Human Evolution in Real Time

One of my projects has been to make it through Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Even though I am not finished with it, I can appreciate what I am seeing in society at present. I am seeing evolution in action within the human race. In the response to COVID, it is apparent that humanity is divided between those who believe in science, and those who steadfastly deny science. The ones who believe in science are those who have accepted the medical miracle of mRNA vaccines, and are current with their inoculations. Those who deny science are the portion of humanity who refuse to accept a vaccine, even when a close family member is in the ICU on a ventilator due to COVID infection.

As such, we should expect differences to show up in the death rates between the two sides of the debate. Those who are vaccinated should have a lower rate of death than those who have failed to avail themselves of the opportunity. And so, humanity will have a slight tendency towards favoring the reproductive success of those who believe in science. Evolution has been captured in real time.

Of course, many of those who do die of the virus are past their reproductive period in life. The disease still overwhelmingly kills those who are older. But when you hear about someone being taken in the prime of life, someone with young children, then it is possible that the genes of those who deny science won’t proliferate as much as they would have.

Within the US, the sentiment towards vaccine refusal is highly correlated with other traits. Apparently those who object to mask mandates in schools also believe in the infallibility of the American story. We as a nation can do no wrong, we have never done wrong, and those who would indoctrinate our precious children with uncomfortable facts that contradict this set of beliefs are evil, and must be opposed vociferously. Thus it is we see school board meetings becoming contentious, and efforts are made to elect those who have the right political perspective. After all, children should be shielded from anything that might make them think. They must swallow the snake oil nostrum of American superiority, and manifest destiny. But I digress.

One thing apparent is the lack of people to understand and accept uncertainty. Their expectation is that experts should be required to have absolute answers at all times as this pandemic unfolded. Their resistance received a boost when the experts at the CDC changed their recommendations over time. You still hear that the experts were against mask usage at the start of this pandemic, and therefore we should still not wear masks. Never mind that the CDC experts were trying to ensure masks were available to health care providers, and due to neglect of the public health over the decades, inventories of protective equipment at the beginning of the pandemic were tragically low. Our worship of low inventories and just-in-time delivery left us woefully unprepared to deal with the surge in demand for basic PPE (as a chemical plant employee, I was aware of Personal Protective Equipment. Most in society had never even considered such matters). So when the CDC took stock of inventories after the initial surge, it was apparent that masks would be available to most of the population. They changed their recommendation to wear masks in public places. However, the die had already been cast for many folks. They insisted that professionals were against masks initially, and therefore masks were of no use.

Similarly, as we learned of the nature of COVID, we learned transmission is mainly through airborne exposure. The fanatical trends towards decontaminating anything from outside the home slowly went away. There are still remnants of this in the public space. Condiments are still unavailable at many restaurants due to the fear of cross-contamination from an infected individual. And it is also obvious that in public facilities, the long-term trend towards energy efficiency made it more difficult for buildings to meet the air exchange recommendations in schools and other public buildings. Most schools built in the past 50 years don’t even have windows that can be opened, so making HVAC systems more robust will mean energy costs for these public facilities will increase.

Many of those who have resisted vaccines care not at all for any of these issues. In fact, many resisters still insist the entire concern about this novel coronavirus is not merited. After all, most colds are coronaviruses, and we don’t shut down the economy for colds, do we? For those who are so withdrawn from reality, it is not possible to realistically convert them away from their beliefs towards new ones that contradict their entrenched positions.

So instead what we are seeing is a slight tendency towards higher survival for those who are more accepting of advances in science. If you continue this trend for several generations, maybe in the 24th century mankind will be more accepting of advances in science instead of insisting God provides all of the natural immunity anyone needs. One can hope that something good can come from the tragedy we’ve all been living through.