Pascal’s Wager for COVIDystopic Times or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Coronapocalypse and Eat Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

by | Apr 2, 2021

Pascal’s Wager for COVIDystopic Times or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Coronapocalypse and Eat Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

by | Apr 2, 2021

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Being of a naturally skeptical bent, I have harbored doubts from the very beginning about the upheaval of the entire world rationalized by politicians everywhere because of a virus which kills less than 1% of the people it infects. I watched in amazement as country after country closed their borders to foreigners, imposed “common sense” quarantines, lockdowns and mask mandates, and shut down entire economies. I was perplexed by the inability of anyone in the position to craft policies to recognize that what really needed to be done was to isolate vulnerable persons, allow everyone else to go about their business, and eventually we would achieve herd immunity.

This approach was rejected early on as untenable because, it was claimed, COVID-19 was simply too elusive. In contrast to many other deadly viruses known to mankind since time immemorial, we could not develop herd immunity to COVID-19, because there were documented cases of persons who had become reinfected after having already recovered. To my mind, that was the first red flag that perhaps the virus had not simply leapt from bats to humans when some hapless soul in Wuhan ate a bowl of soup. I started to wonder whether this was not some sort of Frankenstein gain-of-function virus, engineered in a lab by DARPA-funded scientists under the guise of national defense, to figure out what to do in case some other government developed such a virus to wipe out its sworn enemies.

The idea that COVID-19 was developed in a lab and accidentally released by human error was rejected by all of the CNN-certified authorities, so I naturally listened to the science and began focusing on other matters, such as whether the project of inoculating all of the 9 billion people on the planet with a vaccine might be a way of ending the pandemic. There were plenty of companies enthusiastic to pursue this project, and within months Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, in addition to a variety of companies in Russia and China, had already developed their vaccines, having been generously funded by governments so obviously keen to save lives.

Fine, I thought to myself. Now everyone who is vulnerable can get the vaccine, and those who are not can go about their business, become infected and then recover from the virus and its associated symptoms upon robust people, such as the “blah” feeling reported by Tom Hanks upon landing on Australian shores in March 2020 shortly before that entire country closed its borders seemingly forever. There was no question in my mind that we were on the way to the exit ramp of the highway to a dystopic world where no one is allowed to travel or congregate in groups for fear of transmitting the virus to persons who might die as a result. The situation was easy to comprehend by appeal to Pascal’s wager (mutatis mutandis):

 

The Question of Efficacy in Preventing Transmission and Infection

 

Take the vaccine Don’t take the vaccine
The vaccine prevents transmission and infection  

Everyone who takes the vaccine will be protected from everyone else—whether or not they take the vaccine

 

Those who take the vaccine will be protected; others will remain vulnerable to COVID-19

 

The vaccine does not prevent transmission and infection  

No one who takes the vaccine will be protected from other people—whether or not they take the vaccine

No one will be protected—whether or not they take the vaccine

 

Further doubts, however, began to creep into my mind as I witnessed a variety of zealous public relations efforts to persuade people invulnerable to COVID-19 to get the vaccines. Front and center in luring the public to do what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have determined must be done have been COVID-19 guru Dr. Anthony Fauci and vaccine entrepreneur Bill Gates, who incidentally has revealed in interviews his fabulous financial success in the vaccine sector. I think that everyone, on both sides of the COVID-19 lockdown divide, can agree that a twenty-fold return on his investment is nothing to scoff at.

Fauci got right to work promoting the Moderna vaccine by pointing out to African Americans that, in fact, the vaccine was developed by a black woman. This struck me as an odd selling point, and I confess to have suspected racism. I looked up Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett on Twitter and found this on her profile: “Virology. Vaccinology. Vagina-ology. Vino-ology.” Not sure that the latter two count as credentials, but one thing is clear: vaccine hesistancy among African Americans has a well documented and understandable history, resulting in part from the horrifying Tuskegee experiments, in which black men infected with syphilis were left untreated “just to see what would happen.” That’s right: nonconsensual human experimentation was not the province only of the Nazis. It has happened right here, in the United States, as well. In turning Dr. Corbett into something of a media darling, Fauci’s idea appears to have been that people would be persuaded that a black woman would never dream of acting so as to harm other black people. That line of argumentation is unfortunately impugned by the fact that black nurses were among the perpetrators of the Tuskegee study. Indeed, the program coordinator, Eunice Verdell Rivers Laurie, was an African American woman. Nonetheless, Fauci may have succeeded in convincing some people to roll up their sleeves, to wit, those entirely ignorant of the details of the disturbing Tuskegee saga, which lasted a shocking forty years.

