extremely expensive. The lobby pressures to make use of them compulsory is very high. Opposition to adding one more immunization to a growing package is low. Benefits are lower than for polio or smallpox or diphtheria. It is not good to have measles, and you can in fact inadvertently become a great danger to pregnant women if you have measles – see Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Cracked – but it is not as dangerous as smallpox. And if you get immunization as part of a package of 20 immunizations, you have no idea of what that will do to a developing immune system.

Fortunately as my children were growing up, they were discovering these new immunizations, and if the kids hadn’t had whatever they were now immunizing against, it was fine with me since it was one at a time. I would have refused to let them give any of my boys the 20-disease immunization shot, and if they made it compulsory I would have paid a private physician to do the inoculations one or two a week; or I think I would. I certainly would have wanted a lot more evidence that having a case of measles was more dangerous than a 20 disease inoculation.

California has recently passed a law making it far more difficult to object to immunizations. Most of that is pressure from migration and unimmunized migrants showing up in the public schools. The shots will probably be given in big bunch packages because that’s cheaper.

If I had small children, I would get them their shots, but spread out over weeks, not all at once – that way they will be immune to most of the 20-disease immunization which I’d try to avoid. And I’d worry about ADHD.


I’d also look into finding some way to get a smallpox vaccination for the young kids. Smallpox supposedly exists only in Georgia and Russia, securely contained from intruders and terrorists. Nobody kept a small sample anywhere else, and there’s none pout in a jungle somewhere. And you can believe as much of that as you want to.


Faith and Science

Dear Dr. Pournelle:
I find myself in disagreement with your comments contrasting science and faith, and especially with your statement that the rejection of miracles is a statement of faith.
You seem to distinguish between, on one hand, matters subject to scientific proof, and on the other, statements of faith; and in doing so, to treat them not only as mutually exclusive but as exhaustive, so that everything must be one or the other. And this division has been common in philosophy, including the philosophy of science, over the past century or two. But it’s not the only way of looking at the subject. There is also a view in which there are truths of reason that are not provable, because they are constitutive of reason itself. I first learned of this view from Rand, but as I learned more history of philosophy I found it, for example, in Aristotle, Aquinas, and Spinoza, among others.
Take, for example, the Law of Non-Contradiction. This is one of the basic premises of logic, relied upon in virtually every proof of anything. Any attempt to “prove” it would be circular, because in talking about “proof” we are already assuming it. But at the same time, any attempt to deny it makes no sense—because to “deny” something is to claim that it is false and THEREFORE cannot be true; but that “therefore” is just the Law of Non-Contradiction restated, and therefore the denial relies on the very Law it denies. If you really want not to rely on the Law of Non-Contradiction, I suppose you don’t have to, but then your own position implies that you can’t object when other people adhere to it; indeed, you can’t even say, “I don’t agree with you,” because disagreeing with people is once again using the same Law. (As I understand the matter, this point goes back to Aristotle.)
Now, according to Thomas Aquinas, religious beliefs include some that are pure matters of faith and revelation. But they also include “natural theology,” beliefs that, according to Aquinas, can be known by reason alone, and do not depend on faith; among these, for example, are the existence of God, the basic attributes of God, and the creation of the world by God. So Aquinas clearly holds that there are truths of reason (or of “science,” as we now say) that are not matters of faith.
Certainly Aquinas would not agree with my belief that the nonexistence and indeed the impossibility of miracles is a truth of reason, any more than I agree with his belief that the existence of God is a truth of reason. But the idea that there ARE truths of reason is more fundamental than disagreement over what specifically those truths are; it makes them subject to reasoned debate, of the kind that Aquinas engaged in at length, and not simply a matter of the clash of rival blind faiths. Joseph Schumpeter talks about this in his History of Economic Analysis, where he says that the Thomist and the scientific atheist have more in common with each other than either has with the logical positivist.
And similarly, the logical positivist and the extreme Protestant who thinks religion is a matter for faith alone, where rational justification is neither possible nor necessary, are akin to each other. I find it odd that you seem to be in this camp, given that Aquinas’s claim that part of theology is rationally knowable is a fundamental Catholic doctrine; it seems to me as if you have accepted a philosophy of science that is at odds with this.
I don’t want to take up your time with arguing over miracles. But I do believe that this is a matter of rational disagreement, on which in principle it is possible to arrive at the truth through reasoned argument, however difficult it might be in practice.

William H. Stoddard

I have no desire to get into a discussion of formal logic. I say that at Lourdes are hundreds of documented events, which, if they happened as reported, cannot be explained by any science whatever. Now you can argue that they never happened, but given the recording systems used, that is a very difficult argument.

