Let's Try That Again


I'm still unhappy

from the last post I made —

Here is a new one

This is going to be a response post to someone's comments on their stance against taking the COVID vaccine. Personally, I've found this person to have the best arguments against it. And judging from their previous writings on programming and systems design, they appear intelligent enough for me to think that they've actually thought this through (even if they're wrong).

However, keep in mind that I generally dislike this person(1), so my arguments may not be in good faith. And to give you an idea of why let's talk about something completely different.

(1) Although I don't think I'd like anyone who'd have opinions like these anyway.

The historian owes the dead nothing but the truth.

  • Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre, Histoire de l'astronomie moderne

In their post "How to Destroy a Society", Gavin Howard explains how there's one simple cause for the destruction of a society, "[…] the loss of virtue and religion."

One of the losses of virtue Howard lists as leading to the fall of a society is chastity, which he states as follows.

What can happen when chastity is lost?

Several things, actually:

  • Marriage becomes less important.
  • Fidelity in marriage is not observed.
  • Homosexuality becomes accepted.

There are many others, but this is sufficient because it can be easily that all of those results will eventually lead to the degradation of the nuclear family.

Oh, now might be a good time to mention that Howard is a "member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

So two of those things are false, and the other is a good thing. Abstinence before marriage does not lead to a better relationship life during marriage, nor does abstinence education lead to less unplanned pregnancies.

I would provide some sources to my claims, but it's not like Howard did it anyway, so I'm just following the standard set to me. I will say however, it's very easy to type "abstinence until marriage programs research" into Google.

The other virtues aren't as stupid, but they all share one element (by virtue of being virtues) - a focus on the individual.

The thing about societies is that they aren't just made up of individuals, but the systems those individuals create and reside power over. It is the systems that collapse, not the individual.

A long time ago in a post about COBOL, I've briefly mentioned something similar with Jonathan Blow's talk "Preventing the Collapse of Civilization" in relation to software. But there's a really good book by Joseph Tainter called "The Collapse of Complex Societies" which is about a lot more.

Tainter argues that the development of a complex society is predicated on the exploitation of low hanging resources. The investment to acquire these resources is easily outweighed by their benefits. This allows for the support of specialized roles that do not necessarily contribute to the sustainability of the society (aristocrats, priests, etc.). Subsequent resource extraction (be it in the form of new mines, new agricultural lands, or new conquests) have a lower return on energy invested generating a smaller surplus to sustain the complex society.

Eventually a society will reach a point where existing resources or potential new resources cannot maintain the level of complexity the society currently has. The result is a decline in public works/investments, the loss of centralised control and influence, and the loss of the periphery regions of the society (which are not always a peaceful or gradual process). Eventually the society will "decline" to a level of lower complexity with more decentralised local control, less public works, etc, at which point it may go far enough to be considered "collapsed".

I've also gone through a few episodes of the "Fall of Civilizations Podcast" which Howard recommends at the start of his article. And it is quite good, but I have no idea how Howard is able relate the ideas of virtue to it.

After skipping a bunch things that I frankly, don't find particularly interesting, one of Howard's comments that I want to make note of is this.

Oh, and we need to take into account the fact that disease really is what conquered the natives in the Americas.


Out of context that sounds pretty bad, but when you give it the context it's… yeah it's not better. You should go read it for yourself.

Howard then states that the way to prevent the loss of virtue is religion. I'm going to just paste the entire argument here because I this is the most important part.

Say you don’t believe in God, yet you are virtuous. What could make you abandon virtue?

Maybe it’s the fact that if others lose their virtue, you will find yourself out-competed, so in order to eat, you need to abandon your virtue. Or maybe you know that there are people who are trying to destroy the society, and in order to defeat them, you need to abandon your own virtue.

In those cases, what do you do? You don’t believe that mankind is accountable to God because you don’t believe in Him, so obviously, those evil people have to be stopped and punished in this life, right?

