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Vaccines are “transhumanism” that subverts evolution?

In the more than a decade since I first discovered, to my shock, that there are actual people out there who not only don’t believe that vaccines are safe despite overwhelming evidence that they are but in fact believe that they don’t work and are dangerous, I thought I had seen every antivaccine argument out there. After all, I just wrote about the tactics and the tropes of the antivaccine movement in which I reviewed, well, the tactics and tropes of the antivaccine movement. One of the favorite (and therefore most commonly used) tropes of the anti-vaccine movement is that vaccines are somehow “unnatural.” There are many variants of this particular trope, for example the claim that “natural” infection is better than vaccination. This delusion sometimes reaches the point where some antivaccine parents will do something as stupid as to try to send lollipops licked by their children with chickenpox through the mail to other parents, the aim being to allow those parents to expose their children the chickenpox in order to give their children the “benefit” of “natural immunity.”

Yes, I thought I had seen every variation of the “unnatural” trope so beloved by antivaccinationists that, I must admit, the following took me rather by surprise. It’s on a website whose name GreenMedInfo.com tells you just about all you need to know about it. My brief perusal of the site reveals that it’s chock full of “natural” medicine quackery. Consistent with this, it appears to be rabidly antivaccine, as evidenced by a little dittie by someone named Sayer Ji, who is the person responsible for this website, entitled The Vaccination Agenda: An Implicit Transhumanism/Dehumanism. it’s a crank trifecta, combining antivaccine tropes, conspiracy mongering, and the natural fallacy in heaping helpings, all topped off with fear mongering implying that vaccines are somehow responsible for making us less “human.” At this late date, having been in the trenches for a while, even I don’t recall having seen a screed so full of crazy. It’s perfect for a Friday, when, even though I rarely do “Your Friday Dose of Woo” anymore, this might have been a good candidate for it. You’ll see what I mean right away:

In fact, ever since the adaptive, antigen-specific immune system evolved in early vertebrates 500 million years ago, our bodies have been doing a pretty good job of keeping us alive on this planet without need for synthetic, vaccine-mediated immunity. Indeed, infectious challenges are necessary for the development of a healthy immune system and in order to prevent autoimmune conditions from emerging as a result of TH2 dominance. In other words, take away these natural infectious challenges, and the immune system can and will turn upon itself; take way these infectious challenges and lasting immunity against tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pathogens we are exposed to throughout our lives, would not be possible.

Ah, yes. The appeal to nature gussied up with a bit of evolution. In other words, according to Ji, because we co-evolved with pathogens, living with pathogens is “natural.” And so it is. So are cancer, old age, and death. These are all completely “natural” too, as are strychnine and any number of “natural” toxins. (If you’ll recall, a “toxin” is by definition something made by a living organism.) The point, of course, is that just because something is natural does not make it good, benign, or even just neutral. Nature is harsh, and the battle for survival brutal, and it’s completely “natural” for all manner of animals to be eaten by bigger, faster, and hungrier animals. Yet the mindset behind so much of “alternative” medicine and antivaccine views is that natural is always good and that anything synthetic should be viewed with extreme suspicion. It’s silly, because even “natural” nutrients and medicines are just as much chemicals as any synthetic nutrient or chemical. We have to judge whether such chemicals are harmful based on science and where the evidence leads us, not based on whether the chemical is “natural” or not. Yet it is this assumption that leads Ji to ask:

Can vaccines really co-opt, improve upon, and replace natural immunity with synthetic immunity?

How many will this require?

Are we not already at the critical threshold of vaccine overload?

By “improving” on our humanness in this way, are we not also at the same moment departing dramatically from it?

I’m really at a loss to figure out how, even if we were in a state of “vaccine overload” (we’re not) vaccines would somehow be “departing dramatically” from our humanness. Is there a “vaccine skeptic” out there who can explain this to me using actual science rather than prescientific understandings of the function of the human body and how it is disrupted by disease? I doubt there is, but you never know. In any case, the entire argument behind Ji’s article is that vaccines are somehow stripping us of the things that make us human. The first way they’re doing it, according to Ji, is by challenging us to way too many–get this!–antigens.

Yes, antigens. Scary, scary antigens. Plus the dread aluminum, of course:

A new paper published in the journal Lupus entitled Mechanisms of aluminum adjuvant toxicity and autoimmunity in pediatric populations, points out that as many as 125 antigenic compounds, along with high amounts of aluminum (AI) adjuvants are given to children by the time they are 4 and 6 years old, in some “developed” countries. The authors also state: “Immune challenges during early development, including those vaccine-induced, can lead to permanent detrimental alterations of the brain and immune function. Experimental evidence also shows that simultaneous administration of as little as two to three immune adjuvants can overcome genetic resistance to autoimmunity.”

I actually have already seen and read this paper, even though it just came out within the last few days. In fact, I had even thought of blogging this paper. Then I remembered. This paper looked mighty familiar. So I searched my blog on the names of the author, and, sure enough, I quickly found that I had dealt with this sort of thing before just last month. I read my old post, and quickly became apparent to me that this article in Lupus is basically the same article as the one in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry that I had likened to an “argumentum ad pirates,” or confusing correlation with causation the way that was so deftly illustrated a few years ago when global warming was linked to the decrease in the number of pirates. And that, dear readers, is why I didn’t bother with this article. I didn’t need to. It’s more or less the same article; at least it uses very much the same arguments. So I’ll just point you to my original deconstruction and leave it at that. Let’s just say that both articles are a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys.

What follows next is a rapid-fire listing of common antivaccine tropes, most related to the “natural” gambit. For example, we have what I like to call the “toxins gambit”:

Common adjuvants include: aluminum, mineral oil, detergent stabilized squalene-in-water, pertactin, formaldehyde, viral DNA, phosphate, all of which are inherently toxic, no matter what the route of exposure.

We have the “naturalistic fallacy” applied to the route of administration of vaccines:

Many parents today do not consider how dangerous injecting adjuvants directly into the muscle (and sometimes blood, due to incorrect and/or non-existent aspiration techniques), especially in non-infected, healthy offspring whose immune systems are only just learning to launch effective responses to the innumerable pathogens already blanketing their environment.

