Nature is where you start
Kevin Elliott
Kevin Elliott • Sep 23

Nature is where you start

by Kevin Elliot

I’ve received the autumnal flu jab every year for the last twenty years. I still only have one head.

No one has given the entire world a Christmas present before, but our scientists are clubbing together to get everyone a nice anti-Covid vaccine.

But some aren’t celebrating. They’re bleating about imagined vaccine dangers, and they’re unleashing memes. It hasn’t been tested enough, they say, and there are side effects.

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A ‘bumper sticker’ level response to the Anti's would see me asking who tested COVID-19 and what are COVID-19’s side effects. If I wanted to tip-toe into mathematics, I could set Covid’s current death toll beside the numbers killed by vaccines (almost zero). Vaccines are much nicer than smallpox or polio.

What’s the Anti’s motivation? A few may dislike governments and big industry, and I’ve sympathy with anyone wanting scrutiny. Let’s see open data and rigorous testing.

Other reasoning is less wholesome. Some relish disaster or fret about over-population. Other groups find comfort in seeing shadowy conspiracies who spend their vast resources keeping ‘the little guy’ slaving away. But there’s another cohort of Anti's.

We’ve all seen the advertisements. ‘Nature’s Wisdom’, or ‘Health the natural way’. It’s called the ‘Appeal to Nature fallacy’. This appeal to nature drives many vaccine opponents – apparently, nature offers the best state of affairs. Nature provides the best sustenance, the best design for the human body, the best ways to make anything. Nature is like holy writ. Any deviations are blasphemy: a herbal treatment always beats modern medicine because herbs are ‘natural’. And if vaccines interfere with what’s natural, we must oppose vaccines.

I don’t agree.

Many natural substances are poisonous. Cyanide lurks in apple seeds, and botulism is lethal. COVID-19 is a natural killer.

It’s also hard to define what makes a substance natural. We know acetylsalicylic acid as aspirin.

It’s also hard to define what makes a substance natural. We know acetylsalicylic acid as aspirin. You can find technical drawings of the molecule. It looks synthetic, and these days it’s made in laboratories, but it also exists in willow tree leaves. Is aspirin natural or man-made? The best answer is ‘both’.

Any belief system which says ‘nature is best’ exists on a shoddy foundation of unsupported evidence and cherry-picked examples. It’s no basis for deciding public health policy.

Nature is often harmful (ask yourself why the ‘Destroying Angel’ toadstool is so-called). Nature is unimaginative (it hasn’t developed wheels or gears) and perverse (the Spanish Flu epidemic killed 50 million young and healthy people).

Forgive me if I’ve no problem with ‘mucking with nature’. COVID-19 has killed over four million, and the economic pain will kill more.

Forgive me if I’ve no problem with ‘mucking with nature’. COVID-19 has killed over four million, and the economic pain will kill more. We can learn from nature, find out what makes birds waterproof, work out how natural painkillers work, etc. But let’s not be content with nature’s rations. If we can improve on what nature provides, let’s improve. If a vaccine heals nature’s damage, let’s get unnatural for a time.

Nature is where you start, not where you stop.

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Kevin Elliott
Kevin Elliott

There’s no such thing as too much tea, and that’s why Kevin’s blog is called ‘Where’s My Flipping Tea?’ It normally resides at www.kevinelliott.space. Kevin usually stuffs the blog with thoughts on science, science fiction, and philosophical questions such as ‘Can consciousness be bottled’, or ‘Will sufficiently advanced technology look natural’, or even ‘Where’s that cup of tea I just made?’. He’s aiming for a prize in ‘weirdest ever career path’, with experiences in politics, drama, weather forecasting, computing and novel-writing. Such meandering has left him bewildered, but he’s finally discovered what he wants to do when he grows up. His first novel, ‘Lightmaker’, is on Amazon, and he’s working on the sequel. Watch this space.

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