Don’t try to learn biology from politicians. It’s a maxim that should be self-evident but bears emphasis in the current context. There’s two lines of reasoning on this: 1) Generally, politicians are not going to be greatly educated in the biological realm, having devoted their limited time and effort to becoming excellent in all things political ( and we elect the best politicians, not the best people – that’s axiomatic.). 2) The interests of politicians often conflict with biological truths.
This seems pertinent to an era in which the planet finds itself beholden to a microorganism or, rather, to politicians making use of a microoranism. How many different voices have we heard claiming monopolies on truth and how many of those descriptions of the COVID truth are in conflict? The phenomenon of disagreement itself seems to suggest more’s at play than re-capitulations of the best available microbial science. And when we hear these dissertations from the mouths of politicians, aren’t we right to at least suspect politics may be at play, assuming that everything else we’ve ever heard from them has been politically motivated? Why did they all synchronously take up microbiology now?
All that is to say, it’s not really all about the science. We know this intuitively.
If politicians weren’t worried about saying popular things or inciting fear, they might offer genuinely biological perspectives from time to time such as the inarguable fact that pathogens, across the spectrum of animals, work to thin the herd of the sickest and weakest. This is among the most basic concepts of population dynamics. The phenomenon is catalyzed by crowding – that’s why, among fish, pathogenic outbreaks almost exclusively begin in hatcheries or other aquaculture. It’s why outbreaks crop up among overpopulated deer herds as well. Same for rabbits. Viewed in this light, COVID-19 comes to seem normal and expected. Not having such a pathogen pass through from time to time would be a departure from the norm.
And it’s why all the weeds and trees offering deer browse, for instance, aren’t eaten into extinction by an ever-growing throng of hungry deer. The pathogens impacting deer save the rest of the ecosystem, cruel though they may be. And herd immunity isn’t a phenomenon unique to our present situation – it’s how outbreaks end.
Especially over the last century, we’ve done much to artificially prolong life, inventing novel (and incomprehensibly expensive) end-of-life medications, palliative care, and simply providing care and isolation from all that might prove harmful. Hence, in advanced nations, our elderly populations have burgeoned and we go to the greatest lengths to keep alive even people with no hope of a quality life. Nature asserts herself again, with a disease that kills a fraction of very old people, and we claim she has no place in this era of technology and advancement and remove from the untamed realms.
As humans go on improving things, it’s certain that we fly in the face of nature.
The left likes to claim a monopoly on all things environmental and nature-oriented. But their dogmas surrounding such things as earth’s changing climate and deadly viruses are often veneers painted over biological ignorance or great assumptions. Why would they worry about some of the most fundamental, recurring and consistent aspects of nature unless it were politically useful to do so? Do they actually fear a two degree change in earth’s average temperature or do they fear a disease which threatens to kill about .1 to .2% of the people it infects?
Incidentally, equality of outcomes is probably the most unnatural idea there is but we’ll leave that landmine untripped for now.
And there’s another underlying contradiction here that’s worth exploring: If the left wants less people on the planet, why would they be alarmed by a disease which threatens to kill a small fraction of the planet’s population? Since at least Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb, so called liberals have recurringly spoken of the evils of human population growth, believing in limits to sustainability and a rapid approach to those limits. How can such believers claim ideological consistency and at the same time claim to fear a disease that, in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, decreases the excess population?
Coming to hold a biological perspective on the world is important. I go so far as to claim that it keeps one in touch with reality, with the unalterable laws of physics, chemistry and biological processes. It’s harder to be scammed by politicians if one’s thinking is grounded here instead of the shifting snows of tribal politics. And on a very simple level, throughout life I’ve found it easier to keep my mind off of what the neighbors were up to or the machinations of workplace politics when I’ve been preoccupied by what birds are visiting the suet I’ve left, how the current weather is affecting the walleye down at the river or what fungi will be making an appearance in the weeks ahead. It’s easy to mind my own business when my business is nature.
One thought on “Plague From a Biological Perspective”
Great essay that is far past armchair epidemiology and tribal politics. Nice observation on the left’s hypocrisy regarding population. Anyone who trusts them on a public health issue is a fool.