I’ll give Mr. Ji minimal credit. He at least seems to know the difference between injecting vaccines intramuscularly and injecting them “directly into the bloodstream,” which appears to be the approved description favored by antivaccine activists. (Don’t believe me? Google “vaccine injected directly into bloodstream.”) Realizing the difference, he had to mention “incorrect and/or non-existent aspiration techniques” as a way to imply that vaccines are frequently injected “directly into the bloodstream” by accident. It’s all nonsense, of course, particularly the bit about how injecting antigens into the muscle is harmful when administered to babies “whose immune systems are only just learning to launch effective responses to the innumerable pathogens already blanketing their environment.” I suppose in this natural world babies never suffer injuries that introduce pathogens into their subcutaneous and even intramuscular spaces. Perhaps the most telling line is when Ji characterizes humans as having “strayed from their mammalian roots by creating and promoting infant formula over breast milk and then promoting synthetic immunity via vaccines over the natural immunity conferred through breastfeeding.”

Do I really need to say it again? If breast feeding was so effective in saving babies from infectious disease, then why was the smallpox vaccine needed? Why did the measles affect so many thousands of children before the development of the measles vaccine? Why did Hib affect so many children, even kiling some, until just around 20 years ago. The disease only came under control after the vaccine against it came into widespread usage. Don’t get me wrong. In most circumstances, breastfeeding is undeniably best. But the passive immunity conferred by breast milk is not long-lasting and can’t be counted upon to prevent diseases that vaccines can prevent.

Then my irony meter exploded.

Ji likens vaccination to transhumanism, which he apparently abhors because he views it as a “movement which intends to improve upon and transcend our humanity, and has close affiliation with some aspects of eugenics.” He then continues:

The CDC’s immunization schedule reflects a callous lack of regard for the 3 billion years of evolution that brought us to our present, intact form, without elaborate technologies like vaccination — and likely only because we never had them at our disposal to inflict potentially catastrophic harm to ourselves. The CDC is largely responsible for generating the mass public perception that there is greater harm in not “prophylactically” injecting well over 100 distinct disease-promoting and immune-disruptive substances into the bodies of healthy children. They have been successful in instilling the concept into the masses that Nature failed in her design, and that medical and genetic technologies and interventions can be used to create a superior human being.

In this culture of vaccination, the non-vaccinated child is “inferior,” “dirty,” perhaps even “sub-human” to those who look upon vaccination as the answer to what perfects the human immune system. Transhumanism participates in a dialectic which requires a simultaneous and systematic dehumanization of those who do not share the same way of thinking and behaving. The eugenic undertones of mass vaccination and the cult of synthetic immunity are now only thinly veiled, as we move closer to the point where a psuedo-scientific medical dictatorship lays claim to our very bodies, and the bodies of our children.

“Eugenics undertones” to mass vaccination programs? How ridiculous! How is it “eugenics” to administer a preventative measure that saves children from infectious disease? Isn’t that saving the “weak” and “subverting nature’s intent”? The whole idea behind eugenics is that modern medicine is saving the “unfit” (who would normally have died if it weren’t for modern society, science, and medicine preventing that) and thereby “weakening” the gene pool by letting the “unfit” reproduce. In the U.S., eugenics led to mandatory sterilization of the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. In Nazi Germany, it lead to the killing of children who were deemed Lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”), either because they were developmentally disabled, had serious illnesses, or were deemed to be of “inferior” racial stock, among other reasons.

Now that’s eugenics. Vaccination to save all children? Not so much.

Not surprisingly, as well, there is a strong undercurrent of “health freedom” in Ji’s argument. Note the appeals to fear of a “cult of synthetic immunity” (actually that’s one cult I could actually get behind–what’s wrong with immunity?) and to a medical dictatorship that “lays claim to our very bodies, and the bodies of our children.” It’s not about science, given the copious evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. It’s about fear of the government and big pharma. It’s also about fear:

The point of no return (if not already traversed) is only around the corner: the mass introduction of DNA and Recombinant Vector Vaccine technology. Vaccines moved through the following stages (a tortured history of failures and massive “collateral damage”): Live Vaccines > Attenuated Vaccines > Subunit Vaccines > Toxid Vaccines > Conjugate Vaccines, only now reaching towards converting our living tissue into “vaccine-making factories” through the use of DNA and Recombinant Vector Vaccines, which are designed to directly alter cells within the vaccinated person’s body so that they create the antigens normally provided by vaccines themselves.

That’s right! Those evil scientists are, like the plot of a 1950s B-grade science fiction or horror movie, usurping Nature (with a capital “N,” of course!) and accessing Forbidden Knowledge and Making Themselves Into Gods. You know, all the horror movie cliches. In this instance, to Ji vaccines are the fruits of such forbidden knowledge and are turning us into monsters as a result. There are reasons to be very careful and conservative about vaccines designed to infect cells and thereby generate antigens that provoke an immune response, but Ji goes really overboard. DNA vaccines are nothing more than injecting naked plasmid DNA into the muscle, whose cells take up the DNA and express the proteins encoded therein. They don’t integrate into the genome or permanently alter the cells.

Ji’s article is the naturalistic fallacy on megadoses of steroids. To him, science isn’t just subverting Nature (with a capital “N,” again!) but it’s producing vaccines that are allegedly going to permanently alter us to make us no longer “human.” Vaccine scientists and doctors are somehow “callous lack of regard for three billion years of evolution,” as though evolution could never be improved upon. What is medicine, after all, if not interfering with evolution. Antibiotics interfere with evolutionary selection in that they save lives that might otherwise have been lost, allowing reproduction that might never have happened. So does surgery, a whole host of medicines, and a number of other treatments. That’s the idea.

It’s an idea Sayer Ji appears to reject utterly. This would be bad enough if he just rejected it for himself and his family, but he’s not content with that. He wants to persuade others to follow his boneheaded example, too.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

254 replies on “Vaccines are “transhumanism” that subverts evolution?”

[E]ver since the adaptive, antigen-specific immune system evolved in early vertebrates 500 million years ago, our bodies have been doing a pretty good job of keeping us alive on this planet without need for synthetic, vaccine-mediated immunity.

Then why did most people die before reaching adulthood?
Also, I loved his error.

