Consider – a good1 person hears something from another good person, and takes it to be correct because, good person. And yet another good person hears it from the first good person, and takes it to be true … Suppose that, unfortunately,  what the good people are telling each other is mistaken, and has  unfortunate consequences. It is profoundly human to be influenced in forming ones opinions by who-is-saying-it, tempered by bonds of respect, friendship, liking. Unfortunately, people telling each other something, no matter how good the intentions, does not make-true.

Lookit.. it is an odd turn of history that vaccination has not been embraced as the most natural of natural medicine – enabling a person’s immune system to recognize and resist disease, wow. There is merit to using our bodies evolved ability to fight off disease.

Opposition to vaccines may have been inevitable.
For one thing, it would be fuelled by an  honest if mistaken human impulse to protect our children, when the diseases they would be vaccinated for no longer seem to be a threat because vaccination worked. Protecting children is a value that has the strength to unite people, in caring and loyalty. Perhaps also – I wonder from my peculiar point of view – perhaps there is some not-particularly-unconscious resistance at play, against our common experience of people in white coats doing stuff to our bodies, a resistance that finds inappropriate expression in this mess.

So.. as vaccine-preventable diseases begin romping around making people sick, there is bound to be a reaction. I would like to see it handled well.
It would be unfortunate if the issue were to be handled by compulsion, by a diminished respect for individual choice in treatment. One factor: people may be more inclined to vaccinate their children after they hear about cases of resurgent disease, causing the percentage of not-vaccinated to fall.
Could leadership arise within the community of good people who oppose vaccination, to turn or help turn the situation around? I consider: a good person hearing an opinion from a good person who has reconsidered in light of careful study and consideration of developing circumstances..
To work our way out of this mess, it might help to hear the voices of those who would speak only if they were convinced it were right and necessary to correct a mistake, who were not at all predisposed to support vaccination but had come to an honest conviction that it is necessary.

And then, how about some honest and constructive discussion of the process of scientific evaluation, seeking a consensus between honest and humane people on both sides.

1.Hey, what about the many not-so-good people on both sides of this polarized mess? And, yeah, “good” is fluid in its meanings. Continue reading “Vexination”


People have noticed that I use swear words. I like the strong emphasis, for fuck sake, and the fact that profanity sometimes carries an intimation of complexity, a “there is MUCH more to it” coloring. Well, for me, anyway.

Profanity derives oomph from the no-no factor, and limited usage. It would be unfortunate if, because of people like me who swear our arses off, a swear word came to mean only “mild emphasis”.

The swearing/women thing is complex. Speaking forcefully and/or expressing anger has been one of the many “ladies don’t” pieces of crap. Also, exclusion and group identity: Men and boys might at least sometimes be us-and-not-them group cohering and identifying, when they use swear words in males-only talk. Also again, many people like to live within the ornate frame of custom. And then, I consider a family that the father is in the habit of beating the crap out of. Daddy begins swearing, they would be terrified because he is working up to the hitting.  (I hope he doesn’t get away with it.) I remind myself that custom and teaching are not the only reasons that some people dislike swear words.

The threat in profanity depends on the individual swearer. When I swear there is no threat.

The use of “fuck” as a swear word is odd. Partly, I assume, its force would derive from its no-no status. Also, I assume there is a sad connection to rape and sexual abuse. So, I prefer a made-up explanation: There was a BC Ferries disaster in 2006.The Queen of the North sank after hitting rock near Gil Island in Wright Sound. It was widely – and possibly untruthfully – rumored, at the time, that the officers on the bridge were having sex.. One might say of that story that the fucking crew let the boat run aground.

Apropos “god damn”, uh, which ?god? I could imagine Ganesh damning the ivory trade… sorry.


I hope we can look at the placebo effect with wisdom and common sense.
Recent research1 supports the effectiveness and importance of placebos for palliative treatment, to help people access their own ability to feel better. Placebos work subjectively, and by very many people’s testimony can help people feel better and are generally best regarded as palliative not curative.

First, placebos are no substitute for vaccines, necessary surgery, necessary pharmaceutical treatments. They can of course be used in addition to these things. Conversely, there are strong objections to surgery as a placebo. This, even though in cases where a placebo is appropriate, surgery can be damned effective2. Antibiotics should only be given where they are needed. Pharmaceuticals with nasty side effects are shitty placebos.

I have wondered whether pharmaceuticals with very noticeable side effects are favoured in blind testing over gentler substances. The side effects might strengthen placebo effect by tipping off test subjects that they got the real thing and not a sugar pill. In a previous century,  I was a subject for the Salk polio vaccine trials on school children.  I guessed, correctly as it turns out, from the soreness deep in my arm where the needle had gone in, that I had gotten the real thing. (My experience is not proof, only grounds for speculation..) (I am not supposing that a tip-off effect skewed the results in this case- I would guess that polio diagnoses would be largely objective and unswayed by the subjective stuff.)

There may be circumstances in which palliative agents, including placebo, do have a real positive influence on healing and restoring health. For instance, an expectation of pain might lead to muscle spasms that could aggravate an injury. Or, relieving nausea might help someone keep food down. Or, helping someone to return to an appropriate level of activity ..

A placebo should be at least relatively harmless in appropriate use. Good-for-you is even better. Were somebody to eat Brussels sprouts to prevent growing-an-extra-head syndrome, well, in reasonable moderation Brussels sprouts are good for you.

Personally, I strongly dislike the use of deception, even though it may be a way of facilitating the placebo effect.
So.. how to use placebos honestly and effectively? I have speculated around the subjective experiences3.