My next concern arose when some “experts” began exhorting pregnant women to “get the jab,” insisting that there was no evidence of harm to pregnant women from the new vaccines. I decided to look into the studies done before the emergency authorizations and discovered that pregnant women were not included in the first round of human trials. This finding naturally reminded me of the disturbing story of Thalidomide. That drug seemed very safe in initial clinical trials, which, however, excluded pregnant women. Ultimately, 40% of the babies of women who had been given Thalidomide as a remedy for morning sickness died around the time of birth. Of those who survived, thousands were born deformed, many with fin-like limbs. As is always the case, it took time for the longterm side effects to be sorted out. That is because each patient is unique, with different biological and environmental factors, including the medical treatment in question, acting upon her body. Approved in 1956, Thalidomide was not pulled from the European market until 1961. Why would anyone be encouraging pregnant women to “get the jab,” given the well-documented history of Thalidomide and the apparent invulnerability of infants and small children to the COVID-19 virus? I puzzled. After all, the word teratogen exists because there are substances which predictably lead to birth defects, and they are discovered when, and only when, pregnant women are exposed to those substances. Thinking about the case of Thalidomide and possible side effects provoked another Pascal’s Wager assessment:

 

The Question of Unknown Side-Effects—Both Short-Term and Long-Term

 

Take the vaccine Don’t take the vaccine
The vaccine prevents transmission and infection  

Those who take the vaccine will be protected from COVID-19 but may suffer side effects—up to and including death

 

Those who do not take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 but will not suffer any side effects.

 

The vaccine does not prevent transmission and infection  

Those who take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 and may also suffer side effects—up to and including death

Those who do not take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 but will also not suffer any side effects.

 

The worst case scenario would be that the “vaccines” do not actually work and also have devastating side effects. Clearly, then, the rational choice for a given person is going to be a function of how vulnerable he or she is to the disease which the vaccines are intended to protect against. If one has a 99.5+% chance of surviving COVID-19, has no known comorbidities and therefore is unlikely to suffer severe illness, even if infected with the virus, then it is difficult to see why he or she would want to opt for the treatment, given that the risk of longterm side effects is entirely unknown—ranging anywhere from 0% to 100%. Fine, I concluded again. People who want the vaccine can get the vaccine, and everyone else can resume their normal life. Yet Fauci & Co. did not agree. I continued to puzzle over pregnant women being enthusiastically exhorted to “get the jab,” and those concerns were exacerbated when vaccine trials on children began, complete with a social media campaign featuring images of “heroic” pro-science kids rolling up their sleeves.

Eventually, after reflecting on this conundrum for quite some time, the firm believer in freedom of choice in me capitulated, concluding that, as in everything else, parents and pregnant women would have to decide what to do for themselves and their offspring. I decided to move on to other matters, as it was obviously futile to engage further with the mobs of people online who have redefined “prudential person” to mean “antivaxxer”. Instead, I turned to the rational grounds for believing that Moderna and its diverse research team have succeeded in producing a COVID-19 vaccine, which is defined by the CDC as follows:

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease.

Going directly to the source, Moderna’s own website, I learned that the company specializes in gene therapy and has been operational for a grand total of ten years. They received a substantial DARPA grant in 2013, but have no FDA approvals for vaccines or devices to date, aside from the emergency authorization granted in December 2020 for the COVID-19 treatment. All of the COVID-19 therapies, whether m-RNA (as in Moderna’s case) or vector based, have been labeled “vaccines” not only in the hope that they may act as vaccines, but also in order to benefit from the legal immunity enjoyed by vaccine manufacturers in the United States, thanks to the PREP (Public Readiness and Emergency Preparation) act. Anyone who suffers harm as a result of these government-funded elixirs will have to take it up with the government, not the manufacturer. Unlike normal businesses, which must bear the legal brunt of the negative effects of their products upon human beings, Moderna is like a child being allowed to roam free, its parents prepared to clean up any messes which may result. Perhaps Moderna will get lucky and have produced a miracle cure, but the statistics on new medical treatments are not that encouraging. Of 5,000 new drug candidates, only a tiny fraction of them (5 out of 5,000 or .1%) are judged from the animal trials to be safe enough to be tested on human beings. Of those which are tested on human beings, only 20% eventually achieve (regular) FDA approval and are taken to market (.02% of the original candidates). Of those pharmaceutical products which make it to market, some are eventually recalled. From January 2017 to September 2019, 195 drugs previously approved by the FDA were recalled because of safety issues.