Common adjuvants include:…viral DNA…

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the viral or bacterial DNA is the active ingredient, not an adjuvant.
Lastly, could a philosopher or ethicicst or whatever kindly explain what transhumanism means. I suspect it’s a load of horse apples, but I’d like an expert opinion.

Humans reproducing like rabbits is what has kept us on this planet. Given that things like the Toba Eruption 70,000 years ago might have reduced our total population to around 100,000 individuals or less, high birth rates have been necessary (because so many of us just go and die off. Nature has done a wonderful job of culling humanity over the years, how dare we take a step back and try to save more than nature has dictated will die (though through our own inhumanity to man, we’ve also done a good job of culling ourselves.

What morons.

@ Julian Frost

Actually, viral or bacterial DNA can also be an adjuvant. In humans and other animals (plants? all eukaryotes? I can’t remember) CGs in our DNA are almost always methylated. Bacterial (unmethylated) CG activates TLR9, a pathogen-detecting receptor in the innate immune system.

Do reptiles and fish use infant formula and vaccination, or am I reading far too much into the words “mammalian roots?”

@Julian Frost

could a philosopher or ethicicst or whatever kindly explain what transhumanism means

The Transhumanist FAQ should describe it well.

Of course, it’s far better to die from “natural” diseases than to live thanks to “unnatural” medicine and vaccins.

I know what I would prefer. Life may have it’s downsides, but still I prefer being healthy and alive thanks to medicine and vaccins.

Because I study AI, my blog ended up covering a lot of transhumanist themes and scrutinizing them for scientific accuracy, and many ideas espoused by transhumanists can easily stray into comic book science territory, especially about cyborgs and sentient computers. But there’s a good core argument for transhumanism, mainly that humans have been trying to improve their environment and beat disease and death for ages. So if we have the technology to change ourselves for the better, why not try to use it? Contrary to this quote,…

Transhumanism participates in a dialectic which requires a simultaneous and systematic dehumanization of those who do not share the same way of thinking and behaving.

… transhumanists want every human to have a chance to modify him or herself according to personal preference. Don’t want to swap out your heart for an efficient future machine? Fine, don’t. But the point is that the technology is there so if your heart fails or you simply change your mind.

The article dissected in the post is a prime example of what transhumanists like to call “biological conservatism” and it’s an utterly asinine notion to think that an impersonal set of biological processes that resulted in us should dictate who and what we are, what we are to do, and how we should go about our lives. Unless, of course, you’re just doing the New Age thing and substituting “nature” for “God.”

Sayers idea that vaccines change humans in ways evolution would not is ridiculous of course. Vaccines mimic evolution, just faster. Sayer apparently likes death and disease as the slower, natural course might take a few million years and new pathogens would continue to evolve as well meaning we’d leave the world open to preventable disease and suffering forever.

What vaccines do change in some cases, is the environment we live in. We are now rid of smallpox and will soon, with luck and effort, be rid of polio. Without vaccines, reservoirs of those diseases would exist worldwide popping up to devastating effect. Poor Sayer. Wrong about everything.

I read my old post, and quickly became apparent to me that this article in Lupus is basically the same article as the one in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry

That sort of thing is usually frowned upon by journals. How’d they get away with it?

To an google philosopher Vaccines and Eugenics are exactly the same.

Shorter woo:
Vaccines save lives, and Eugenics is all about killing people like the Nazis, right? Just two sides to the same coin, right? It’s all about the man having power, and messing with evolution for his own ends, and stuff, and wow have you ever looked at your hands? I mean realllllly LOOKED at them?

I’m not sure how they got away with it. The articles are very similar, but they’re different lengths and have a different structure. The arguments, however, are damned near identical, which is why I didn’t see the need to address the new article. My guess is that they wrote two articles and submitted them to different journals. Then, somehow they lucked out in getting both of them accepted around the same time.

Where on earth do these people get the idea that “N”ature gives a damn about us? Or that natural things are so much better than what science has discovered to be good for us? Nature will try to freeze us to death, give us sun poisoning/dehydration/disease. Nature is not kind. Nature doesn’t CARE. It simply exists. We are not in its target at all, except as something that is.

Emily claims that Natural Living will cure all ills in another thread, even pulling out the “doctors used to recommend smoking” trope. Yeah, some did. Often during times of high infection rather hoping, like garlic necklaces (now THERE’S something natural for Emily), that the smoke would prevent the germs from infecting the person.

Me? I’ll take vaccines. I’ll take modern medicine. I’ll listen to my doctor and follow his recommendations – try to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, drink only in moderation, continue to not smoke. I’ll also follow his recommendations to take my medications for my health – while my blood pressure HAS decreased thanks to weight loss and dietary changes, it was still high but is controlled by medication. My cholesterol has responded to dietary changes and exercise, so guess what? He DOESN’T want me on medications for it. I asked him for the flu shot, and next year I’ll get my shingles vaccine and whatever else I can get. He offers but doesn’t require them. Guess he doesn’t get paid enough by Big Pharma….

I believe you can get a good insight into the minds of anti-vaxxers by reading The Grizzly Maze by Nick Jans (ISBN 978-0452287358). It’s the story of Timothy Treadwell, a self-styled lover of grizzly bears who, in typical new-age fashion, thought that all nature was kind and loving and all you have to do is open your heart to it and everything will be fine. He conned people out of money to spend summers camping out with grizzlies… until one killed him. It’s this same “all nature is good” mindset that pervades the anti-vax world. And basically, though in less dramatic fashion, leads to the same results.

Recommended reading, seriously.

Mr. Sayer is condemning vaccines for being an ambitious intervention, and Transhumanists are his scary scenario of where ambition to save lives leads. Wow. I’m used to seeing Transhumanists criticised for being day-dreamers advocating expensive or impossible cosmetic interventions they’ve plagiarised from the high-impact scientific journal X Men, not for simply having aspirations. This isn’t the first time the Naturalistic fallacy has stunk of fatalism, but he’s really stunk up the room with it this time.

On my browser, Creepy Cenegenics Dude is back to gaze upon the transhumanism discussion! How did he know?

Taking the argument reductio ad absurdum we should eschew any technology that alters our environment. Houses? Sorry, gotta live under the trees. Agriculture? Nope, back to being hunter-gatherers. Roads and cars? Nature gave us feet, so why do we need anything more?

