An old Twilight Zone episode shows an alien destroyed by fearful villagers, before he could deliver “The Gift”, a cure for cancer. In a similar way, anti-vaxxers and misguided “faith-based” groups, misled by conspiracy theories, are poised to destroy an era of medical breakthroughs, in the tradition of the old English Luddites
Rod Serling’s intro begins “The place is Mexico, a village held back in time. And this is Pedro, a little boy, who will soon meet a traveler from a distant place. We are near the Rio Grande, but any and all places can be the Twilight Zone”. Pedro and a young doctor are the only ones that believe the humanoid alien, who is ultimately attacked and killed by a mob claiming he is the devil. The glass vials and paperwork he is carrying are destroyed, leaving a note reading “Greetings to the people of Earth: We come as friends and in peace. We bring you this gift. The following chemical formula is…a vaccine against all forms of cancer…” (the rest is burned away). The doctor says “we have not just killed a man, we have killed a dream”. Serling’s ending narration is “Madeiro, Mexico, the present. The subject: fear. The cure: a little more faith. An Rx off a shelf in the Twilight Zone” (Beggs, 2011)
Modern medicine is enjoying a Renaissance of sorts, with discoveries such as mRNA vaccines, CRISPR, CAR-T cell therapy, monoclonal antibodies, and better understandings of how to manage gut biomes and the inflammatory systems. These medical breakthroughs may soon eradicate cancer, infectious diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and the like. The science and medical communities naturally are proceeding with guarded optimism, as these discoveries have been years in the making and are still being tested for safety and efficacy. As such, this community is not generally given to boasting or conspiracy theories, as they are too busy seeing (and delivering) the exciting results to a world hungry for “The Gift” They also realize that there may be side effects, or low efficacies (high cost to result ratio, becoming a “false hope”).
Meanwhile, the anti-vax community has apparently joined forces with elements of the faith-based legions, to promote fear of these modern medicines, perhaps orchestrated in part by the Trump et al conspiracy theory machinery. This article does not intend to be critical of faith-based medicine, which surely has its place in providing hope, and has some medical value. Rather, it intends to wonder “what compels these groups to demonize therapies that are proven safe by clinical trial, and could be a companion to faith-based therapy”. As an example, one might consider the discovery that chewing willow bark (the basis of modern aspirin) relieved pain. As great as this is, you might upon further research say that “willow bark does not cure the disease, it just relieves the pain”. Of course those selling willow bark would dispute that statement (so as to sell more willow bark), and perhaps even lead a campaign to say that anything beyond willow bark was an agent of coercion and destruction. In total, this would amount to obstructionism, when a marriage of the two therapies would best serve humanity.
All of this calls to mind the Luddite movement in England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, around 1811. The Luddites feared that automation would destroy their jobs and lives, which led to their destruction of automated textile weaving machinery. Today, a “Luddite” is a blanket term describing one who fears new technology. The Luddites were similar to more recent anti-tech movements, including the Hippies of the 60–70s, anarchists such as Ted Kaczynski (the “Unibomber”), radical environmental groups (notably Earth First) and some religious groups (mostly Quakers and Anabaptists). The aftermath of the industrial revolution was that the Luddites were about half right. Environmental degradation and dehumanizing eventually took place, but the loss of jobs didn’t (cheaper products meant distribution to a larger market, and humans were needed to repair machines and manage/distribute product). With modern science-fiction in mind (think Terminator 3, The Matrix, and I, Robot for starters) there are reasons to fear modern technology. Generally, the doomsday scenarios involve robots that are too smart and don’t have an “off” switch. Nanotechnology is infamous for the “gray-goo” scenario (where the nanobots replicate aimlessly until the whole world is a slimy mass of nanobots). However, modern medical science doesn’t seem to be particularly prone to these types of “technology run amok” disasters, and paranoid New Age/Evangelical nut balls seem to be simply peddling misinformation and woo-woo obstructionism without merit. (Andrews, 2019),(Bartlett, 2018)
For starters, mRNA is pretty much doing the job your body was supposed to be doing, before it got “fooled” by the virus. It is using your cell machinery to generally foil the viruses’ attaching mechanism, and when its done it gets flushed out by the body (the way your antibodies are flushed). Drugs that mute innate immune agents such as rogue tumor necrosis factor, interleukins, or neutrophils, restore a “balance” (bring these things back to a level they were supposed to be at, before they ran amok and made you sick). I suppose that Bill Gates laughs about the various vaccine “tracking” theories, as he’s smart enough to know they are beyond current science (not to mention the “why” of the tracking…what does Bill Gates care where you are?) The most dangerous one would seem to be CRISPR, when you consider the eugenic capabilities in a “1984” kind of society. However, this possibility is many years away, and surely (hopefully) society will create ethical boundaries?
Indeed, the ultimate downside might be that all the gene-edited super people start living too long, and there are not enough workers left to pay for wild/partying 90 year-olds on Social Security. At that point, we can retreat to our “Fahrenheit 451” book people community, macrobiotic commune, fanatical religious cult in South America, Elon Musk Martian colony, or insert Luddite enclave here until all the trouble boils over.