Now, many people have died of COVID-19, and no one wishes for that to happen to themselves or anyone they know. It is also true that very ill and vulnerable people are often willing to gamble on experimental treatments. In the case of terminally ill patients, what do they have to lose? It is unclear, however, why any rational person not at risk of death from COVID-19 should want to offer up, without compensation, his healthy body as a Petri dish to a government-subsidized and protected industry with a well-documented history of not only deception and fraud but also what are arguably human rights violations, above all, in third world countries. Moderna, being new, with no products on the market, has a clean slate to date (all none of its products have had no untoward effects on human subjects), but the Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca tallies of criminal fines and settlements are awe-inspiring, to put it mildly. No one ever said that human experimentation was going to be risk free, but the fact that billions of dollars in compensations have been doled out to people harmed by pharmaceutical and other chemical companies underscores a sober truth: it is inherently dangerous to introduce novel foreign substances into human bodies, even in the best of all possible research and development scenarios.

The spec sheets for both the Pfizer and the Moderna shots explicitly state that they “may” prevent one from getting COVID-19 (which implies, of course, that they may not), and that “There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19.” These information sheets (which hardly anyone rolling up their sleeves appears to have read) also state plainly that “Serious and unexpected side effects may occur,” which should in any case be obvious since they were developed and tested over a course of months, not years (note: the average time to market for a new drug/device is 12 years). There simply is no longterm data yet—whether positive or negative. The makers themselves of these products rightly express ignorance as to their efficacy in preventing and transmitting disease, touting confidently only their therapeutic effect in reducing severe symptoms and diminishing the likelihood of death, both of which are in any case exceedingly rare for persons under the age of 50, according to all available statistical data. Feeling “blah” does not count, I presume, as a “severe symptom,” so it is unclear whether vaccination would have helped Tom Hanks at all. But who knows? One or more of these companies may succeed in producing a COVID-19 panacea, I mused. Until I remembered the problem of new virus variants.

The current slate of vaccines were developed against a dominant strain of COVID-19 last year, but the many variants, created through mutation and apparently numbering in the thousands, are by now so widespread that there are grounds for believing that even if the current vaccines work against the dominant strain, and even with strong vaccine compliance, vulnerable people will continue to die, sooner or later, while everyone else will be spared, not because of the vaccines, but because they were never vulnerable to the virus and its variants in the first place. As is always the case, given human variability, there have been some outliers, young persons who died or suffered harm from Coronavirus infection. On the other hand, more elderly people than one might surmise, given the media coverage, have survived. COVID-19 does not come close to being a death sentence, although the chances of dying are significantly increased for patients with comorbidities. Still, in some places, the average age of a COVID-19 victim is the same or even older than the average life expectancy of people more generally.

Curiously enough, persons who already survived COVID-19 are also being exhorted to get the vaccines, even though the very fact of their ongoing existence definitively demonstrates that their immune system is hardy enough to combat the virus. For other diseases caused by viruses and for which vaccines exist, the reason for getting the vaccine is to avoid at all costs getting the disease, which in cases such as Ebola and Yellow Fever are very deadly to anyone, regardless of age or comorbidities. But the vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms and do not require medical treatment. Reflecting on these matters, I circled back to my previous concern: Why should any healthy person believe that taking an experimental vaccine is a good idea, particularly if they already survived COVID-19?

As I continued to mull over this question, I marveled at the massive media marketing budget for COVID-19. All of the circular stickers on the ground and all of signs everywhere relaying important information such as the permitted capacity of persons inside stores, all scientifically calculated to three significant figures to yield numbers such as the 163 shoppers admitted to the local TJMaxx at a time. Even more impressive have been the ads on television and the internet everywhere encouraging people: “This is our shot. Let’s take it!” among a slate of similarly benevolent-sounding slogans. People may feel better when others hop aboard the vaccine train, and they may attempt to shame those who do not, but does any of this behavior have anything to do with whether or not the treatments will ultimately work? It seems safe to say that neither the virus nor the vaccines have any interest in the hopes and aspirations of human beings. Ironically, the pressure being put on people—threatening the requirement of vaccination for travel, work and play, and the lavishing of praise upon those willing blindly to accept as-of-yet unknown risks—appears to be having the opposite of its intended effect.

