In my last post, I referred in passing to the ‘precious bodily fluids‘ theory of emasculation anxiety.
You have to laugh when you come across people who actually talk and behave as if this theory is true, but it turns out, they exist. Do they actually believe it, though? In my opinion, that depends on what you think the word believe means. If you were to go ahead and ask them, likely as not they’d say no, they didn’t literally believe it. But people all too often don’t understand their own unconscious motives, and what they have to say about those motives often shouldn’t be taken at face value either. The clue is in what they do about it.
Nor is this exclusive to the anti-scientific brands of irrationality characteristic of anti-vaxxers and their like. There are highly scientific kinds of irrationality that have no less power over us – and in fact, are often where real material power lies in the world. I have no doubt Sam Harris, for example, believes his own words when he talks about his fear that irrational religious extremists (they will generally always be Muslim, in his discourse) get hold of an atomic bomb. And yes, that’s one thing to be afraid of. But the events of August 1945 show us that holders of a highly rationalistic world view are no less capable of using these obscene weapons against populations – as the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki learned, in the split second before they (the lucky ones at least) were vaporized.
The actual distinction isn’t between the rational ones and the irrational ones. It’s between those who value lives sufficiently to direct their own behaviour so as to respect those lives, versus those who don’t. For my part, I didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 because I ‘trust the science’. It’s true that I understand the science well enough to know what I was getting myself into. Therefore, I got vaccinated because I understood and accepted the risk/reward proposition that it represented. By being vaccinated I receive very good, though not absolutely perfect, protection from the virus for myself; and I also contribute to the general welfare by reducing the likelihood that by catching it, I will pass it to others. In exchange for this I accept the risk (minuscule on the individual level, but not zero) of a bad reaction that in the extreme might indeed kill me. There is no zero-risk scenario, just an informed understanding. Most of the time, this is about the best anyone can do.
Anyway, two cheers for the guys hoping to sell their un-vaccinated sperm. If any children come of the arrangement, I hope they name one after me.