What I find so interesting about Orac’s critique is his inability to address the actual questions this paper brings up. Is it, for instance, a sensible approach to use aluminum hydroxide as an adjuvant in vaccines, especially in children? Is the CDC’s vaccine schedule not an implicit acknowledgment that we must move beyond our natural human state, to a semi-synthetic “uber human” state of enhanced, vaccine-mediate immunity? Also, if you look at this author’s other works, you will find that he is referencing the Cochrane Collaboration’s own findings that vaccines in children under 2, health adults, the elderly and those who care for the elderly, have not been shown (unequivocally) to be effective http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/shocking-lack-evidence-supporting-flu-vaccines

Seriously, ORAC, if you claim to represent “science” let’s talk about the science itself, and not use the old ad hominem approach to seriously questions brought up by this man’s work.

Well, I guess I should be ashamed of myself for subverting Nature: I just took my anti-biotics and oh, do I feel great!
Pharma, I’m yours!

Orac mentions the evil scientists who usurp Nature** becoming as Gods: in woo-topia, they are countered by the Brave Maverick Doctor- Martyr- Scientific Revolutionary- Paradigm-Shifter who is pure of motive like Nature herself- not beholden to the corruption of the Corporate Power Elite-Government-Media Cartel.

It seems to me that a parallel universe is evolving: fuelled by the net and new media, a counter-culture best exemplified by the writings of Mike Adams that has political aspirations as well as entrepreneurial ones. They publish their own material and spread it around like organic manure. And this is not Alex Jones and David Icke, hidden from view in the dustiest corners of cyberspace, but closer to the mainsteam, marshalling support for small government/ free enterprise/ less regulation. The whole natural, healthy alternative meme has a great effect in the marketting of products especially foods, not just in tiny, low-impact markets, as financial television reports.

** Funny how all of this stuff get extra capitals… like in German.What’s wrong with these people, isn’t normal English expressive enough for them?

AND: More anti-vax follies: seems AoA writers are worried about how the DSM-5 will change diagnoses of autism.

Alfred G.:

Seriously, ORAC, if you claim to represent “science” let’s talk about the science itself, and not use the old ad hominem approach to seriously questions brought up by this man’s work.

If you are going to pull the “represent science” canard, then you are obligated to actually use it yourself. That means posting the original research to support your statements and not a link to some random website. Especially since your website just links to other of your own pages, and uses less than adequate papers (cherry picking).

Is it, for instance, a sensible approach to use aluminum hydroxide as an adjuvant in vaccines, especially in children?

Yes. Well-studied, and a closed issue.

Is the CDC’s vaccine schedule not an implicit acknowledgment that we must move beyond our natural human state, to a semi-synthetic “uber human” state of enhanced, vaccine-mediate immunity?

It’s an explicit acknowledgement that vaccination is superior to mass death from infectious disease. To attribute some deeper meaning is inaccurate.

Also, if you look at this author’s other works, you will find that he is referencing the Cochrane Collaboration’s own findings that vaccines in children under 2, health adults, the elderly and those who care for the elderly, have not been shown (unequivocally) to be effective

Cherry-picking. Certain vaccines aren’t as effective as we might like, but overall they work quite well. I note that the article you cite is expressly about the flu vaccine, but then you extend that to ALL vaccines. Might want to get a fire extinguisher before those pants burn you too badly.

If vaccines are transhumanism, then so is mechanised agriculture… before which, typical heights for adult males (in most of Europe, anyway) were around the 5’6″ mark and typical longevity was somewhere in the 50s.

Seriously, ORAC, if you claim to represent “science” let’s talk about the science itself, and not use the old ad hominem approach to seriously questions brought up by this man’s work.

Sorry, Mr G, but there are no serious questions brought up by this man’s work… any points raised in that rather dubious paper, as Orac pointed out in this article, have been discussed and dismissed multiple times over in this blog… even if you limit your searching to the past year.

Is the CDC’s vaccine schedule not an implicit acknowledgment that we must move beyond our natural human state, to a semi-synthetic “uber human” state of enhanced, vaccine-mediate immunity?

Not any more than handwashing, water filtration, and public sewers do. (Or any less, if you wish to view it from that perspective.)

— Steve

“Realizing the difference, he had to mention “incorrect and/or non-existent aspiration techniques” as a way to imply that vaccines are frequently injected “directly into the bloodstream” by accident.”

Huh? Health care personnel who actually administer vaccines, no longer use an “aspiration technique”. They follow the recommendations of the CDC to not employ “aspiration” for any vaccine, based on the fact that SC and IM shots, when done correctly do not “hit” any blood vessels. There have been studies that “not aspirating” causes less pain at injection sites and pre-loaded with vaccine “safety” syringes do not allow “aspiration”.

Hey it’s Friday…I wonder who Boy Wonder Ace Reporter is stalking. After all, it is *Jake’s right as a ‘steakholder’ to disrupt public meetings.

*Per Ginger Taylor and her friends at AoA.

Why do some people think that there are human actions which somehow aren’t natural or not part of evolution? What arrogance does it take to think any part of us is somehow above evolution?

*Everything* we do is natural. *Everything* we do is part of the evolutionary process. Good or bad, it’s all natural and it all counts towards evolution. We evolved the intellectual capacity and creativity to develop things like vaccines; that’s entirely fair and legitimate. I know some people would say that it allows the weak to survive; baloney. You can only say that if you’re arrogant enough to judge some people to be weak and some to be strong. The only tests of fitness are survival and reproduction. Doing it with some esoteric sense of nobility for doing it “the hard way” is purely optional, and utterly irrelevant to evolution.

When our ancestors evolved milk glands, were they cheating, in that those less able to find good food for their babies were now able to survive? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. Evolving sophisticated intelligence has obviously served us enormously well. Whether it will continue to do so is unknown, but the “vaccination subverts evolution” argument is patently absurd. (Also pretty creepy, frankly.)

And then there is the argument that because Nature evolved us to our present form, we should not tamper with it. Why not? Evolution doesn’t stop, and merely because we are what we are does not mean we are ideal. We evolved to be enormously adaptable, and survive and thrive in a truly staggering range of conditions, from rainforest to desert, from tropics to the polar regions, from plains to mountains, from ocean to savannah, we live everywhere. Hell, we’re the only animals living at the South Pole.

