Book Reviews, Charles, Social Behavior, Technology
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The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (Gustave Le Bon)

For eighteen months, I have been infinitely puzzled that most responses to the Wuhan Plague have been irrational. Lack of rationality dominates the discourse and actions of the majority, from individuals to governments. This irrationality has innumerable manifestations, the most obvious being belief in plain fictions, recently the made-up threat of the new “Delta variant,” no doubt not the last in a very long list of fairy tales. The irrationality shows itself in many other ways, both secular ones such as the total rejection of cost-benefit analysis, and quasi-religious ones such as belief in strange new gods, saints, and rituals. I have racked my head trying to understand this very strange phenomenon, and made no progress.

Maybe, though, I was approaching it all wrong. Maybe there is no rationality to any of this, and my search for rationality is like the old joke about the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost, because that’s where the light is. Perhaps the joke is on me, and what we see is merely the always-irrational behavior of crowds, for the first time in history manifesting itself on a global scale. Struck by this possibility, I turned to this classic 1895 book.

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Gustave Le Bon, born in 1841, was a French genius, whose interests covered everything from anthropology to physics. Among other accomplishments, he posited mass-energy equivalence before Albert Einstein (and complained when Einstein got the credit). The Crowd was written at the end of a century of turmoil in France, in an attempt to examine and understand the fundamental nature of crowds. Though often criticized because its conclusions are not to the taste of those who would use crowds to advance their political goals, it has never been sidelined or superseded. To this day, this book is the gold standard of crowd analysis; you can tell this by attacks on Le Bon during last summer’s Floyd Riots, by those wanting to believe that the rioters were wise and coherent seekers after justice, rather than sub-rational masses fired by the basest of impulses.

Le Bon’s fundamental point is that the actions of crowds are not rational; they are a mass of uncoordinated and largely unconscious behaviors from which what we today call emergent properties arise. But they are nonetheless complex organisms, capable of being analyzed. Unlike modern so-called social scientists, Le Bon did not conduct surveys or lard his work with pseudoscience. All his thoughts are based on observation of history. In his view, although crowds existed throughout history, they were the major problem for advanced Western societies. “The substitution of the unconscious action of crowds for the conscious activity of individuals is one of the principal characteristics of the present age.”

Le Bon saw his time as a time of great change; the old verities, most of all sources of authority, which were individual and particular, were all falling by the wayside. He saw their replacement; “The age we are about to enter will in truth be the Era of Crowds.” Not because of popular sovereignty, however; Le Bon, like Carl Schmitt, thought parliamentarianism and other structural attempts to manifest the general will a sham. Rather, because the masses, through crowd behavior, will now dictate the direction of nations. This is not precisely anarchy, but it is not an advance, because civilizations are “only created and directed by a small intellectual aristocracy, never by crowds. Crowds are only powerful for destruction.” He explicitly sees the dominance of crowds as barbarism and the likely end of Western civilization. That’s not Le Bon’s primary concern, though; he is trying to understand crowds. What to do with the information, he leaves for others.

The book begins by analyzing the thought processes that characterize crowds. A crowd is a “single being” and it has “mental unity.” Not every grouping of people is a crowd, however; what matters is that the group be psychologically united, whether it be a handful of people or a whole nation. No matter the composition of the individuals in a crowd, their collective feelings, thoughts, and actions are very different than the feelings, thoughts, and actions of any one individual in the crowd. A crowd is a new thing, not the average of its members; if anything, it represents the lowest common denominator of its members. Le Bon emphasizes that although crowds always have certain characteristics in common, crowds composed of different types of people differ greatly. In this context, he refers often to different “races” and their “racial characteristics,” which gives the book a spicy flavor, but what he means is culture, not race as that term is used today. Thus, he contrasts the “Latin race” with the “Anglo-Saxon race,” taking examples from history to illustrate his points.

Mass media was only beginning to be influential in Le Bon’s day; he notes the importance of mass circulation newspapers in creating crowds, and observes that crowds do not have to consist of people in physical proximity, though he focuses on people who are in the same place at the same time. He did not predict today’s globally-interconnected world, where it is possible to psychologically unite hundreds of millions of people, all physically separated from each other, within a few hours, using propaganda dictated by our ruling class, amplified and broadcast by algorithmic social media, itself further manually curated for propaganda purposes. Thus, it is fair to say, a crowd comprising a good proportion of any nation can easily emerge at any time today, and a global crowd, or at least a crowd composed of people capable of easily being psychologically united, such as those living in the developed, Westernized world, is certainly feasible.

Even though their collective thought is of a very inferior level, the individuals in the crowd do not realize this explicitly, and they acquire new characteristics that mask this degradation. One is a feeling of power. Another is susceptibility to the contagion of ideas and sentiments, and to the acts of others in the crowd, regardless of individual interest. Le Bon ascribes this to a type of hypnotism; the individual who is part of a crowd “is no longer conscious of his acts.” He acts, and his acts are accelerated by a type of feedback loop, but he acts in ways he would not as an individual; he acts by instinct. The crowd is thus “always intellectually inferior to the isolated individual.” But that can mean its actions can be either criminal, or heroic, depending on other influences.

So what determines “the sentiments and morality of crowds”? Crowds are impulsive; an individual can control his reflexes, a crowd cannot. It can lurch from being executioner to being martyr. It cannot premeditate, and it sees nothing as either improbable, meaning rumor dominates, or even mass hallucination, or impossible, meaning stupid actions are likely. Crowds are highly suggestible, since the rational thought process of an individual is short-circuited. A crowd never doubts itself or lacks certainty; it exaggerates sentiments, though only simple and extreme ones. It is therefore both authoritative and intolerant; it rejects any discussion and even more any contradiction. Authority impresses a crowd; weakness, or kindness, they despise.

No surprise, all these characteristics fit the reactions of the global crowd to the Wuhan Plague. Take mask wearing, for example, for which literally no actual material scientific evidence exists that it affects disease transmission rates, and vast amounts exist strongly showing the contrary. Yet great masses of people not only wear masks, they are eager to do so and focus their collective hate and fear onto those not wearing them. This maps onto Le Bon’s frame; authority, in the form of institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control (itself a crowd), and of individuals such as the noxious Anthony Fauci, impresses the crowd, the internet-driven mass. Anecdotes, mostly false or utterly misleading, set loose by fearmongers, circulate to suggest quickly-adopted untruths. Thus, most people believe five or ten percent of their country’s population has died of the Plague, rather than a very small percentage, most of whom would have died soon anyways. And far more than a majority of Democrats, and many Republicans, believe that most Plague patients are hospitalized, whereas very few are, and those are nearly all within clearly-defined risk categories, another fact many deny. Rumors also circulate widely, whether that’s right-leaning rumors (Bill Gates is using 5G to control us with the vaccine!) or left-leaning (I heard a child with no risk factors died of the Plague!). Such examples could be multiplied, but my readers, at least, I suspect grasp this easily, because they have had many insane conversations with close friends who exhibit every single one of these characteristics, and simply refuse to believe, or even receive, any truth.