So to ensure that those enemies of society are stopped, you abandon your virtue.

Or say that you are called to be a witness against someone you don’t like, someone who you think is guilty, but don’t know it. If you don’t believe in God, and know that no one will ever know if you give false testimony, why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you abandon the virtue of honesty if you don’t believe in a God that would hold you accountable in the next life?

Congrats! You are now part of the problem.

But if you believe in God, and that all mankind is accountable to Him, it’s easier to refuse to abandon your virtue and allow Him to help you and to either stop society’s enemies or to ensure that justice is served in the next life.

So from the second paragraph we find out that people who aren't virtuous compete better than those who are. Compete it what? Judging by the fact that apparently you need to compete in this thing to be able to eat, this sounds really familiar but in order to not say the "C" word, I'm just going to say that it's system of organisation where you compete for money to buy the food to eat. And it is this system that incentivises people to lose their virtues.

Keep this in mind, I'll get to it later.

Next is the idea that people who aren't virtuous want to destroy society (or people who want to destroy society aren't virtuous, doesn't matter either way). This is just plain stupid. Honestly, nobody wants to destroy society, it's in everyone's best interest to want a better and more prosperous society. So it's more just that some people's idea of a better and more prosperous society goes against others.

Sure some may want society replaced with something else and that may involve the destruction of the old one. But the idea is that it comes out better than it was before. This black and white view of people helps no one.

As for Howard's idea on how believing in God would allow to resist abandoning your virtue. That just does not happen, if anything it allows people to mental gymnastics their way into believing that they aren't abandoning their virtue when they really are. One look at the Catholic Church (and other similar churches) confirms that.

But if we look at both Tainter and Howard's ideas, I think there is a clear solution.

The implementation of a sustainable society, not built on a rat-race to wealth and power, preferably one built around decentralised control instead of rejecting it for complexity, and one where people are celebrated and rewarded for helping others. Such a society would be able to correctly manage the commons and the scarcity of resources as well as prevent people from losing their virtue because of "competition."

As for the witness scenario that Howard described, for me there's a very simple answer. Lying makes me feel bad, so I don't do it. If lying doesn't make you feel bad enough so much so that you require yourself to believe in an outer-worldly power that judges you in order to not do it, I think you have other problems.

Right where I left it. Right as I remember it.

Let's see what old sins lie in wait.

  • Multiple authors, SCP 6060

I am not done yet, let's talk about pronouns or specifically, "Free Speech and Pronouns."

As I have said before, there is no “freedom from offense.” The most important thing this means is that people cannot be compelled to show respect to others. Transgender people, if you demand that others use your preferred pronoun, you are compelling them to show you respect. In that case, you are not the victim; you are an authoritarian, and you are attempting to remove their freedom of speech and their agency.

[…] if [the non-binary person Gavin knows] had demanded that I memorize the forms of a pronoun I did not know and then expect me to get it right, they would have lost my respect.

Are two words (usually less than 4 letters each) really that hard for Howard? Keep in mind that trans people are a tiny fraction of the population and even less would use "non-standard" pronouns that you haven't memorised already.

This is where I'd really like some examples from Howard, in my experience every trans person has asked very nicely for me to use their preferred pronouns(2). I've never felt like I was forced to or that it was "demanded" of me.

(2) Actually, most don't even ask. It's not that difficult to see a trans woman and just start using she/her, as that's probably what she's using, because you know, she's a woman.

But anyway, pronouns aren't about respect. They're the baseline human decency you can give to someone, it's a signifier that you recognise them as a person and one of the biggest parts of their identity.

It's also about being correct. I don't know how to tell you this, but there are more than two genders. I don't know how many, something about it being a social construct makes it hard, and to be honest I don't really care either.

What I do know is that if someone isn't a man or woman, than it's incorrect English to use "he/him" or "she/her." It is however correct to use "they/them" in most cases, and if they want to be called by some weird ass pronoun instead, I don't really mind - there are worse things to have been added to my English lexicon and the language in general.

