One of my favorite episodes from the original Star Trek series is “A Taste of Armageddon” from February 23, 1967. In a way, it reminds me of a disturbing aspect of the vaccine debate—that whole “greater good” argument. The idea that it is ethical and just to sacrifice the few for the sake of the many. The idea itself is suspect. It is particularly suspect when it comes to vaccination, because it assumes that if we stop vaccinating all those horrible diseases will return en masse to destroy civilization as we know it. The assumption is false, because vaccines are not the reason those diseases faded in the first place. The following is an excerpt from a scene in that episode between Anan and Captain Kirk. I have taken some artistic liberty with a tiny bit of of the dialogue.
Anan: Captain, surely you see the position we are in. If your people do not report to our vaccination chambers, it is a violation of an agreement that dates back five hundred years.
Kirk: My people are not responsible for your agreements.
Anan: You will be responsible for an escalation that will destroy everything. Millions of people horribly killed. Complete destruction of our culture here and yes, the culture of Vendikar, Disaster, disease, starvation, horrible, lingering death, pain and anguish!
Kirk: That seems to frighten you.
Anan: It would frighten any sane man.
Kirk: Yes. You’re quite right.
Anan: Don’t you understand, Captain? We have done away with all that. Now you are threatening to bring it down on us again. Are those five hundred people of yours more important than the hundreds of millions of innocent people on Eminiar and Vendikar? What kind of monster are you?
Kirk: I’m a barbarian. You said it yourself.