“My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science. But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabitating modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.”—Carl Sagan
I want to make a full disclosure as I start this column. My wife, the Sarge, and I are fully vaccinated as it is currently defined by the CDC, as are two of our four children, all adults.
Each of us weighed our risks and chose our paths without coercion, as should be done in a free society, taking into consideration the data, expert opinions, and social pressures. Yet, as you read this, hundreds of first responders, medical professionals, working men and women and, ironically even some CDC employees, face losing their jobs because they choose to refuse what is, in fact, an experimental vaccine.
The irony of this is many people who are refusing the “jab” have already survived the virus, thereby gaining some natural immunity. And let’s not forget that the vast majority of these people continued to do their jobs at a time when no hard data was available to evaluate their risks. They went to work anyway, truly hazarding an unknown fate, to serve the people of this country. Truckers, cashiers, stockers, nurses, people essential to a functioning society braved an ambiguous threat to feed, clothe, heal, and protect us all.
For those in law enforcement, balancing risk is a day-to-day occurrence. Our very presence implies an increased risk. It is perceived risk itself that causes most folks to call for the police. Each officer has a combination of force options and training to mitigate or stop the person or situation creating the perceived risks involved. What makes a task truly heroic is when it is taken in an absence of certainty, when the risk is impossible to evaluate and there is no data, to balance your risk. Suddenly, with the advent of COVID, the Safeway cashier was sharing the honor of being “heroic” with the firefighter, the trucker with the cop, and the plumber with the paramedic. The essential workers did their jobs not knowing exactly the danger they faced, but they went to work anyway.
Then, an odd thing happened: As science got more and more data, the less and less scientific it became. Suddenly the skeptical nature of scientists was replaced with the dogmatic certainty of the ideologue. The freedom to choose your own path, your own risk mitigation, and your own health options became something only lunatics and witched could believe in, and so the modern Salem Trial was on. Instead of burning them up with fire we just “fire ‘em” before the unclean read “unvaccinated” can pass a virus to the vaccinated.
When government and science completely coalesce neither functions very well. The Soviet Union starved millions with its absurd Lysenkoism, a pseudoscience that rejected genetics in agriculture, led to the imprisonment or execution of over 3,000 scientists, and banned all research in the fields of neurophysiology and cell biology. Our government currently uses the giants of industry and social media to do something similar, creating what are essentially social gulags. Firing essential workers for not taking an ambiguously effective shot is a form of violence in itself.
One of the things crime fighters are best at is evaluation of risk which, by definition, includes an absence of certainty. Studying, analyzing, and acting to mitigate risk is our most common activity: driving, contacting victims, questioning suspects, gathering evidence, giving aid, etc.—these have always included an element of risk. Science’s task in a free society is to develop hypotheses and gather and evaluate data while always maintaining an open and wondering mind, looking for more hypotheses and data–again, accepting and even embracing a lack of certainty. In fact, certainty is often the enemy of truth and future inquiry.
I hope the powers that be come to their senses and allow free citizens to make their own assessments and act within their own risk tolerance, accepting their own levels of uncertainty. I pray this occurs before more freedoms are lost in search of safety, and before any more of those who have served and protected us are punished for making what is, and should be, an individual choice.
When police were called they went, when there was no vaccine or even data – risk unknown – and they served. While hundreds of law enforcement officers have died from COVID, tens of thousands have survived. And their reward for continued faithful service is a mandate, “jab or else be fired.” Which is based on what? Incomplete science wedded with improper use of political power? America needs to do better, and quickly.
Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of “JD Buck Savage.” You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.