It’s true, we didn’t evolve with aluminum-adjuvanted vaccines being injected into our bloodstreams. We also didn’t evolve with computers, the wheel, aquaducts, plumbing, animal husbandry, milling, weaving, metal tools, glass, electricity, peanut butter, etc. The world changes, and we change, and that is not inherently a bad thing. The argument is nothing more than a medical version of “when I was a kid, we didn’t have all these newfangled MP3 players and videogames and things; we had BOOKS and we were happy!” Are new things always good? No. They’re also not always bad. Being new doesn’t make things dangerous.

And Alfred G, no, the vaccine schedule is not an implicit acknowledgement that we must move beyond our natural human state. It is not possible to move beyond our natural human state, and vaccine immunity is really no different than the regular kind anyway. It doesn’t make us uber-humans. It just lets us get immunity to a few things without getting so sick. Like cooking food allowed us to get more nutrients without getting so sick. (And I’m not just talking about spoiled food either; two of the world’s most important starches, cassava and potato, have the potential to be poisons if prepared improperly.) It’s a new thing, just like chimps who fish for ants are doing a new thing, but it’s using the same equipment our genes have been giving us for thousands of years, cultivated within our fabulously sophisticated societies.

It’s true there have been studies showing that vaccine efficacy is more nuanced than one might think or hope. That’s not a bad thing; if we want the best vaccine program, we need to do science to find out where it has weaknesses and how to improve upon it. There is nothing remotely unnatural about that, even if it does mean going against the people who don’t like change.

By the by, and having extremely little to do with medicine, this article has propitious timing; Good Old Games announced yesterday the re-release of the original Deus Ex computer game… the central theme of which is the merits and faults of transhumanism.

“Game of the Year” edition is $9.99 by direct download from their web site, with no DRM, if you’re interested.

— Steve

The whole idea behind eugenics is that modern medicine is saving the “unfit” (who would normally have died if it weren’t for modern society, science, and medicine preventing that) and thereby “weakening” the gene pool by letting the “unfit” reproduce.

Elsewhere, I’ve argued with someone who has used this as an argument against medicine, and in favour of homoeopathy. Homoeopathy as a form of eugenics!

Since the human genome was sequenced it’s been found that there are plenty of genetic “dead ends” in our code, some ancient as hell. I think they’re called introns but I haven’t taken a bio course in over a decade. Wouldn’t that mean that we’re programmed naturally to rewrite our genetic code and wouldn’t that mean that regardless of whether or not the intervention is through natural exposure or vaccination mean that the genteic code will be changed?

The end result seems the same.

My guess is that they wrote two articles and submitted them to different journals. Then, somehow they lucked out in getting both of them accepted around the same time.

Given that this was a special issue of Lupus, I was thinking they may have been asked for a summary version of the previous paper, perhaps by Shoenfeld; I’m not offhand seeing a call for papers, so I assume it was planned out in advance, and they do self-cite the earlier one.

Scott: Transhumanism does, I’ll admit, sometimes have a wacky, far-out feel to it, but at one level it’s basically a bog-standard progressive ideology. Vaccination is transhumanism, in the same way that Grandma’s hip replacement makes her a cyborg: for the first time in the 50,000 years H. sap has been wandering the planet, we can prevent some diseases and replace or enhance some damaged body parts. That “some” is key. One year, zero; the next decade, a paltry few; now, many more.

Just as the anti-evolutionists have yet to find that one key principle in biology and physics that proves evolution couldn’t have happened, anti-transhumanists have yet to point to the one key principle in biology and physics that proves we won’t be able to replace or enhance all of them.

I doubt it’ll happen in my lifetime. I doubt Edward Jenner expected in his lifetime the end of smallpox or polio. I doubt the average peg-legged pirate foresaw a day when people with prostheses could run faster than those with their limbs as nature gave ’em.

So give the man his due: he’s right. Vaccination is transhumanism. Read your Dickens and appreciate how we’re no longer required to go through the oh-so-human experience of watching a beloved child die from a preventable disease.

Hmmmm…either the internets ate my much earlier comment or it’s still in moderation. I’ll check again later. It was either too long or too insolent for the filters; I doubt Orac was bothered by it and I don’t THINK I used any forbidden words.

Slightly peripheral to the subject of vaccines:

In the category of “if all you’ve got is a hammer…”, we now have Erin Brockovitch (“environmental activist”) “starting her own investigation” into the mysterious Tourette’s-type symptoms in Le Roy, New York. A local neurologist treating most of the kids says he thinks it’s a conversion disorder (a.k.a. mass hysteria), but Brockovich is focusing on a link to a train derailment back in 1970 that spilled cyanide and the solvent TCE. The USA Today story 1/27 quotes Brockovich as saying “We don’t have all the answers, but we are suspicious”. It’s been 42 years, and there is no known linkage between Tourette’s-type symptoms and TCE, but it’s gotta be the Toxins.

Brockovitch’s quote could almost serve as the motto for the antivax movement, with slight alteration: “All the answers have gone against us, but we are still suspicious”.

MI Dawn,
The filters in place seem to be for length and links only, not any bad words I am aware of or that I have ever read Orac delineate. I expect the blinking lights will release the post when it wakes up!

MESSAGE BEGINS—————————

Shills and Minions,

The villanous rebels have clearly discovered Secret Plan Nº. 12™ to use Teh Toxins™ in vaccinations subjugate your species into a stupefied army of docile, not-quite-human, mouth breathing idiots. I rub my scaly hands together in uninhibited glee at the thought of sullying your species pristine Natural State© with all our lovely PharmaToxins®.

Minions Lilady, DW, Ren, Big Blue and Narad: Initiate Plan 9.5, a special chemtrail run for our little green friends secret headquarters. Load the sprayers with Glaxxon Monkey Mist™ B7 (Paralyzing Papaya flavor) and spare no one! And hit the nest of that Alfred creature, I think it’s on to us . . . it’s the only way to be sure.

Now I really must go, Portlandia is on (and to think the Scilons almost got their hands on Fred Armisen. What a loss that would have been.) . . .