A crowd does not have ideas, but ideas influence the crowd. Only simple ideas can influence a crowd, however, those that are “absolute, uncompromising, and [of a] simple shape.” There is no process of reasoning that takes place, even by analogy. Discussion is alien to crowds; as we have seen in the Wuhan Plague, the very idea of discussing any precept handed down to us and that has been adopted by the global crowd is held as anathema by the crowd, even if that precept directly contradicts one issued yesterday. Le Bon would not be surprised; he says that ideas that mesmerize crowds are image-like, one succeeding the other, and can therefore be contradictory to each other without changing their effect, especially if presented in a theatrical manner. The crude mental processes of the crowd allow those who influence crowds to engage in generalization, connecting things obviously unconnected to each other in the mind of the crowd. “It is not, then, the facts in themselves that strike the popular imagination, but the way in which they take place and are brought under notice.” Again, this effect is greatly magnified at present, with video spread by social media having become a key influence.

Le Bon says that if a man, such as Napoleon, can capture the imagination of the crowd, he can do anything with it—as long as he does not resort to reasoning. Any skilled speaker can take advantage of the characteristics of crowds. He starts by ignoring rationality. “To exaggerate, to affirm, to resort to repetitions, and never to attempt to prove anything by reasoning are methods of argument well known to speakers at public meetings.” It is said that both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini studied what Le Bon had to say; that may simply be backwards projection, but it makes sense, and in practice they did indeed use these techniques. So does Fauci and the media enterprise built around him.

The result of these characteristics of the mind of crowds is that the beliefs of crowds assume a religious form. (Le Bon appears to have been an atheist or agnostic; although he is generally regarded as right-wing because he opposed the French Revolution and socialism.) Religion underlies all mass movements, for good and ill. “Certain historical events . . . are not to be understood unless one has attained to an appreciation of the religious form which the convictions of crowds always assume in the long run.” “[T]he [French] Revolution was merely the establishment of a new religious belief in the minds of the masses.” “Crowds will hear no more of the words divinity and religion, in whose name they were so long enslaved; but they have never possessed so many fetishes as in the last hundred years. . . . Those who in recent years have studied the popular movement known under the name of Boulangism have been able to see with what ease the religious instincts of crowds are ready to revive. . . . Great might have been his place in history had his character been at all on a level with his legendary reputation.”

Here Le Bon refers to Georges Boulanger, who might have ruled France, but, much like Donald Trump, lacked discipline and flinched. That’s a topic for another day, perhaps, but many have noted the similar religious character of believers in the cult of the Wuhan Plague. They worship a laughable idol they call “science”; they pray to saints; they believe they can be redeemed by becoming vaccinated; they suffer the purgatory of fictional “Long Covid”; they trust that maskless unbelievers will die and be cast into the pit, any day now, despite the failure of all such previous prophecies, in Texas, Florida, Sweden, and every other place predicted.

This concludes the first part, on the “mind of crowds,” or the inherent, timeless qualities of crowds. Next Le Bon turns to specifically how crowds form their opinions and beliefs. What opinions and beliefs a crowd adopts is not random, even if it appears sudden and is, certainly, unreasoned. Le Bon divides the impellers of crowd belief into “remote factors” and “immediate factors.” In the former group are long-term actors such as culture, institutions, and education, along with the simple passage of time. Le Bon also, prefiguring Peter Turchin, mentions elite over-production, and perhaps tied to that problem, for purposes of our current study, we can add as a remote factor the scientism that has overwhelmed our elite institutions, well-analyzed in recent pieces by philosopher Matthew B. Crawford. That scientism has had many effects, but its existence prepared the global crowd for how it would react to the emergence of the Wuhan Plague. Remote factors prepare crowds to receive immediate factors, which act directly, rather than indirectly, upon the opinions of crowds.

Immediate factors evoke images, the primary driver of crowd behavior, as Le Bon returns to in this section. Words that are vague and capable of having malleable meanings poured into them are called for to influence crowds; those tied to reason or those that are clearly defined are worthless with respect to influencing crowds. Meaningless words such as “democracy” and “liberty” evoke “grandiose and vague images” with “supernatural power,” although those images differ among times and cultures, and those desiring to influence the opinion of a crowd must grasp what those images are. Immediate factors are, in sum, illusions, bearing no relation to reason. “To bring home conviction to crowds it is necessary first of all to thoroughly comprehend the sentiments by which they are animated, to pretend to share these sentiments, then to endeavour to modify them by calling up, by means of rudimentary associations, certain eminently suggestive notions, to be capable, if need be, of going back to the point of view from which a start was made, and, above all, to divine from instant to instant the sentiments to which one’s discourse is giving birth.”

Knowing the mental processes of crowds, and how they may be influenced, how and by whom can crowds be directed? All crowds instinctively seek a leader, but he is usually someone who exemplifies the irrationality of the crowd, a strong-willed person who represents in the most extreme form the opinion of the crowd, not someone manipulating the crowd from outside. He can amplify the faith of the crowd—even if what he says is incoherent, as was nearly all of what Maximilien Robespierre said to the crowds. Most such leaders are flashes in the pan, who when removed from the immediate presence of the crowd fade; a few, Saint Paul or Muhammad, have enduring strength of will and consequently infinitely greater impact.

Again, leaders direct crowds through affirmation and repetition. Enough affirmation and repetition produces contagion, not just within one crowd, but across times and places, which leads to imitation, as everyone wants to follow what the crowd is doing, rather than think for himself. Le Bon gives the example, for this, of the revolutions of 1848. Contagion and imitation even override compelling personal interests, which is why the upper classes have often adopted lower class doctrines designed as a threat to themselves (though those doctrines, of course, originated with a subset of the upper classes; here Le Bon primarily means socialism, but also the actions taken by the Convention in the French Revolution). Contagion and imitation lend prestige to the most irrational of ideas. “The special characteristic of prestige is to prevent us seeing things as they are and to entirely paralyze our judgment. Crowds always, and individuals as a rule, stand in need of ready-made opinions on all subjects. The popularity of those opinions is independent of the measure of truth or error they contain, and is solely regulated by their prestige.” All this is very evident in our global crowd’s reaction to the Plague.

The beliefs that result from this process are frequently transitory, rapidly being replaced, often by their opposite; Le Bon gives the example of France from 1790 to 1820 (and says newspapers have accelerated this process). Every so often they may become deeply implanted, as in the formation of religions, becoming a “general belief,” but mostly not. (Le Bon fears that socialism, promising a utopian substitution for the old general belief of Christianity, is one such.) “[I]t must not be forgotten that, given the power possessed at present by crowds, were a single opinion to acquire sufficient prestige to enforce its general acceptance, it would soon be endowed with so tyrannical a strength that everything would have to bend before it, and the era of free discussion would be closed for a long time.”

