Enlightening Comments and Discourse of Reason on article “Toward Understanding of Vaccines”
1. Discourse of Reason
The problem of vaccines understanding is essentially trivial. But it is also an over two-century-old formal logic fallacy, so it is very complex as
well. Furthermore, comments from academic officials interpreting my work as “analysis of AIDS campaign” formally look as if they do not understand
what the talk is about (of course, I think it was an intentional misinterpretation of my work). Therefore, here is my desperate attempt to write a
popular discourse on this problem to help understand the problem of understanding vaccines.
Let’s draw an allegorical parallel between vaccines and understanding the process of making wine which is traditionally also often considered to be
“more of an art than a science”.
For many thousand years it is known that grapes may be converted into wine by numerous methods of special growing, crashing, cooling, warming,
settling, aging etc…
Similarly, since Pasteur time we know that deadly virus may be converted into vaccine by some magic tricks of special growing, passing, aging,
warming, exposure to oxygen etc…
It is a “great art” or an “empirical understanding” of wine and vaccines.
Now let’s say that “wine is a modified (or enhanced, or enriched) grape juice”. Can it be accepted as scientific explanation of wine? Nope it is
useless and it is meaningless.
It is not the case with vaccines. The statement that “vaccine is modified (or weakened, or attenuated) virus“ does have sense. If wine had been
given to us by gods or extracted as mineral from wine-mines – there would be a controversy whether wine is modified grape juice or is it some other
staff, rancid Coca-Cola for instance. This question would be ultimately answered when people learn to make wine with their own hands.
And that is exactly what Louis Pasteur did. First vaccine (against smallpox) was a naturally existing cattle disease - cowpox. Its protective effect
against smallpox was discovered in 1796 by Jenner and there was indeed a fierce theoretical debate – mainstream doctrine was that cowpox is a
modified smallpox which is essentially the same disease (actually, doctrine also erroneously included horse grease as third modification of
smallpox). «Anti-vaccine» scientists maintained that relationships between cowpox,horse grease and smallpox are perfectly unknown, so they may say
for example that cowpox looks more like syphilis (large pox).
In 1880 Pasteur found a method of preparing vaccine against fowl cholera by growing it in vitro for extended period of time. He claimed that now he
knows for sure that this vaccine is an “attenuated” cholera so his vaccine is more scientific than cowpox. It was an anti-vaccine claim and
though Pasteur made wise curtsey that he does not wish to make assertions about cowpox-smallpox relationship, he got lot of troubles with that work
and even challenged to a duel after debating it in French academy.
Pasteur's invention of word “attenuation” was not assumed to be an ultimate universal understanding of vaccines. It did not fit cowpox which is
more virulent than smallpox (shorter incubation period, large poxes instead of small ones, vaccination does not protect from cowpox). And it did not
explain half of the process of preparing most glamorous Pasteur's vaccine against rabies. Rabies vaccine should be attenuated from “fixed”
laboratory strain of rabies virus, which is also (similarly to cowpox) more virulent than street rabies.
Original 1880 Pasteur's fowl cholera article is quite readable – look here
It is easy to see that
Pasteur did not pretend that he knows clearly what his new grand word “attenuation” actually means.
Now what is the basic scientific explanation of wine making? Most important from practical point of view, it's an understanding that ethanol is the
factor defining effectiveness of wine and fusel oils are responsible for hangover as side effect. As a result of such understanding we have got the
great scientific method of distillation giving us opportunity to get drunk quickly and with minimal headache. (yes, this is not quite correct account
of science of alcohol)