Lord Draconis Zeneca VH7iL

Grand Vitara of Edina VII, Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Pharmaca of Terra, Spray it Like You Mean It

Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital
001111110111011101010101111

—————————-MESSAGE ENDS

Those who claim to understand and appreciate the science behind vaccination should read this:

Note: inactivated flu vaccines in children under 2 have not been proven effective, nor safe, but are scheduled for six month olds or older in both US and Canada…

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Apr 16;(2):CD004879.
Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children.
Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Harnden A, Di Pietrantonj C, Demicheli V.
SourceVaccines Field, Cochrane Collaboration, Via Adige 28a, Anguillara Sabazia, Roma, Italy, 00061.

Abstract
BACKGROUND: The consequences of influenza in children and adults are mainly absenteeism from school and work. However, the risk of complications is greatest in children and people over 65 years old.

OBJECTIVES: To appraise all comparative studies evaluating the effects of influenza vaccines in healthy children; assess vaccine efficacy (prevention of confirmed influenza) and effectiveness (prevention of influenza-like illness) and document adverse events associated with influenza vaccines.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2007, issue 3); OLD MEDLINE (1950 to 1965); MEDLINE (1966 to September 2007); EMBASE (1974 to September 2007); Biological Abstracts (1969 to September 2007); and Science Citation Index (1974 to September 2007).

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), cohort and case-control studies of any influenza vaccine in healthy children under 16 years of age.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data.

MAIN RESULTS: Fifty-one studies with 294,159 observations were included. Sixteen RCTs and 18 cohort studies were included in the analysis of vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. From RCTs, live vaccines showed an efficacy of 82% (95% confidence interval (CI) 71% to 89%) and an effectiveness of 33% (95% CI 28% to 38%) in children older than two compared with placebo or no intervention. Inactivated vaccines had a lower efficacy of 59% (95% CI 41% to 71%) than live vaccines but similar effectiveness: 36% (95% CI 24% to 46%). In children under two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to placebo. Variability in study design and presentation of data was such that a meta-analysis of safety outcome data was not feasible. Extensive evidence of reporting bias of safety outcomes from trials of live attenuated vaccines impeded meaningful analysis.

AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS: Influenza vaccines are efficacious in children older than two but little evidence is available for children under two. There was a marked difference between vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. No safety comparisons could be carried out, emphasizing the need for standardisation of methods and presentation of vaccine safety data in future studies. It was surprising to find only one study of inactivated vaccine in children under two years, given current recommendations to vaccinate healthy children from six months old in the USA and Canada. If immunisation in children is to be recommended as a public health policy, large-scale studies assessing important outcomes and directly comparing vaccine types are urgently required.

Update of
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006;(1):CD004879.

@MikeMa: yeah, I’m sure if it’s in purgatory Orac will release it in time. I’m just never sure (since my internet has been -let’s be polite here – a little wonky lately) if it’s in purgatory or it’s been eaten alive. The comment wasn’t that long, either. But I know that the filters have moods, so I’m rather more amused than anything else. (And it always makes me laugh when it happens to me or one of the usual commenters, and then you read some troll whining about censorship and such….)

@Alfred G. I discussed the near twin of the article to which I referred in great detail:

http://respectfulinsolence.com/2011/12/and_global_warming_is_caused_by_the_decr.php

I even pointed out that the reason I didn’t discuss Tomljenovic’s excretions is because I had already dealt with them before. As for flu vaccines, I’ve discussed the evidence for them on many occasions on this blog. For example: http://respectfulinsolence.com/2011/10/mike_adams_vs_the_flu_vaccine.php

Glasses, contacts and other corrective lenses interfere with evolution too. Actually, modern cities do as well. They’re an anomaly, a barely noticeable blip, on the scale of human evolution alone.

We’re human because we had to survive against predators and other humans. Just like a gazelle is the way it is because of the cheetahs and lions, so are we human because of our predators and other ecological influences.

Now that we’ve moved into cities that influence from our relationship with Nature (with a capital “N”) is now disrupted. Evolution is subverted. We need to torch the cities, loose mere anarchy and the blood-dimmed tide upon the world to let the rough beast slouch forward for birth*, disperse, become hunter-gatherers, and allow evolution to mould us as it always intended (should I use a capital E for evolution too?).

*(Apologies to Yeats for mangling his stanzas. I think an English professor dies every time someone mangles Yeats).

Janet J. @33. That’s very interesting. Did you have a specific point you wished to make about that in the context of this discussion?

The point I would like to make is that ORAC enters the discussion with the a priori viewpoint that vaccines are safe and effective, even while the weight of the evidence (meta-analytical studies) peer-reviewed biomedical research itself indicates that they are not. I’m still trying to figure out how ORAC’s perspective is “scientific,” rather than strictly scientism.

Daniel J Andrews:

Glasses, contacts and other corrective lenses interfere with evolution too. Actually, modern cities do as well. They’re an anomaly, a barely noticeable blip, on the scale of human evolution alone.

They do not interfere with evolution; the phrase “interfere with evolution” is meaningless, because it presupposes that evolution has a particular purpose in mind. It doesn’t. Evolution never intended us to become hunter-gatherers; it didn’t intend anything. Whatever happens, no matter what we do, it is, by definition, natural and part of evolution. Nature isn’t in cities? Balderdash. To say that, you have to believe humans are above nature — that we are angels, not merely the place where the rising ape meets the falling angels. Admittedly, this is a very popular perspective. But it’s wrong. It’s a product of our brains’ species recognition mechanisms; how to tell “human” from “not-human”. It’s great for picking a mate and getting on with collaborative work, but if we start applying it to the world, for the purpose of judging the world or deciding what our future should be, we’re definitely stretching it beyond its utility and we’re going to get ourselves into trouble.

(BTW, “The Second Coming” is one of the most awesome Yeats pieces. My heart grew two sizes when it got quoted on “Babylon 5”.)

If I had any drawing talent at all, I’d be tempted to draw a cartoon of a caveman reviling another for subverting the natural order with a transhumanist agenda… by wearing clothes.

We’re humans. We use tools to moderate our environment and better adapt ourselves for survival. That’s the schtik our species evolved, and it’s no less natural than parrots eating clay to neutralise toxic oils in their diet or beavers building dams and lodges.

— Steve

Do I really need to say it again? If breast feeding was so effective in saving babies from infectious disease, then why was the smallpox vaccine needed?