So let’s examine the Wuhan Plague, or rather the reactions to the Plague, through this lens of origin of beliefs and their direction. The usual reaction by someone puzzled as to why rationality is absent from essentially all actions taken with respect to the Plague, by individuals and government, is to try to figure out where lies hidden rationality. Of course, if any given individual chose to behave rationally, he could do a variety of things. He could weigh costs and benefits of a particular action, say the wearing of masks, for himself. He could decline to do this, and rely on the opinions of those whose judgment he trusts—but if he did that, he would need to at least be open to evidence that their judgment was lacking. But instead the vast majority of people, ranging from individuals through groups to governments, instead behave objectively irrationally. Oh, they talk about rationality, but so do crowds. How they behave shows they are irrational.

It is easy to throw out suggestions as to how hidden rationality, or quasi-rationality, really underlies our current widespread insanity. Perhaps it is the collective desire of governments and the ruling class to tighten their failing grip on us—a simple exercise in control, a test run for even more extreme clampdowns on freedom. Perhaps it is all about money; large merchants and drug companies. Perhaps it is safetyism and hyper-feminization. Yes, all these things are true, at some level. But none are the core reason, I think, why the crowds of today behave irrationally with respect to the Plague. It is simpler than that; the crowd merely, as Le Bon analyzes, takes the inputs proffered by those with rational and semi-rational motives, processes them, and spews out as reified crazy.

That this is true is partially hidden by that, unlike in Le Bon’s day, it is hard to precisely define, at any given moment, who and what today’s crowd is, because most members of it are hidden entirely from the public gaze, sitting in the glow of their screens and, as a result, plummeting in rationality, mere recipients of the influences of others in the crowd, with no external sign of their degradation. They are psychologically united, in a kaleidoscopic, ever-shifting fashion, but there is no way to see that except by the irrationality emitting from them, and there is no way to find their leaders, because there are no real leaders. The crowd thinks in images; those are everywhere today. What image is most common? Death and hysteria. Thus, what we get are those images, lit by strobe, thrown out in a continuous stream by all our different forms of technologically-mediated media. It’s golem ochlocracy, not a pretty sight.

This, to some extent, explains why governments in the developed world, even those few that are otherwise sensible and not ideologically self-hobbled, almost uniformly take actions in response to the Plague that are unnecessary and self-defeating, most notably Hungary. Some combination, opaque to the outsider, of absorption into the crowd of the members of government and a realization by those still rational within the government that they cannot oppose the crowd, seems to lead them to have their country adopt the same crazy beliefs and actions as everyone else. Why has Sweden resisted this, extremely successfully? I just don’t know, and it’s not helped by that it’s impossible to get hard information about Sweden, and has been for eighteen months, because the English-language media complex has decided to deliberately and continuously lie and conceal. Some members of the crowd appear to retain enough rationality to conceal, to keep themselves from being humiliated by hard facts.

Out there, however, exist many who are not absorbed into this global crowd. It is impossible, yet, to create a truly global crowd. How many are not absorbed is hard to tell; massive censorship prevents the dissemination of views contrary to the crowd in the Western world, and similarly, we are deliberately given nearly zero information about public opinion and action in non-Western parts of the globe (and nothing but curated information about the effects there of the Plague itself). What is really happening in Africa? India (where the Plague appears to have simply shot up and then back down, as plagues naturally do)? China? Japan? Who knows? Maybe other forms of crowds exist in those places, or maybe not, or maybe they are just not as dominant. Maybe it’s that some places and people are not susceptible to the crowd contagion of technological media, while others are, due to culture, levels of technology, or some other factor. We were promised this would be the age of information, and it is, just terrible information.

That’s not our immediate concern, though. Our immediate concern is Le Bon’s, greatly amplified and expanded, that ours is the true Era of Crowds, and those crowds have far too great power. If there is ever a real crisis, performance of our crowds doesn’t suggest they’ll be heroic or martyrs, whatever Le Bon may say about that possibility. No, with the substrate of virtue destroyed, they’ll just be a malignant, desperate, headless, flailing snake. On the plus side, maybe that’ll bring the whole show down, and offer some opportunity. Just keep your head low while the snake goes through its death throes.

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  1. Eugene says

    An extremely interesting (and timely!) review, Charles. I especially enjoyed your “golem ochlocracy” and will definitely make this a part of my arsenal going forward!

    When the pandemic started, I attributed the global response to the crisis as global hysteria. I still believe that crowd think has played a colossal role in all this but, some fifteen months later, I do wonder if there isn’t something else going on. No, I am not talking about some population control project implemented by Bill Gates or Klaus Schwab in tandem with the WEF. But I do ask myself if there aren’t some undercurrents that aren’t obvious, what with the push for “vaccine passports” that need to be shown at cafes and shopping malls.

    I have already asked this question elsewhere, but you might have missed it. Do you think that the “new normal” is something that will go away once the crowd moves elsewhere, or do you think that we are seeing a paradigm shift (as in the “new normal” is not a temporary aberration but in fact the beginning of a new world founded on biopolitics)? I have a guess, but I will be interested in your opinion!

    • Fonny says

      Is it possible that Gates, Schwab et al. are “playing the crowd?” They are here. They have a megaphone. They have the finances. Or does “playing the crowd” mean something else?

      • Eugene says

        @Fonny I don’t know. If they are, I can’t imagine what the end game is. If this phenomenon were limited to, say, the US or even the West, I might be willing to entertain some of the conspiracy theories out there a little more. But if you look at countries such as Russia – countries with very different geopolitical interests – the situation is very similar. The Russian government has its own domestic vaccines (Sputnik and two others, if I am not mistaken), and they want to shove them down the Russians’ threats too (a recent spate of COVID restrictions in Moscow denied the unvaccinated access to restaurants). The “it’s all Big Pharma” narrative kind of falls apart. Actually, even the Russian Orthodox Church has threatened that the unvaccinated will face some kind of damnation. I find it extremely hard to believe that they are all in cahoots with Gates, Fauci, and Schwab. It’s **really** stretching credulity, in my view.

        Not saying that Fauci or Gates don’t have agendas of their own. People with large fortunes and power usually do.

        • Fonny says

          Is there an end-game? Why does a serial-killer kill? Isn’t power to dictate anothers life an end-game as such?
          Or is Putin just copying a western playbook, just to cement his power?
          As ever, more questions than answers, everytime I learn a new insight….

    • babette says

      Wonderful to find such an intelligently written article by someone who KNOWS what’s going on during this period of – as my psychiatrist friend(s) call it – mass psychosis. The Crowd is a must read especially at this time of unprecedented historic chaos driven by psychopaths in power. I recommend the works of Rene Girard, most well known for his ideas about desire, myth, the scapegoating process, ritual sacrifice, and Christianity. Thank you and GB! Babs p.s. great comments too!

    • Charles Haywood says

      Eugene: There is, as I suggest here, some guidance of the crowd, but I agree with your thoughts below, that that guidance is itself of very low rational quality, and perhaps what might be called “a crowd leading a crowd.”