If Gavin Howard insists on misgendering someone just because of a lack of "respect" for them, then I feel like she never had any for them to begin with. In which case, the pronouns clearly aren't the issue here.

Last thing I want to mention is that at the start of the post has her talking about the "recent problems regarding a new Code of Conduct at Stack Overflow" and how she feels "vindicated about [her] policy of not having a Code of Conduct."

That post linked starts with the following quote.

I don’t like Codes of Conduct. They can be easily misused.

Wow a document describing how people should act in a community is misused by those in power to justify their behaviour? Feels like we were just talked about that, but maybe they should add a few parables to make it easy to digest for the brainless masses.

Comme pour le prier de le tirer de l’embarras où il se trouvait.

  • Alexandre Dumas, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo

Finally, let's get back to the subject. The post "My Thought Process Regarding Vaccines" is what I'll be going through now.

According to the CDC, there have been about 33 million cases of COVID in the US. If we take that as an average probability that I will have COVID myself, I have a 10% chance of getting COVID. (Assuming a population of 330 million.) Of course, that assumption might not hold, but there have been people getting reinfected, so it seems like a good enough assumption for now.

A 10% chance of getting COVID, plus a 0.03% chance of dying from COVID for my age group, leads to a total chance of dying from COVID to be 0.003%.

So she thinks that because there are 33 million cases of COVID in US with a population 330 million people, that there is a 10% chance of getting COVID.

Do you see the problem with this estimation? It's so fucking obvious, I genuinely can't believe she would even think about this, let alone type it down.

This post was published on 27 July almost two months ago from when I'm writing this now. So let's look at that CDC website she link to see the cases now.


So does that mean the chance to get COVID is now 12%? It has gotten higher?!

No, it didn't. That number isn't the chance to get COVID, it's literally just the percentage of people who have gotten COVID in the US at this point in time and that's it, nothing else. Your chance of getting COVID is determined by how you respond to it. If you do nothing on a long enough time scale, then the chance is 100% or close enough to it.

You can't extrapolate this from previous data because it's completely reliant on the present circumstances.

The next few paragraphs are useless to us because it just builds on this faulty assumption so let's move on. The biggest thing I hear parroted by everyone who I've heard who doesn't want to take the vaccine is this.

One thing that really matters is the lack of long-term studies on the effects of the new mRNA vaccines. While the normal vaccines can claim some evidence from other vaccines (although, as you should know, implementation matters more than theory, so that evidence is still weak because the normal COVID vaccines could still be implemented poorly), the mRNA vaccines have no evidence of long-term effects at all.

All side effects from vaccines develop within 2 months of inoculation. I was inclined to say "virtually all" or "almost all", but after some reading, I realised that would be wrong.

“Side-effects nearly always occur within a couple of weeks of a person being vaccinated,” says John Grabenstein, director of scientific communication for the Immunization Action Coalition. He adds that the longest time before a side effect appeared for any type of shot has been six weeks.

From "Vaccines are highly unlikely to cause side effects long after getting the shot." The title might say "highly unlikely" but the content says otherwise.

The active ingredient in the mRNA vaccine degrades after two weeks. Realistically, for a side effect to occur years later when it has left your body two weeks after the injection there would have to be some magic involved.

Normally, in regards to medicine having long term effects the key factor here would be dosage. How long are you exposed to it, and how often. If it's a daily medication, or if you're working with something environmentally hazardous, you work with it for a long time and that gives you a high risk of developing any complications.

Without repeated exposure, short lived medicine will have short-lived effects and short-lived after-effects, and they will either be:

  • Damaging, and immediately evident or;
  • Not immediately evident, and either repairable, or with minimal after-effect.