I don’t know Orac but you can always verify your information before asking a stupid question? Do babies really get smallpox vaccine?

The point I would like to make is that ORAC enters the discussion with the a priori viewpoint that vaccines are safe and effective, even while the weight of the evidence (meta-analytical studies) peer-reviewed biomedical research itself indicates that they are not.

@ Janet J. (who appears to be a sockpuppet), do you think it is rational to extrapolate data from one type of vaccine to all vaccines? If so, please explain how and if not, then how do you find your use of a single vaccine systematic review apropos of accusing our host’s post as “scientism”?

@Janet J: Vaccines are, in general, safer than actually getting the disease. If you had read your lovely copy/pasta, you would have noticed the Cochrane report (2008 – isn’t there a more recent one?) was discussing the FLU vaccine and its effectiveness. There are many issues with the Flu vaccine – we have to guess which variant will be prevalent each year, how severely it will effect the population, how many people will get the vaccine.

Now, how about discussing the vaccines that are really under discussion: DTaP, MMR, HepB, etc?

And, before you go there again: NO ONE on this site, not even Orac, claims that all vaccines are perfectly safe, that everyone should be vaccinated, and that there are no reasons for people not to be vaccinated.

So, stick to facts, stick to documented research, and please, stick to the point without the long copy/paste (you could have just given the reference; most of us DO know how to use PubMed).

ORAC enters the discussion with the a priori viewpoint that vaccines are safe and effective, even while the weight of the evidence (meta-analytical studies) peer-reviewed biomedical research itself indicates that they are not.

I’m sorry, but you are flat out wrong Ms. J. The vast bulk of “peer-reviewed biomedical research” shows that vaccines are (overall) safe and effective. Some specific immunisation methods have been shown to be less safe or less effective than others, but those ones get replaced as soon as an alternative becomes available.

Vaccines certainly are much more safe and effective than crossing one’s fingers and hoping not to encounter the illness in the wild, which is the real “alternative” modality offered by CAM.

— Steve

I don’t know Orac but you can always verify your information before asking a stupid question? Do babies really get smallpox vaccine?

Does someone have to pin a note to your shirt before you’re allowed out?

(Before Orac “kills” the sock puppet)

@ Janet J. Try looking up “transhumanism and homologous recombinant tinikers” for more ‘accurate’ citations.

In other words, according to Sayer, because we co-evolved with pathogens, living with pathogens is “natural.”

Well, yes. We evolved with all kinds of bacteria, fungi, worms, all of the massive diversity of microorganisms that are living commensally, cooperatively, or parasitically with us, and with most of those, we’re just fine. It’s a substantial minority of microorganisms that cause Real Problems – the smallpoxes, polios, measles, tetanuses, etc, of the world. And it’s fantastic that we can specifically target our immune system, via vaccines, to just those specific ‘troublemakers.’ (OK, death and disfigurement makers.)

I don’t think that’s what he was getting at, but I think it’s a lovely concept. 🙂

As was mentioned, one substantial way in which we have ‘evolved’ to deal with the more devastating of these pathogens is to breed enough of us to keep on going after we’ve been decimated. ‘Natural’ it might be, but I’ll take my assisted immunity over that any day.

in order to prevent autoimmune conditions from emerging as a result of TH2 dominance

Why do I get all these Th1 and Th17 markers when I assess samples from patients with autoimmunity? Must be something wrong with my assays…

Janet J.,
1. I believe your use of a priori is incorrect in this context. Based on what he’s written, Orac’s view on immunization is based on his reading of the evidence and not independent of experience. Orac can comment further if he feels so inclined.
2. The study you quoted did say that the influenza vaccine was of limited value in children under 2 and that there had only been one study using children under 2. However, it did say “Influenza vaccines are efficacious in children older than two”. How do you square that with your comment that (to paraphrase) the weight of the evidence is that vaccines are not effective?
What I read in that Cochrane study was that there is good reason to question the effectiveness of influenza vaccine in children under 2. If you want to generalize that vaccines are ineffective in more cases, you’ll need better data.

Hmmm… babies used to get smallpox despite breast feeding. Then the percentage of babies who got smallpox decreased after people started getting vaccinated, even though the babies themselves didn’t get vaccinated until they were older. I wonder if there’s some phenomenon that might explain that.

IMO sites like GreenMedInfo really do lay bare the old-school religious underpinnnings of anti-vax thought:

(1) Concern with ritual purity (scary antigens, adjuvants, and teh toxinz!) – check
(2) Veneration of what amounts to a deity or deific force (in this case, “E”volution) – check
(3) Proselytization – teh evul vaccinz must be stopped! – check
(4) Fear & loathing of those who seek to upset the “natural order of things” and of their works – check

IMO just replace vaccines & scientists with Satan & his fallen angels and replace evolution with Yahweh and you’ve got hardline Protestantism.

Here is an abstract about flu vaccines effectiveness in children two years of age and under. Is this “new enough” for Janet J.?

Vaccine. 2011 Oct 6;29(43):7529-34. Epub 2011 Aug 4.
Effectiveness and safety of influenza vaccination in children: European perspective.
Heikkinen T, Heinonen S.
Source

Department of Pediatrics, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland. [email protected]
Abstract

Accumulating evidence for the substantial burden of influenza in children has increased interest in the vaccination of young children against influenza. So far, however, few European countries have issued official recommendations to vaccinate healthy children, which is largely due to the popular belief that inactivated influenza vaccines are ineffective in young children. Virologically confirmed studies performed during different seasons have yielded widely varying estimates for vaccine effectiveness and suggested that the match between the vaccine and the circulating strains of influenza viruses is one of the key drivers of the effectiveness of the vaccine. In seasons with good antigenic match, inactivated influenza vaccines are clearly effective also in children younger than 2 years of age. The live attenuated influenza vaccine provides even greater effectiveness in children, but the overall potential of this vaccine is limited by its licensure for only children older than 2 years of age. The safety record of seasonal inactivated influenza vaccines is excellent even in the youngest children.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID:
21820481
[PubMed – in process]

On my theme of religious & magical thinking, Janet J IMO expresses a picture-perfect example by trying to wield the Cochrane systematic review as a talisman against pro-vaccine advocates and then trying to wield “scientism” (yet what a brilliant Orwellian smokescreen of a meaningless word) in the same way.