      If by biopolitics you mean the ongoing global crowd focus on transmissible disease leading to a “new normal” of various restrictions, it seems to me, channeling Le Bon, that it depends on if a new image seizes the crowd. Thus, if aliens arrive, nobody will care about biopolitics. Or if some other focus arises. And if it’s an economic collapse, those pushing biopolitics will pay the price, as the crowd turns on them.

      • Eugene says

        Charles, by “biopolitics” I mean the direct control over governments over the biological life of their citizens, but I’d say you got the gist of it.

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      • babette says

        Agreed! And let’s hope the crowd turns on them sooner than later! The monsters ruling this place have committed horrors upon humanity and won’t stop till they are made to stop. GB

  2. Fonny says

    Great insight, from the author, to dig up a previously unknown (to me) Gustave Le Bon. What always bothered me is the total absence of rational expplanation as to WHY. Why mass-immigration, why gender-politics, why circumstantial manipulation of the climate, why medical fascism.
    Thank you for the eye-opener. I will study more, and will sleep a little better this night.

    I will keep my and my families head down.

    • The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind was a mainstay of the Laissez Faire Books mail-order catalog for decades. (The organization in its original incarnation is defunct, and I don’t think even a web site exists any longer with its ghost. The effective lifetime of Laissez Faire Books was 1972-2007.)

  3. steve says

    @Charles: Your writing is generally very good, but I noticed that you employed the non-word ‘anyways’ in this essay.

    Changing the subject somewhat, what do you think of Ron Unz’s contention that the virus may have been created in a US, not a Chinese, facility?

    • Charles Haywood says

      Thank you. But my OED disagrees with you. Its meaning (one of two) is adverbial, “In any case, at all events, anyhow.” But that meaning is dialect, the main meaning is “In any way, in any respect, at all,” which doesn’t fit here. I will change it to anyway!

      No idea. What does he base that on? I mean, sure, anything is possible, and the federal government is a criminal enterprise, so why not? No opinion, though.

  4. Fonny says

    Mr Haywood. In the wrong hands, this is dangerous literature. Although the book is easily obtainable, I never was informed of it’s existance

      • Fonny says

        @ Mr. Haywood; I have promptly bought the book. I wish I could give you a commission.

  5. Sdftguhv says

    🍷🍷🍷🍷I agree it’s a hard problem.. I’m not sure the Floyd looters were a crowd, for instance. A crowd is a thing in the grip of a collective idea – a mental image as you say, of something that’s novel to them. Looters don’t have this. But as BLM protestors they had it in spades.
    Prestige and status have clearly been very important with covid. I have an image of a hot air balloon lifting off and people trying to grab a trailing rope so they can stay in contact. The managerial elite’s lower order are feeling vulnerable, which means on the offensive.
    You talk about crowds scorning kindness.. I think one of the interesting things with this last year is the multiple overlapping crowds, some of which have kindness as a membership signal. (Online crowds, sure, but still. Le Bon couldn’t have imagined a virtual crowd.) Rationalist vaccine scepticism shades into new age health purity optimism and supplement sellers, and into apocalyptic preppers. Some of them are lovely people, craving community and hope. Maybe that’s my definition of a crowd. BLM, and the Woke, advertise a horrible mawkish aggressive love.
    The heart is deceitful above all things. Cheers

  6. Vxcc says

    The immediate end in America was POWER and throwing down the troublesome Tribune Trump, whilst crushing his supporters.

    Achieved. That the crowds are a great beast troubles the puppet masters not, nor will it until it eats them, IF it eats them. These are after all keyboard Warriors, not brave in person, too afraid to join a real mob.

    And the internet can always be shut down or curated, and is..

  7. Marcus says

    “[B]ecause the masses, through crowd behavior, will now dictate the direction of nations” and we can watch this in real time with the events in South Africa as recent as this week.

  8. Carlos Danger says

    Very perceptive. One of the big problems we humans have with problems like the Wuhan virus pandemic is our overreliance on inductive reasoning. We are tantalized by it.

    In complex systems, cause and effect are difficult to deduce using deductive reasoning. So we get tempted into relying on the inductive, jumping from the specific to the general, and relying on expert opinion based on experience.

    The results are, as you point out, crowd behavior. Witch hunts hound the unmasked and the unvaccinated. Pundits pontificate and predict even though past predictions were off the mark. And people follow them.

    Thak goodness we do have some science breaking through the madness of crowds. The vaccines seem to be working. Life seems to be returning to normal. My family traveled to a family reunion and back and saw few masks once we left home. I could finally breathe again. It felt great.

    • babette says

      Oh, the vax are working alright! Just you wait and see how well they work. However, they’re not working quite like you think they are, but rather as the “elite” want them to. Good luck!

      • Carlos Danger says

        Vaccines have a long and interesting history. George Washington, for example, had all American troops inoculated (a primitive form of vaccination) against smallpox in a move that helped win the revolutionary war.

        The modern Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer mRNA vaccines are just the latest, and most miraculous, advance in vaccine technology. Expecting some glitches in the technology, I was stunned when the results were announced last November. Almost too good to be true.

        Science supports these vaccines. Randomized controlled trials are a scientific tool proven to show efficacy, and safety also has been scientifically investigated and shown. There is still a chance of problems, but the chance is very, very small.

        Even Donald Trump has never had a single bad word to say about vaccinations. Quite the contrary. He’s always praised them.

        “I would recommend [the vaccine] and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” Donald Trump told Maria Bartiromo on March 16, 2021 during an interview on Fox Prime Time.

        “It is a great vaccine. It is a safe vaccine and it is something that works,” he said. “It works incredibly well. 95%, maybe even more than that . . . and it is really saving our country and it is saving frankly the world.”

        Let me echo Donald Trump’s words. Get a vaccine. For yourself. For our country. For the world.

        • Charles Haywood says

          My opinion on the Plague vaccine(s), not that anyone directly asked for it, has shifted a bit over time. I would never let any of my children get it until some years down the road, if then, and probably not then either. There is no benefit to them and the unknown unknowns (or, perhaps, what is known, but concealed) are non-zero and non-trivial, so cost-benefit says, “no way.” As to myself, my feeling has shifted. My original thought was basically–“Sure, why not? It’d make life, especially international travel, easier, and my risks of Plague complications, while very low, are non-zero, unlike for the children. Plus, who wants the Plague–it’s very unpleasant, just as is any major respiratory disease, like the flu.” But as the months have passed and the insane and inexplicable push to demand everyone take the vaccine has ramped up and up, I’ve started wondering why? Maybe it is just crowd behavior. Or maybe there is something sinister behind it–what my wife calls the “Bliss Plus problem,” referring to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake, a dystopia where most people are killed by a pleasure drug. So while I might take the vaccine in the future, I’d have to have either better reasons or that problem would need to be remediated, by time or something else.