You can argue that we just don’t understand yet, which you are welcome to do, but you must understand that is a statement of belief – a statement of faith, just as the explanation of “It was a Miracle” is a statement of faith. You may argue that yours is the more reasonable explanation, but when you look at hundreds of cases, many very different, that statement becomes less and less compelling. I have had at least one experience that Marvin Minsky, very much an Ethical Culture skep;tic, could only agree was enormously improbable. There is no calculation of probabilities that makes it less than one in 10^10 and even that requires assumptions without evidence. Just as the odds of forty million monkeys producing all the works in the British museum by chance are quite low.



The discussion of reports of miracles (and by extension other so-called supernatural or paranormal activities) reminds me of a pattern I’ve observed as an administrator of virtual machines.

I know of two fundamentally different forms of VMs. The most common I think of as hypervisors, such as VMWare or Virtual Box, in which the whole virtual system is, in effect, a fully, self-contained OS, and any communication with the running VM must be done via normal server channels such as SSH or a console login.

The second is kernel-based or paravirtualization, such as Solaris Containers, in which the virtual environment is embedded in a Global Zone, and is not a self-contained OS, but generally appears as one to its users.

Importantly for this discussion, a paravirtualization environment can be viewed and changed from two distinct logical contexts, one of which is unseen by the other. An admin doing work within a Container sees the Container as a distinct running server, and has no access or visibility into the Global Zone.

An admin in the Global Zone, however, can see and alter the state of the running Container, outside the Container’s context and permissions (though within the Global Zone’s context and permissions). That admin could, for example, create or remove Container files without leaving any audit trail within the Container of who or how, whereas a user within the Container would be subject to the Container’s permissions and auditing.

Viewing a Container as a universe may be a stretch, but the analogy seems straightforward. I see scientists as users within the Container who say changes to the Container can’t possibly happen without following permissions and being subject to auditing, whereas others claim to have seen inexplicable supernatural changes, or what might be more precisely called supercontextual changes.

If we add further that not all Global Zone users have the same permissions, and some are quite limited to certain areas, it’s not too hard to come up with a “Pantheon” of Global Zone users with varying roles and motivations. 🙂

Anyway, I find it curious how stridently it seems science as a whole today rejects the possibility of anything existing beyond our context. If something exists beyond the realm of entropy, that something would be worth finding, and to me, at least, that’s the point of believing in miracles.

And if not, everything eventually resolves to maximum uniformity anyhow, no matter what we choose to do or believe or hope for, so in that case, how could believing in miracles really do any harm? Tolerance would seem to be called for, not the malicious defensiveness I’ve observed.


And of course we know that an exploding cloud of elementary particles will eventually dance Swan Lake…


Science and Faith

Concerning something posted on your blog. ” The fact that events taking place routinely today would have been taken for miracles 100 years ago can be said to be evidence for the science eventually will explain everything hypothesis, but it is not conclusive evidence.”
I agree. Science will eventually catch up with what many faith-believing people hold to be true. Human kind’s faith in science could be seen as the mote in God’s eye (sorry for the punny reference). Our history of science shows a conflict between religion and science, yet when egos and politics are set aside we can see how they compliment each other. Do you agree?

B.A. Simmons

I echo Augustine and Aquinas: when reason and faith conflict it is reason that will prevail, and faith that will be corrected. It may be so corrected that it vanishes, but I have seen no signs of that happening yet. Perhaps in the days of the Newtonian clockwork universe?


‘When the authors protest that none of the errors really matter, it makes you realize that, in these projects, the data hardly matter at all.’



Roland Dobbins


No kidding, Mr. Holmes.

Subj: The FBI Investigation of EmailGate Was a Sham | | Observer


Dropped by to check in and Bluehost says your web site is down.

The website you were trying to reach is temporarily unavailable.

Please check back soon.

If you are the owner of this website, please log in for additional
information or contact us as soon as possible.

Hope it gets sorted out soon. Also hope you can receive this email. I have no other route to contact you.


We had a sort of DOS attack (attempting to use my site to spam people) but all appears to be well now.


I have a number of reports of this:

the link in ” U.S. Special Forces Sabotage White House Policy” to the article is no longer found.

Hope your cataract surgery goes well.


Bob Leever

I said when I posted it that I had no knowledge of the reliability of the site.


Martin van Crevald essay recommended

Dr. Pournelle,
Martin van Crevald in _As I Please_ has begun a series of essays on the future.
Presuming the following parts will stand up to his usual quality, I recommend that this essay be considered for inclusion in the next _There Will Be War_.






Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.



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