If it were so obvious that the vaccines worked and were the only solution to our current predicament, then why would Queen Elizabeth take to the airwaves to denounce people who refuse to get vaccinated as “selfish”? Why would Tony Blair insist that we will not be free again until vaccine passports become available? Why did former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama team up to produce a video in which they attempt to persuade people to get the vaccine? (Bush states in the ad, “The science is clear.” He was equally confident about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs.) Why would CNN be admonishing those congresspersons who have declined the vaccines made available to them, including those such as Representative Thomas Massie who have already recovered from the virus and therefore must have developed antibodies and T-cells in response? On its face, all of this propaganda seems vaguely insane, and it is scaring people away who might otherwise have agreed to participate in the experimental trials.

Sowing doubts even more effectively than appeals by confirmed liars in high places, more than twenty countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Finland, Thailand and, most recently, Canada, halted their distribution of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in response to a number of blood clot cases. When the cases in Norway were first reported, the trusty mainstream media went into overdrive, dismissing “baseless” claims of connections between the blood clots and the vaccine. It seemed strange to me that over the course of the past year, every person who died with COVID-19 was recorded as having died of COVID-19, while no one who died after vaccination was acknowledged to have been killed by the vaccine. The in some cases deadly blood clots were “purely coincidental” was the judgment decreed by journalists onboard the vaccine train (before the matter was even investigated) and echoed by parrots throughout Facebook and Twitter to assuage the fears of persons who might be discouraged by the news from rolling up their sleeves. Even after the AstraZeneca vaccination resumed in most of these countries, some of them changed their guidelines. France, for example, having initially claimed that the AstraZeneca vaccine showed no benefits to elderly persons, reversed course to decree that the vaccine should only be used on persons over the age of 55. Canada, for its part, announced that they would be administering the AstraZeneca vaccine only to persons between the ages of 50 and 65. The governments which stopped and then resumed vaccination claimed that they had done so out of “an abundance of caution,” but when some scientists concluded that there was indeed a connection between the blood clots and a rare autoimmune response elicited by the vaccine, they also jubilantly reported that they had found a possible cure for that problem. By all means, take the AstraZeneca vaccine, and if you develop blood clots in your brain, then we’ll give you some other treatment to save your life! (If you have no Big Pharma stocks in your portfolio, now might be the time to buy.)

Many businesses have joined in on the public relations campaign and are rising to the challenge of convincing their customers that vaccination is the way to go. Qantas, the largest Australian airline, has adopted the punitive approach, alerting everyone everywhere that they will not be boarding any of their planes without first presenting proof of vaccination. But one company has gone above and beyond to offer what may finally be needed to convert the intransigent skeptics: Krispy Kreme. The doughnut giant has announced that anyone presenting proof of vaccination at any of their stores will be entitled to a free doughnut. Mind you, this is not a one-off promotion. Every vaccinated person is being offered a doughnut every single day that they show up at any of the Krispy Kreme locations with their trusty vaccination card in hand. Needless to say, this propitious development necessitates a revision of the Pascal’s Wager assessment:

 

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

 

Take the vaccine Don’t take the vaccine
The vaccine prevents transmission and infection  

Those who take the vaccine will be protected from COVID-19 and will receive a free doughnut every day.

 

Those who do not take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 and will not receive a free doughnut every day.

 

The vaccine does not prevent transmission and infection  

Those who take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 but will receive a free doughnut every day.

Those who do not take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 and will not receive a free doughnut every day.

 

Luckily there are Krispy Kreme doughnut shops dotting the vast landscape of the United States, and, more importantly, there is one down the street from me. My fate, therefore, along with that of thousands, if not millions, of my fellow citizens (including, I presume, Representative Massie) is now sealed. I will be rolling up my sleeve, not because I believe in the novel m-RNA vaccines, nor because I think that it is in my best interests to undergo an experimental treatment for a disease to which I am not vulnerable and from which I have already recovered, nor because George W. Bush and Tony Blair want me to, nor because I care what Queen Elizabeth thinks of me, nor because the only way I can ever travel to Australia again will be to “get the jab.” No, I will be rolling up my sleeve for the sole purpose of receiving a free doughnut every day henceforth. I trust that, in recognition of the Krispy Kreme executive team’s manifest magnanimity, the government will confer upon their company the label “essential business” to protect it from revenue loss in the event of any future lockdowns.

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About Laurie Calhoun

Laurie Calhoun is the author of We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age, War and Delusion: A Critical Examination, You Can Leave, and Philosophy Unmasked: A Skeptic's Critique.

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