One of Jean-Luc Nancy's recent books was just translated into English. It has the very awkward title, What's These Worlds Coming To? The book opens with a quote from Claude Lévi-Strauss that asserts, "It has been possible since the seventeenth century to believe that scientific thought stands in radical opposition to mythic thought and that one would soon eliminate the other. We may now wonder, however, whether we are not observing the beginning of a movement in the other direction."
I bring this up because the crisis created by those who do not believe in vaccines represents far more than just a rejection of science or of reason. At its core is a negation of the values of the enlightenment. By this I mean, values that are not founded on mere speculation but recognize the importance of empirical investigation, validation and testing. The profound loss of faith in science means that mythic thought now has enough force to sway intelligent people to believe that what was obvious to previous generations is no longer so. Over the last twenty years there has been a continuous outflow of information from so many sources, that our society has splintered into smaller and smaller factions. Each micro-movement has its own set of beliefs, its own assumptions about truth, and its own modes of investigation. This shift is actually about a loss of faith in science's ability to explain the rush of data that often contradicts itself before consensus can be achieved. But, it is also about the failure of communities to recognize how interdependent they are, how interdependent we all are.
The convergence among myth, truth and science and the arbitrary use of different methodologies for radically different purposes, means that speculative thinking can take hold, even if the evidence contradicts what people believe in. Lévi-Strauss intuited something very important. We are transforming stories into reality and in the process misunderstanding both the impact and effect of the fictions we create. Sophistication and naiveté co-exist and always have, but once mythic thought is transformed by force of thought or communal sharing into fact, we are winding back the clock of history.