• Crag

Omicron: Losing Science to Politics

Much ado has been made of the COVID-19 pandemic, its danger, and policy responses to it ranging from doing nothing, to mandating lockdowns, mandating mask-wearing, and mandating vaccines. Each issue around the pandemic ought to be taken in turn, the latest being the Omicron variant.

As a layperson who has read a reasonable amount of scientific literature, including Richard Dawkins' 1976 classic, The Selfish Gene, it is immediately apparent to me that, once more, in light of the Omicron variant, science is cast to the wind in favour of public hysteria, better-selling fear-mongering headlines, and government power grabs.

A virus is a collection of genetic code, subject to the pressures of evolutionary biology. Evolution is not especially intuitive to understand, and many who think they understand it don't, but in the most basic terms: those genes which increase the likelihood of the survival of its host organism are more likely to survive, because the host's survival gives the gene more chance to propagate. In the case of a virus, propagation is achieved by the virus replicating via the host body's cells' protein synthesis. Therefore, a gene which instructs the virus to 'do' something which enhances the virus' capacity to survive in the cells of host bodies, replicate itself by protein synthesis, and infect other humans to continue doing the same, is more likely to survive.

Those genes which do nothing to increase or decrease the likelihood of the survival of the host body might survive by chance, and those genes which decrease the likelihood of the survival of the host body are less likely to propagate. For example, if the human with COVID-19 dies within 1 hour of contracting the disease, the body's cells die, the virus cannot replicate, and the virus cannot be spread to other humans. Therefore, a gene which instructs the COVID-19 virus to 'do' something which kills the host body very quickly will not survive in the gene pool. Genes which preserve the host propagate more than genes which destroy it.

It is with this basic knowledge that virologists and evolutionary biologists can make the safe assumption that new variants of COVID-19 will become less lethal. Simply, a less lethal virus has more chance to spread to other people, while a more lethal virus has less chance to propagate because the host dies. A gene which instructs the virus to become more highly transmissible will propagate further. A gene which instructs the virus to become less lethal will propagate further. It is therefore no surprise that the new Omicron variant is both less lethal and more highly transmissible. There is every reason to presume the new variant is nothing to worry about, and emerging evidence about the symptoms associated with the new variant are quickly making that presumption unnecessary.

In short, a new COVID-19 variant should never be presumed to warrant authoritarian 'public health' measures until it is proven to be more dangerous than earlier variants, because it is extremely unlikely to be so, due to the realities of evolutionary biology and mathematical probability. A presumption of a new variant's enhanced danger is entirely unwarranted, as are policies implemented with the alleged purpose to 'counter' the new variant. In fact, it would probably be preferable to contract the new, less severe variant, gain natural immunity by infection, and therefore be protected against the older, more lethal variants, and any unlikely future higher-lethality variants.