Tag Archives: natural selection

Vaccination And Evolution

Okay–today I’m going to make an unkind and snarky point. (That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.) Bear with me.

Natural selection occurs when individuals with certain characteristics/genotypes are more likely than individuals with different genotypes to survive and reproduce. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin argued that if the following conditions are met, natural selection must occur:

(1) There is variation among individuals within a population in some trait; (2) The variation is heritable (i.e., there is a genetic basis to the variation, such that offspring tend to resemble their parents in this trait); and (3) Variation in this trait is associated with variation in fitness to survive.

Then consider reports about the current status of the COVID pandemic, specifically the following item from the Associated Press:

Non-vaccinated people account for nearly all new COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the United States, The Associated Press reported Thursday after analyzing government data from May. About 150 of the more than 18,000 people who died of COVID-19 in the month, and fewer than 1,200 of the more than 853,000 of those hospitalized for “breakthrough” infections, had been vaccinated. The report was based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, although the CDC has not estimated the coronavirus toll among fully-vaccinated people. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday that vaccines work so well that “nearly every death, especially among adults, due to COVID-19, is, at this point, entirely preventable.” 

There are a number of observations one might make about people who are rejecting the vaccine for non-medical reasons. The refusal has clearly become part of a political stance, and what is most irritating about the grandstanders who insist on their “freedom” to control their own bodies (and infect their neighbors) is the large number of them who are unwilling to extend a similar freedom to others, especially pregnant women.

When a self-identified “pro-life” activist insists on his constitutional right to bodily integrity, hypocrisy is too nice a word…

A number of Facebook memes address other excuses for refusing to be vaccinated. I particularly like the one showing a guy eating McNuggets while proclaiming that he doesn’t want to put “unknowns” in his body. Very few of those memes–or the comments they inspire–have suggested that we look at vaccine rejection in the context of evolution and natural selection, probably because doing so–as I am about to– isn’t very nice.

So–if nice matters to you, don’t read any further.

Let’s look at those three conditions under which natural selection must occur:

The first was variation among individuals within a population in some trait. The trait we are looking at here, I would submit, is the ability to reason. For an individual to recognize a logical argument and differentiate it from an illogical one, that individual needs both a certain minimal level of intellect and–more importantly–a certain degree of mental/emotional health. 

The second condition identified by Darwin was that the variation be heritable–that is,  that there be a genetic basis to the variation, which can be passed along to that individual’s offspring. Both IQ and a number of mental health issues appear to be genetically based, although to be fair, both display an interaction of nature and nurture, so heritability is admittedly less certain.

Darwin’s final condition was that variation in the trait be associated with variation in fitness to survive. The fact that virtually all deaths from COVID are now occurring in the unvaccinated population would seem to be dispositive. (Among the very few cases where vaccinated individuals contract COVID, the disease is much milder and almost never leads to hospitalization, let alone death.)

I would be interested to know what percentage of the people refusing to be vaccinated also believe that Joe Biden “stole” the election, and that the country is being run by cannibalistic pedophiles or Jews with space lasers. I would guess there’s significant overlap.

In any event, assuming Darwin was right, a combination of COVID and natural selection may improve the gene pool….