          On the other hand, it appears that the vaccine may not offer long-lasting immunity, which would be another problem altogether. We’ll see.

          • Eugene says

            No one has certainly asked for my opinion on the vaccine question either, but I completely agree with Charles’s stance on this – only I’d add that I never seriously considered getting a COVID vaccine to begin with. I have nothing at all against vaccinations, and it’s a sign of our times that something that should have never been politicized is now seen as yet another political issue. It’s not. Vaccines are an instrument. You get one to protect yourself against a disease. You don’t get one because your president says it’s a good idea, because Aunt Sally thinks you should, or because you want to go on vacation. That’s just not how it works, and I find the drive to get people to accept a vaccine that was rushed by a sector that is well known for being unscrupulous through Emergency Authorization Use – I find that drive, from lotteries to outright coercion in the form of restrictions for the unvaccinated, to be frankly disturbing. When it comes to self-preservation, you don’t need to sell miracles – miracles usually sell themselves. If you need to force people to accept a miracle, what kind of miracle is it?

            I find it eerie how the whole thing is so exhibitionistic. Somehow it has become acceptable to ask strangers if they are vaccinated, and everyone’s displaying their vaccination status online like some badge of honor.

            I’ve had my share of vaccinations, but have no interest in this one. If I were in my 80s, I’d maybe consider it. But I am not. The risk-benefit analysis simply doesn’t justify it. It certainly doesn’t justify it when it comes to children, who are at a very low risk of complications when it comes to COVID, and I find the effort to get them vaccinated en masse rather strange, not to say worse, given the absence of data on possible long-term effects of the vaccines.

            I do not understand the argument that you’re being selfish if you don’t get it. Why should you expose yourself to unknown risks, inherent in a novel vaccine that uses a new technology, in order to protect someone else? Particularly as it appears you can still pass on the virus to others even if you’re vaccinated? There are just so many questions.

            Anecdotally, a nurse and a family friend I’ve known for years (not in the US) has confirmed that she is seeing Pfizer post-vaccination side effects in patients, that authorities are not going out of their way to report them, and that she’d never consider it if she didn’t stand the risk of losing her job. This is echoed by other polls/surveys I’ve seen in the news. Even many front-line workers are not gung-ho on these vaccines. Hardly a vote of confidence.

            This is not a shot at any commenters here, but in general I’d be in favor of demanding that people who advise others to get vaccinated take full legal responsibility for any side effects and vaccine-related complications that arise in those on the receiving end of the advice.

            My $0.05.

          • Charles Haywood says

            I’ll add that there is some little, theoretically, to suggest that one might get a vaccine to support the common good, that is, to protect others. But there are many reasons this doesn’t apply here; I offer two. First, we’re told that the vaccine itself protects others, who can now get it, so we can conclude, logically, don’t need to take it to protect them. At the same time, we’re lectured with great shrillness we DO need to get it to protect others, which is contradictory, obviously, and adds to the sinister feel.

            Second, even if others could be protected by me getting the vaccine, let’s be honest–the people who would be being protected don’t deserve our protection. They are, in almost all cases, in one of two groups of people. First, those who have chosen lifestyles that are bad and unhealthy (the fat, male homosexuals) and in this instance are simply continuing to demand others not stigmatize them for their failings. Second, old people who are at the end of their lives anyway, who demand, now as in their whole lives, everyone else take maximum risks and bear maximum costs in order to give them benefit, even if that benefit is tiny. Selfish bastards, the worst generation in human history. No thanks.

            Or, short version, the common good has broken down, so taking an action for the common good, at least in the health arena, is not a viable or sensible thing to do in modern American society.

          • Jared says

            To jump onto the unsolicited opinion wagon, I too haven’t sought vaccination. Reasons are below.

            First, I don’t believe COVID is serious enough to warrant “compelled” vaccination (either literally, or in its soft version, i.e. via the present relentless psychological pressure and restrictions on various creature comforts) for some perceived greater good. Certainly COVID is of negligible risk to me, but the same is true for most everyone else, too, and those in our richer societies to whom COVID is a more serious risk have largely already had vaccines available to them for some time.

            Since I believe the number of people who could genuinely use an effective COVID vaccine is relatively small, but instead the number of people seeking one is very large, it seems to me that, for the vast majority of people, the vaccines primarily serve as tools for boosting one’s status — notably, by way of scapegoating those who refuse to receive them. Such evils should be resisted to the best of one’s ability.

            Proof by anecdote: my wife, who shares my beliefs on COVID but jokes that she has no principles, received two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine because she expected 1) it would tick the “vaccinated” box, making some temporal things easier for her, and 2) it seemed the least novel and thus most conservative of the available vaccines, and thus the least likely to give her any negative side effects.

            Fast forward several months and we are “enjoying” our annual summer trip to Canada, having finished subjecting ourselves to a list of travel restrictions so long as to be genuinely embarrassing to me. Now, the Sinopharm vaccine is not recognized by Canada (for whatever the appropriate definition of “recognized” is) and is surely thought to be far less effective than Pfizer, Moderna, etc. by virtually everyone here anyway. No matter: the fact that my wife received two doses of this thing is the important part. When anyone here asks about our vaccine status, trying unconsciously to suss out if we are good or bad people, they are immediately satisfied upon hearing that she has publicly performed the appropriate ritual, whether or not it really protects her or anyone else against SARS-CoV-2 infection to any material degree. As a grotesque parody of Baptism by Desire, I have no doubt they would feel the same if she had merely tried to get vaccinated, whether or not she’d actually been able to.

            On the other hand, I’ve been subject to at least one lecture from a friend about why I am a selfish, credulous, and generally awful person for not having tried to get a vaccine, and have overheard my mother hastily (and with detectable shame) try to change the subject when one of my aunts asked her whether I’d managed to get one.

            (As an amusing side note, my justified belief that I’ve already had COVID, and thus probably already have lots of naturally-acquired chad antibodies, tends to count for precisely zero, since I didn’t perform the ritual, and it’s the ritual that counts. “Surely thou also art one of them. For even thy speech doth discover thee.”)

            Second — and this is a weaker argument — I am unconvinced by the effectiveness of the vaccines, particularly when it comes to preventing transmission. This is for a number of reasons, but mainly:

            First, my limited understanding of the infection pathway for coronaviruses is that it’s very difficult for antibodies of any kind to prevent infection via the respiratory tract, i.e. where coronaviruses invade, and that all previous attempts to create a useful vaccine for them hadn’t yielded much fruit. I recall Ian Frazer mentioning this early last year when the preposterous plan of “lock everything down until a vaccine arrives” was initially being parroted, and have seen it mentioned several times since, although I haven’t attempted to follow up on it to learn e.g. how the novel mRNA vaccines deal with the problem.