@ Lord Draconis: The helicopters are loaded with the teh evil spray and I am awaiting orders from Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital Headquarters, to begin the spraying, “hovering” around 1000 feet.

Just one question Lord and Master…if I could “procure” a larger helicopter from Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital Headquarters, would it be advantageous to our “cause” to drop some trolls from the hovering craft?

Does someone have to pin a note to your shirt before you’re allowed out?

As I’ve said before, I wonder where the thing gets enough brain power to covert oxygen to carbon dioxide.

I wonder if there’s some phenomenon that might explain that.

Well, ask yourself. Is that “phenomenon” acquired by babies?

This is completely off-topic, but it’s simply a request for information that I got earlier from this forum.

The topic was evolution, and someone mentioned a biology professor at a Christian college whose website said, in effect, that evolution is an excellent theory — powerful, consistent, empirically supported, and so on — but that he didn’t choose to believe it because it contradicts the Bible. I found this astonishing and have often wanted to refer to it — but being a geezer of a certain age I can’t remember the name!

If someone in the Hive could remind me, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

Th1Th2 — “Is that “phenomenon” acquired by babies?”

When nearly everyone is immunized, the disease essentially disappears, and the babies are spared, too.

Now remember, don’t tear that note off your shirt and eat it like the last time.

When nearly everyone is immunized, the disease essentially disappears, and the babies are spared, too.

You didn’t explain the “phenomenon”. What gives?

My life was probably saved by prednisone when I was a small child, because it prevented my death from severe asthma. I think that was great. I reached adulthood instead of dying from smallpox, polio, measles, pertussis, diphtheria, or any of the other vaccine-preventable diseases. I think that’s great too. If someone wants to come up with a recombinant treatment for my child’s genetic illness, I will REALLY think that’s great. If this is transhumanism, ladle me out some more.

What gives?

What gives is that you are desperate for playmates. Perhaps you should try an imaginary friend.

What gives is that you are desperate for playmates. Perhaps you should try an imaginary friend.

I don’t know Narad but you already have a “phenomenon”.

@Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital

The flight lessons are going very well, by the way. I will post a picture to your Facebook profile to confirm the proper investment of my Pharma Shill® earnings.

Hey, I say let’s go all forward with transhumanism. Use technology to totally and universally improve the human condition to make us all stronger, faster and longer lived. Evolution is slow, erratic, and only produces the species best suited for its ecological niche and not the most absolute physically fit species. How else are we going to fight off the impending alien invasion predicted by Stephen Hawking if we are not all deus ex machina and can punch through walls, jump and land hundreds of feet, run hundreds of milks an hour, think super fast and interface with machines.

Somewhat off-topic question for the hive mind:

I have a cold. (Acquired from 24 month old grandson sticking his slimy fingers up MY nose as I was trying to wipe HIS dripping nose.)

How many antigens are associated with the common cold or rhinovirus?

Is that a simple question or do I need to rephrase it?

@ palindrom: One biology professor at a Christian college, who now teaches “the bible”…and not evolution to his students, is Gary Parker, Ed.D (Just Google his name)

Another “wealth of evolution nonsense” is at the Conservapedia website.

@Liz

Rhinovirus is not the only virus that causes a cold. But, supposing you’re only talking about Rhino…

There are over 100 serotypes, each capable of causing disease. When they do cause disease, each mL of nasal secretions has about 1,000 virons in it. Each viron alone can cause disease. It causes disease by attaching to the epithelial cells of your upper respiratory tract. (It doesn’t like lower respiratory since it’s too warm there for it to replicate.) Each virus attaches to a receptor on epithelial cells…

There are many, many receptors on each cell, and just as many (or more) on each virus.

Yeah, this doesn’t answer the question, but it explains how we’re being assaulted with these things all the time and look at us… Still here.

“Another “wealth of evolution nonsense” is at the Conservapedia website.” should read ‘wealth of ANTI-evolution nonsense’

Since the first time I read the argument of “natural immunity”, I have thought “wait a minute, are infectious diseases so natural?” Infectious diseases began to seriously plague mankind after agriculture had been introduced, for example measles was a cow virus and had no chance to evolutionarily adapt to humans before we domesticated cows (correct me if I’m wrong). And agriculture is not natural, it’s culture, agriCULTURE.

See what I’m trying to say, “natural immunity” makes no sense if plagues arn’t natural.

the old-school religious underpinnnings of anti-vax thought:
(1) Concern with ritual purity (scary antigens, adjuvants, and teh toxinz!) – check

Mary Douglas’ work comes to mind here (particularly “Purity and Danger”). Phenomena that don’t fall neatly into our culture’s structure of mental categories (straddling boundaries) = transgressive, threatening, SCARY.

Maybe they are transhuman, but nothing subverts evolution, everything adds to evolution 😉

If many people are rescued from childhood death by vaccines, selection can act on the traits they will express in their further lives, so the quantity of traits evolution can act on is enriched.

Same falsity as saying evolution has stopped because of better medical care for the invalid or because not every second person is eaten by a lion.

oakfarm — measles is related to rinderpest, but I’m not sure we can definitively say that it didn’t exist in humans prior to domestication of cattle. In any case, diseases absolutely do exist in nature. Look at it this way: if there are disease which target wild chimpanzees, for instance, why would there never have been diseases which targetted wild humans?

You mention plague, which makes me think of bubonic plague. This disease’s spread was probably facilitated by agriculture and civilization, because it allowed rats to thrive in close proximity to humans (eating our grain stores in cities). But you can also get it by visiting an infected prairie dog colony in America today, far from civilization; it can happily exist without agriculture.

Agriculture, however, is very much natural. Culture is natural. Chimpanzees have culture. Orcas have culture. Crows even have culture; it’s a trait of sophisticated social animals with high learning ability. And agriculture is even practiced by some non-sentient animals; the classic example is ants rearing aphids for their honeydew. They even raise fungus as livestock feed.

So agriculture and cities were humanity’s big mistakes? As Douglas Adams wrote, some people think it was a mistake to come down out of the trees in the first place.

I don’t know Narad but you already have a “phenomenon”.

Oh, I see. You only work in (unobservable) Platonic forms.

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