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Coronary vaccines: science and myths

CHRONICLE: Science has made rapid progress in producing a vaccine against Covid-19. But can vaccine programs be based on active consent and autonomous choice by citizens? And does scientific rationality now go hand in hand with creative forms of irrationality?

Atle Møen
Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Bergen

Scientific technology has developed a vaccine that can most likely mean that we are ahead of the onset at the end of the pandemic, by achieving herd immunity by 60-70% taking the vaccine, something that will happen in about six months. Once again, scientific civilization has made great strides.

But what about human autonomy? Is it possible to base vaccination programs on free informed consent (New Time January 1st)? This means realizing the Enlightenment mindset's two equal ideas, about, firstly, the fundamental choice of adult and autonomous citizens to be vaccinated, and secondly, rational control over nature through the vaccine.

Scientific knowledge

But what appears to be the success of vaccines can lead to vaccine coercion, new forms of surveillance, and either blind submission to scientific knowledge, or equally blind opposition to the new vaccine technology. Every single choice about vaccination also entails a responsibility and others, and in a complex information society, both perspectives on the vaccine, the scientific and the conspiratorial are just a keystroke away.

The healthy and rational skepticism, the active trust and the practical wisdom, which must form the basis for the choice to take the vaccine, are difficult to realize within the current pharmaceutical and biopolitical regime. Is it therefore the case that the new vaccine technology can only be implemented within a totalitarian society? Is China in this way the society of the future? Do we now clearly see this built-in contradiction in the Enlightenment thought – between rational science and autonomous choices?

The intensive exploitation and exploitation of nature, Freud saw as a sublime drive for aggression.

And it is precisely the same scientific technology that has helped create the pandemic. The intensive exploitation and exploitation of nature, this domination and control over nature – something that Freud saw as a sublime drive for aggression – has brought humans closer to the virus found in the animal kingdom. Industrial capitalist and scientific civilization has therefore produced this virus, through human activity expanding without boundaries into nature, so that there is no longer untouched nature, something that causes us humans to touch emerging and dangerous viruses.

Taboo against eating various types of food

This industrial capitalist system of production and scientific technology has led to expansion into unknown territory, and this expansion was particularly dangerous when this capitalist and technological system of production mingled with atheist Chinese culture, where there is little matabu, as opposed to the monotheistic Christian, Jewish and Islamic culture that is full of taboos against eating various types of food. In China, they can eat most things, such as snakes, rats, birds, cats, dogs, and bats, at the market in Wuhan. This is for the simple reason that humans are free from the one God, and therefore they can eat everything that nourishes and tastes good.

Snakes, rats, birds, cats, dogs, and bats on the market in Wuhan.

It is not yet certain how the pandemic originated, but most researchers believe that the virus was transmitted from an animal, where bats are a likely candidate. China has suddenly become relevant both as the development model for a totalitarian scientific society and as an example of a dangerous mix between tradition and modernity.

But this virus, created through this fusion of scientific production system and Chinese traditional non-monotheistic food tradition, could just as well have been produced by scientific industrial capitalist agriculture – something that swine flu was a witness to. And there are researchers who believe that the virus first appeared in Italy and Spain. There are therefore many avenues for new and dangerous viruses.

And no one knows for sure how much misery is in front of us when we cut down the rainforest and drain marshland in the Amazon, to grow soybeans that we pump into salmon, pigs, chicken and cattle, even sheep that live freely and carefree in Norwegian mountain pastures and enjoy the juicy and nutritious mountain grass, host the fat feed with the soybeans, to meet the government's production requirements – ie that the small farmers can replenish their ailing money books by increasing the volume of mutton.

Is it therefore the case that the new vaccine technology can only be implemented within a totalitarian society?

Enlightenment dialectics

Never before has a vaccine been developed so quickly, precisely because science has fully become a collective production system, where knowledge is shared in global networks – much like finance capital scans the entire world for investment objects. This networking of science is also the first step towards artificial intelligence, or a rational thinking machine. The scientific knowledge has been transformed from being a craft knowledge of prominent and imaginative professors, to being industrially produced in giant global networks. The same development process that was first developed within the industrial capitalist factories, and later in the "Cultural Industry" through mass production of culture, is now fully realized with the scientific production process. It is precisely these networks of knowledge that have made it possible to produce the vaccine so quickly.

But this scientific rationality can suddenly turn into new myths, or a very disturbing form of animistic, magical and mysterious worldview. This is an example of what Adorno and Horkheimer in 1944 referred to as "the dialectic of the Enlightenment". Within these global networks of knowledge, also circulate the many conspiracy theories, or the primitive and original animism, where the world is animated by good and evil spirits, where most of all there are secret conspiracies behind everything that happens in the world. The primitive animism with the "omnipotence of thought" has emerged in a new version through new myths within today's complex network and information society. This is a renewed mythical, magical and animistic counter-movement to reason.

In the past, there were limits in the knowledge of what delusions were possible to fabricate, while within today's information society there are infinite amounts of knowledge that can be put together into creative illusions, delusions and conspiracy theories. Therefore, the new vaccine and the advances in scientific technology and a multitude of conspiracy theories that the vaccine is dangerous can be developed from the resources of a complex information society. Complex systems oscillate between scientific progress and mythical conspiracy, or democratic freedom and totalitarian coercion.

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