            Second, initial trials seemed to be performed in conditions favourable to the vaccines (specifically for relative risk reduction calculations), and were by construction as so-called emergency measures subject to comparably little scrutiny. I’m also particularly unconvinced that confounding effects (seasonality, increasing proportions of natural or naturally-acquired immunity, demographics, etc.) were well-dealt with in trials or especially in later observational data (e.g. laymen attributing most of the decrease in positive PCR tests to vaccines, rather than just summer).

            Third, there seem to be more adverse effects associated with these vaccines than most others, and it’s not at all clear that the at-best-minor benefits exceed the at-most-minor risks for the vast majority of people. The massive surveillance infrastructure being constructed alongside them is

            Regardless, I admit that my lack of confidence in the vaccines’ effectiveness is a relatively weak point, since I haven’t bothered to learn much about them, and it’s entirely possible that all my above concerns have since been allayed.

            The crux is that my relatively minor quibble re: effectiveness is overwhelmingly dominated by 1) the general unseriousness of COVID, and the resulting lack of merit for a global compelled vaccination campaign (especially when cheap and obviously effective treatments, e.g. Ivermectin, exist for those most at-risk anyway), and 2) the spiritual benefits to be found in resisting, as best as one can for as long as one can, the terrific and evil mimetic pressure that exists for one to become vaccinated.

    • Fonny says

      I am very proud to be a natural human being. And I am very proud of you, that you have made an informed decision to have yourself injected with something. You did inform yourself, yes?

      • Eugene says

        Charles, I’d omitted the first point you made in your last message because I thought it was so self-evident, but yes. I do not see any logic in forcing Jane to get vaccinated in order to protect John, who has already been vaccinated. If John is vaccinated, he is already protected, so why does Jane need to get the jab? Thus far, no one has presented a convincing case to explain why she must, and yet we are told that if she doesn’t do it, she is a selfish person who deserves to become a second-class citizen. I guess that’s where Gustave Le Bon comes in.

        Regarding your second point, I agree that that the whole trade-off that was accepted during the pandemic is really bewildering. Any society should always take care of its weak and vulnerable. At the same time, I am nonplussed by the constant sacrifices that are demanded of younger cohorts in order to save those who have reached their end of their life. I don’t think this arrangement would have been viewed as viable at any other point in the past. As younger cohorts have more time ahead of them, things should be tilted in their favor. I can’t see the wisdom of wrecking normal life to protect the lives of octa- and nonagenarians. I don’t want to be cynical about this. We should certainly do the utmost to protect the vulnerable, but I am not sure the utmost here should entail demanding what has been demanded of younger cohorts since March of 2020. I find it ironic that the elderly can now travel because they are fully vaccinated, while younger, unvaccinated individuals are being denied travel because they’ve refused to submit to the latest sacrifice demanded of them: to get an unproven vaccine against a virus that is unlikely to cause them any harm!

        • Carlos Danger says

          Interesting to read your thoughts on vaccinations, Charles and Eugene. Here are mine.

          1. I agree that healthy children should not be vaccinated now. The risk to them from Covid-19 disease is very, very low. Low enough that the risks from the vaccines may be higher than from the disease. And not vaccinating children here frees up more vaccines for adults at risk elsewhere in the world. Vaccines are still scarce. Once things settle down, we can see better whether children should be vaccinated.

          2. I agree that no one should be forced to get a vaccine. We should each have the freedom to freely decide whether to get one or not. It’s our choice. That the government is promoting a door-to-door drive to encourage people to get vaccinated is wrong. (And that the government flags posts on Facebook arguing against that door-to-door drive, and tells Facebook to censor those posts, is appalling.)

          3. I agree that there has been a lot of harmful coercion and poor decision-making by people in government regarding this pandemic. Well meant, probably, but the effects on both the economy and personal freedoms have been a disaster. The “cure” has been worse than the disease.

          4. I disagree that getting one of the vaccines involves any real risk or hardship. The science behind them is solid. Some of the vaccines are not that effective (Russian and Chinese), but the ones available in the US — Moderna, BioNTech/Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson/Jannsen — are stellar. They have been proven very safe and very effective, both in testing and in real life (almost 1 billion people around the world have been vaccinated with them).

          5. I agree that one is not being selfish in declining to get a vaccine, but I do encourage everyone to get one. That’s the best way to end this epidemic for good. We have the chance to do that, to crush this pernicious virus and stomp the life out of it. To get back to a normal life.

          But more people need to get vaccinated to do that. The herd immunity math just doesn’t work when 20% or 30%, or even more, of the people decline the vaccine. So the economy is hobbled. Restrictions are re-imposed. We all suffer because of it.

          6. I agree that no one should feel obligated to get a vaccine to protect others. But my own personal story makes me encourage people to get vaccinated so we can end this epidemic now.

          My father turned 90 a few months ago. He has watched his health carefully all his life, and exercises every day. A few years ago he started to suffer from pulmonary fibrosis, its cause unknown. The disease increasingly cuts off oxygen, and at some point that will kill him. He now sometimes struggles to breathe and has fits of coughing. It’s terrible to hear.

          We went to visit him and my mother last week for the first time since Thanksgiving of 2019. That’s a year and 8 months. They were both vaccinated months ago. Still, the pandemic kept us apart. We would have visited them several times during that time if it had been safe to do so. Instead, we lost that precious time to the pandemic.

          During the pandemic my mother really lost ground with her mild dementia and her mobility problems. She had little personal contact with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Largely homebound during the pandemic, she now has a harder time walking and dressing herself. She relies even more heavily on my father.

          My parents made me the executor of their estates. My father wanted to talk about that, so we did. Characteristically, he isn’t worried about himself. He’s lived a full life, and has few regrets. He’s worried about my mother, his wife of 68 years. She can’t live alone, he told me. You’ll need to make sure she’s taken care of. I told him I would.

          When we left their home to come back to our home, we hugged each other hard, and made plans to meet again soon. But will we? Or have I seen one or both of them for the last time? I hope not. But I fear so.

          • Eugene says

            Carlos Danger, thank you for sharing your thoughts and personal experience. The latter, especially, always enriches discussion.

            Two things:

            1. You say in #4 that “They [the vaccines] have been proven very safe and very effective, both in testing and in real life”. Can we really say, beyond peradventure of doubt, that they are safe in the long run? Can we confidently say there will be no side effects among the vaccinated in 10 years? 15 years? These are new vaccines, and the mRNA technology (Pfizer and Moderna) is also new. The data just isn’t there.

            Also, a number of professionals have expressed concerns about the safety of vaccines. These are not conspiracy theorists but people with serious credentials. I lack the education and knowledge to evaluate their criticism, but I don’t understand why they are immediately attacked by the medical community and censored by Big Tech.

            2. “The herd immunity math just doesn’t work when 20% or 30%, or even more, of the people decline the vaccine. So the economy is hobbled. Restrictions are re-imposed. We all suffer because of it.”

            I’d say that that’s just the problem: the idea that to protect normal life, we need to suspend it. I cannot accept the premise that we need a never-ending state of emergency to deal with what is a bad virus, and, for a number of reasons, this premise would not have been seen as acceptable until very recently.

