Pulling Together


How to breed a super-virus

It’s Christmas Day, so let’s start with season’s greetings. A Happy Christmas to all. Would that this Christmas were happy, but it’s clear for many it is a time of increasing anxiety and loneliness. All the best, and the best you can make of it. Much of the gloom surrounds the lame efforts of governments around the world to control something they don’t understand, and are in grave danger of making worse.

According to legend, Cnut the Great, the early 11th century king of Denmark, England, and Norway, became so upset with his courtiers’ sycophancy he decided to demonstrate to them the limits of his power. He took his courtiers to a beach and in their presence ordered the tide to turn back. It didn’t, and so Cnut showed them his power was limited to human affairs and did not extend, as they kept telling him, to natural forces. Today’s Governments need to treat their advisers with the same wise caution.

Alternatively, perhaps they need advisers who understand the true nature of the problem we all face. On 26th July I warned of the danger of employing experts in mathematics to deal with what is essentially a biological problem. Now, biology having bitten back with a new, deadlier strain of the virus, I do find myself slightly vindicated, even if it’s little comfort to someone facing even worse hardships as governments try to fight this new development with more of the same.

Viruses, like all biology, are driven by that force for which Charles Darwin is most credited — Natural Selection — so it is important to shape the forces selecting the most successful virus to encourage it to evolve in the right direction. This means favouring viruses which do little harm to people, which translates to favouring those which cause mild or no symptoms, do not incapacitate people or reduce their social interaction, and promote human health and happiness. If you want to breed an evil super-virus, you go in the opposite direction. You create conditions in which the most successful virus will be the one which spreads over greater distances, maximises its infection routes by damaging more organs to create more infectious discharges from the body, and where contact is minimised unless people are so sick they need others to care for them. In other words, you impose Social Distancing, send the sick to hospital for nursing while minimising contact between the healthy, so only the sick can transmit the virus. In that case, Natural Selection will drive the virus to spread more easily through making people ill and crossing more barriers to do so. Ultimately, you will create a virus which is very infectious and very deadly indeed. That is what governments around the world are doing, and the result will be a disaster for humanity. These restrictions will breed a virus which will kill not millions, as the original would, but tens or hundreds of millions. Why would governments do this? Because they don’t understand the limits of their power. They can control human behaviour. They can’t control evolution, which is basic biological science.

Boris Johnson said recently when the science changes the policy must change. That statement speaks volumes about politicians’ ignorance of science. The science has not changed; it is what it has always been. The virus has changed as the science has always predicted it would if treated the way it is. The right experts would have told him that, but he listens to the wrong ones, as I warned back in July, and now the world must suffer a worse virus as a result.

Happy Christmas? Happy New Year? Then change direction and recognise the lesser of the evils. Listen to those who understand the underlying forces, and not just the mathematics. Get the policy right, and it won’t need to change because it will match the underlying science which won’t change either.

Full List