People talk as if science could decide whether we should get vaccinated and whether there should be a vaccine mandate. But science can’t decide between these questions. The difference is a moral one. Scientists have no great skill in making moral decisions, ones we should all live by.
Values, what is good and bad, how to live our lives, is not a subject for science.
Those who advocate for vaccinations for everyone have a moral vision of our town, our state, our nation as working towards a common good, valuing each person’s life equally. We should, they say, minimize deaths. Secondary to that is concern for loss of personal freedom.
Those who say we should not impose any vaccine mandate, that we should not impose lockdowns or mask requirements, share a vision of our town, our state, our nation as ensuring as much personal freedom and personal responsibility as possible. Secondary to that is worry about loss of life.
Science, scientists, cannot decide for us between personal freedom or valuing each person’s life before constraints on freedom. What scientists can do is show us the consequences of our views.
Herd immunity depends on thinning the herd. Many will die, our hospitals will be overwhelmed—this scientists can tell us.
Requiring vaccines and masks will reduce greatly how many people will die—this scientists tell us.
Greater freedom, including the freedom to choose between life and death not only for yourself but others, versus seriously limiting personal freedom in order to minimize deaths and strains on our hospitals—these are values that we, not scientists, must decide between.
Richard L. “Arf” Epstein