            I wish your parents well.

    • Carlos Danger says

      Eugene, thank for your kind words about my family situation. My concern is not with my parents’ risks from the coronavirus. Instead, I use my missed contact with them during the last years of their lives as an example of the things we are missing during the pandemic.

      There are many other things we are missing. Travel has been difficult. Borders have been closed. Small businesses have struggled, with many closing for good. Schools have been shut, or students masked. Hospitals have limited their services for non-virus cases.

      Lately things have been looking better, but the lack of vaccinations in this country worries me. I think we are giving the virus a chance to fight back, when we could be crushing it. We could be back to normal. Instead, the news is filling up with pandemic panic again. We’re right back in it.

      Let me answer your specific questions.

      1. The vaccines have passed the FDA drug approval process with flying colors. During my law firm days I got a fair amount of experience with that process, which many countries have copied. It’s rigorous, starting with animal testing and going on to phases I, II and III of testing in humans.

      That the FDA approved these vaccines as safe and effective is based on strong science, and that approval means a lot. The process has been transparent and the data is there for everyone to see. The fact that the FDA gave only an emergency use authorization to start with means nothing. That’s just an issue of enough time passing. These vaccines will be approved for general use soon.

      The stellar results from the testing done prior to approval have been borne out in the real world. The vaccines have proven safe and effective in the United States, with almost 200 million doses given and results that mirror the test results. The same is true with 100s of millions of doses given around the world.

      I’m always skeptical. “In God we trust. All others must bring data.” And as legendary physicist Richard Feynman said, “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”, meaning that even experts should be judged on their data rather than their reputation.

      In this case, the data is convincing and the science is solid. You mentioned some professional people with serious credentials who question the safety of the vaccines. I agree with you that the muzzling of people who raise concerns is appalling. But I have not seen or heard of any experts in the field who raise safety concerns. Almost 100% of practicing physicians, for example, have chosen to get the vaccines. Can you steer me to any safety data from professionals that is concerning?

      I have seen people like Tucker Carlson who question vaccine safety. Tucker Carlson can be entertaining, and he’s not afraid to gore sacred cows. But he himself got vaccinated early on, yet he twists the data to suggest, but never actually state, that the vaccines are not safe. I think that’s a disgrace.

      You are right that we can never be sure that the vaccines will not cause some unsuspected problem 10 or 15 years down the road. That’s always a possibility. But the nature of these vaccines makes that risk miniscule, close to zero. Others may balk at even that small risk, but I have bet my life on the vaccines, with no hesitation.

      2. The point I am making about herd immunity is that epidemics always end only when enough people have either natural immunity from infection or acquired immunity from vaccination. Real life is always fuzzier than the models, but we probably need immunity to be over 90% to crush the virus and end this epidemic decisively.

      William Farr first noted in 1840 that infections in epidemics tend to follow a bell-shaped curve. This has matured into the classic SIR model, based on simple math (if you are comfortable with differential equations) but surprisingly elegant in mating model with reality. The Covid-19 pandemic has proven once again the value of that basic model.

      [If you or anyone has interest in the math but have not yet delved into it, I’ve found some good material on the internet. I’d be happy to steer you to it.]

      What I was trying to say with my discussion of herd immunity is the importance of individual decisions on the community. I respect each individual’s right to decide whether to get a vaccine. When you move from the individual to the community, though, what matters is not what an individual decides, but what the total numbers are. The number of people choosing not to get vaccinated (20%, 30%, or even more) make it likely that the pandemic will not end soon and decisively. To me, that’s disappointing.

      Our response to this pandemic as a society has not been good. No question about that. But as long as the pandemic continues, and people fall sick and die, our society will suffer some harm. No question about that either. The best thing for all of us is for the pandemic to end. The vaccines give us the power to do that. We are not using that power like we could. And in my opinion, like we should.

      I don’t mean to lecture people who choose not to get a vaccine. But unlike with masks, lockdowns, handwashing, school closures, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions, with vaccination the science is solid. The numbers add up. Those who have not had the disease and who get the vaccine are in a small way helping the herd, their community. Those who don’t aren’t. That’s just the way the math works.

      • Eugene says

        Carlos Danger,

        Re the individuals who have expressed concerns re the vaccines, especially with regard to vaccinating younger cohorts, one is Dr. Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist and associate professor at the University of Guelph (and a fellow Canuck!). He voiced certain reservations on a local radio station and, within days, someone apparently set up a website to smear him (that’s what he said anyway on a podcast, during which he also said he’d faced pressure from his peers).

        Another is Robert Malone, who is called by some as the “father of mRNA technology”. I am unable to ascertain the validity of these paternity claims (and I don’t believe he’s the one making them), but a simple Google search will confirm he is no armchair dilettante. He joined Bridle during that podcast I’ve mentioned to put in a good word for him and criticize the censorship that Bridle had complained about.

        Also in the US, the famous Bret Weinstein and his wife, both biologists, were forced to move their podcast to Odyssey after running afoul of Youtube’s censors. The two had extensively discussed the safety of the vaccines and the efficacy of alternative treatments such as Ivermectin.

        These are some of the examples.

        I’d like to point out that these individuals did not say the vaccines are dangerous; they just raised concerns. I don’t have the credentials to agree or disagree with them. But if they are wrong, they should be challenged, debated, and refuted by experts in an honest, transparent, non-politicized environment, which of course doesn’t exist. Instead, we’re seeing suppression, censorship, and character assassination. Why is information getting suppressed and censored? Why are dissenting voices and critics silenced? How can we trust the companies behind the vaccines and those authorizing the vaccines if the story of the pandemic has been a story of endless mistakes, errors, manipulation, conflicts of interests, lies, and perhaps even corruption?

        Recall that when the pandemic began, we were told by the scientific community that it could not have come by way of a lab. The few voices who were willing to entertain this theory were immediately dismissed as conspiracy theorists. [I am thinking of Luc Montagnier, a French virologist who, along with several other scientists, received the Nobel Prize for discovering HIV. Naturally, he was promptly dismissed (to be fair, he’d garnered his share of controversy since his award, but still).] Now we know that the declaration that appeared in The Lancet in early 2020 that dismissed the lab leak hypothesis was organized by the man who ran an institution that financed a lab in Wuhan (incidentally – or not – he was also a member of the delegation that went to China to investigate the origins of the virus, ha-ha!), and the hypothesis has gone mainstream. What else will we find out a year from now? About the pandemic, masks, or perhaps even the vaccines?

        Given all of this, concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines are legitimate, and people should have every right not to opt in. They should certainly not be portrayed as irresponsible agents of destruction.