And no, just because the primary effect of vaccines are to provide long term immunisation from a virus doesn't mean the vaccine itself can have long term effects. The purpose of a vaccine is to teach your body to create antibodies by itself, you know the saying: "teach a man to fish…"

So now if you're asking why the antibodies can't harm you, well that's like asking why red blood cells can't harm you. They're a natural part of your body. They can sometimes go wrong, like with ADE, but we know that COVID antibodies don't do that as mentioned in the article.

Many vaccinated people have been exposed to the virus, and its variants, and most of them have developed no disease or mild symptoms. A very small number have experienced more severe disease (“breakthrough infection”), and these individuals have not shown evidence of ADE.

Unfortunately, some people continue to spread misinformation suggesting that ADE is an ongoing concern for COVID-19 vaccines; however, scientists and clinicians are continuing to monitor COVID-19 infections and, to date, no evidence to validate this concern has emerged.

By the way, there's no long term study on the effect of COVID either(3), and COVID isn't designed to degrade after two weeks. Of our current vaccine technology, the mRNA is the most modern, and most targeted because they do not need to have any of the other genetic material that you would have in the older vaccines (where old vaccines would give you a weakened version of the virus).

So if the mRNA vaccine is just the "blueprints" to the spike protein, would the real thing not be much worse?

(3) We do already know there are some long term effects however, it can cause some damage to your lungs.

I see people on Twitter and other public forums shaming others for not getting vaccinated. They also encourage others to do so in real life. (One person I used to follow on Twitter encouraged a follower to, at family gatherings, tail the members of his own extended family that are unvaccinated and yell, “UNVACCINATED!” at others to shame his family members.) I see governments instituting carrot and stick incentives to get the vaccines. The carrots are really insipid (lotteries), and the sticks are excessive (jail or shunning from society).

These make me nervous, especially the sticks. This makes me think it is less about the virus and more about control. This looks like authoritarianism to me, and beyond the thought process I made above, I had one big pressing concern: I do not want authoritarianism to take over.

Before I get into this, I want to say something I don't think I heard that many times before. Dying from COVID is not necessarily the same thing as dying because of COVID. Let's think this through.

Many people who get COVID will need to go to the hospital, they won't necessarily die from it (in fact, they probably won't), but there's a decent chance they'll go to the hospital. Right now the CDC is showing 67 thousand new cases(4) and 11 thousand new hospitalisations for today only.

(4) Side note, but wow that makes NSW's daily case number of the low 1 thousands make us look like we're doing really well even when you adjust it for population.

Hospitals don't have infinite room and people still need them for other reasons. If people with COVID are taking up all the ICU's, where do the other people go? That was the point of "flattening the curve" with lockdowns, to make sure the hospitals aren't overwhelmed and there aren't more deaths than there needs to be (not that there needs to be any).

Now of course, lockdowns aren't that good a solution (especially without government assistance to help unemployment) and I've heard people say that our lockdowns in Australia (and other countries too I'm guessing) would cause more death because of the decrease in mental health. Well, what do you think happens to someone's mental health when one of their loved one dies?

What about the mental health of all the doctors and nurses who will be (and already are to be honest) overworked, understaffed, and having to deal with whiny assholes who don't want to take a vaccine?

And do you think that all the problems a lockdown causes (low economic activity, general unease, etc) would also not happen if we let a pandemic rip through the population? Because if you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you.

COVID is a problem bigger than itself, and the vaccine is easiest and most effective way to get out with the least amount of consequences.

With all that said, I can only speak for what Australia has done but yes, I think some measures can be seen as too authoritarian. But I'm also of the belief that if you want to participate in society, you mustn't be a danger to others. So I believe these measures are sufficiently justified under a concern for public health.

You could then argue that any authoritarian move should be resisted, which I would agree with. But in the grand scheme of awful authoritarian moves being done, why are you protesting so hard the one that would improve public health? I can think of three words that have recently come from the US which are much more disastrous.

Texas abortion bounty.

I don't think Howard cares about this one though, she doesn't seem the type considering she has a dick that worships God.