        The vaccines are being sold as a silver bullet, but this only makes sense if you accept the idea that we are in this situation (restrictions, disruptions, etc.) because of this unprecedented virus. Actually, we’re not. We’re in this because of our response to the virus, which is indeed unprecedented. People think that the vaccines are some kind of a get-out-of-jail-card; color me unconvinced. More than 80% of my city are at least partially vaccinated, and some 60% are fully vaccinated. Yet people are still wearing masks in the streets, and our top medical officer wants kids to wear masks in schools starting in September – not because of COVID, mind, but because they don’t have the immunity needed against some other virus currently circulating elsewhere (immunity that they didn’t acquire because they were either locked down or in masks, but hey, let’s not nitpick). Israel, which was used as a role model in the vaccine rollout, had to reimpose the mask mandate some 10 days after lifting it because the Delta variant had spiked up. As Charles mentioned, the UK’s health minister has been tested positive for COVID, despite being fully vaccinated. I won’t be wholly surprised if lockdowns reappear in many parts of the world once the weather cools in the fall, though if they do, naturally, the unvaccinated will be blamed as the culprits.

        Finally – this comment is long enough as it is – I’d like to clarify that my personal unwillingness to get vaccinated is less driven by safety concerns than by my opposition to coercion, though of course I have no interest in being a guinea pig for Pfizer or the FDA. Governments should not be in the business of blackmailing citizens, and the more they push, the more I am inclined to resist. Last week, the French president announced that the unvaccinated would be barred from restaurants, cafes, malls and even hospitals, theoretically paving the way for a two-tier society. This is deplorable, and all such efforts need to be fought. I completely agree with Jared, who has rightly pointed out that vaccinations are more of a ritual that represents adherence to a creed than anything else, and that the spiritual benefits of resisting this cannot be overemphasized.

        • Carlos Danger says

          Eugene, your comment is interesting and thoughtful and I want to respond when I have the time to write something worthy.

          For now, you mentioned Bret Weinstein. (I watched his video when he talked with Pierre Kory about Ivermectin. I’m skeptical about that drug, but I agree that YouTube is acting abominably in driving him off.) Did you know he and his wife Heather Heyring have a new book coming out on September 14?

          I’m looking forward to reading that book. I haven’t seen any excerpts from or reviews of the book yet, but Sebastian Junger (the author of Freedom, which Charles reviewed here) has this to say about it:

          “I have never read such a bold, well-researched, and succinct exploration of the puzzling predica­ment we find ourselves in. Anyone who wonders why the most comfortable society in history—our own—has such astronomical rates of depression, anxiety, and poor health will find abundant answers in A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century.”

          • Eugene says

            Carlos Danger,

            Yes, I do know they have a book coming out! I’ve even considered buying it, though my reading pile has become so intimidating I am a bit apprehensive about adding to it. Perhaps Charles can step in and regale us with yet another fantastic review! Or maybe you can give us your opinion once you’ve read it.

            I admit to being utterly ignorant about Ivermectin and know little beyond what Weinstein told us (I was a bit stunned when he decided to sample some of that during a podcast, for the benefit of his audience!), so I don’t have much to say about it. I am afraid we won’t find out much more until we find ourselves in a less politically and morally charged climate!

          • Charles Haywood says

            1) Junger is very focused, in his earlier book Tribe, on hunter-gatherers being, in some ways, superior to civilized societies, so he is a natural for a blurb for Weinstein’s book.

            2) I have no opinion on ivermectin, and don’t know what Weinstein took. I believe it’s the active ingredient in the prescription canine product Frontline. But you can buy it easily for chickens, no prescription, at Tractor Supply; I have a bunch already for that reason! (For you prepper types, you can buy non-prescription antibiotics “for fish,” which are precisely the same as those prescribed to humans.)

          • Carlos Danger says

            Eugene, now that I have a little time to write a worthy response, I find I have nothing left to say that would add light rather than heat. Interesting how we have divided into two contrary camps about the vaccines, neither of which camp seems able to persuade the other but both making a well-reasoned case for their views.

            Let me add to the discussion just a couple of not particularly important tidbits that I found interesting.

            First, I was quite impressed to read about Katalin Kariko and her work on mRNA technology that formed the groundwork for the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. She is an immigrant from Hungary who struggled for 40 years to get funding for her work. It finally paid off in the vaccines. She’s on many people’s shortlists for the Nobel Prize this year. It would be nice to see her get the recognition. Much better than celebrity scientists like Jennifer Doudna and Francis Arnold whose fame was as much manufactured as earned.

            Second, I saw today a clip of a heated exchange between Rand Paul and Tony Fauci. I think Rand Paul always makes a lot of sense. Not Tony Fauci. He rubs me the wrong way. He’s certainly well qualified for his job as head of the NIAID, but not as a point person for the government on policy. People talk about misinformation about Covid-19. I worry more about the misinformation from people like Tony Fauci, Rochelle Walensky, and Michael Osterholm than I do about non-experts on the internet. I’m embarrassed for those inexpert experts.

          • A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century finally came out. Wife and husband team Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein did a good job writing it. The book’s an easy read (full of stories) and a quick one, but it has a lot of thought and insight behind it.

            I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking in the area of evolution and complex systems, and how all that works. I disagree with the concept of Darwinian evolution, which these two authors accept without hesitation, but that doesn’t really matter much to the ideas they explore in the book.

            The theme of the book is that the pace of modern life with its “hyper-novelty” creates problems for us humans, as we spent most of the last 200,000 years as hunter-gatherers with hardly any novelty in our lives at all. They have chapters on a variety of topics. I liked the ones on medicine, food, and sex and gender best.

            Do I recommend the book? Yes. But that may be due to my interest and expertise in the subject matter. No real expertise is needed, but if you have not thought much about these issues you may not get as much out of the book as I did. With so many books and so little time, do you want to pass on this one? That’s a hard question only you can answer.

          • Charles Haywood says

            Hey, it sounds interesting enough to get a copy!

          • Carlos Danger says

            The book A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide has its faults. It’s rather lightweight, written for a popular audience rather than with rigor. And I disagree with some of the points it made. But the book provoked thought — indeed, it even changed my mind on some of those points of disagreement.

            That’s more than I can say for three other books I read in recent days on the same topic of how we humans deal with complexity, none of which books I recommend. Those are:

            (1) Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass Sunstein.

            (2) Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, by Steven Pinker (published just today).

            (3) The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t, by Julia Galef.

            All three books are well written and entertaining, easy, occasionally insightful reads. But they didn’t make me think much or tell me much new, and importantly, didn’t change my mind.

            That’s just my experience with these books, though, and I know from experience that my experience often differs from that of other readers. So I’m always curious to hear what others think.

          • Charles Haywood says

            Huh. I didn’t know Pinker had come out with a new book. But even from the title, I can tell it’s dumb, which I’m glad you confirmed. It seems obvious to me that any such book today is going to be politically pre-determined, and therefore likely worthless and annoying. I think you’re probably being too charitable!

  9. Charles Haywood says

    Not a ton to add to this very interesting, and highly sophisticated, discussion. But some points:

    1) There seems to be a key question whether the vaccines work, in the sense that they offer long-lasting, robust protection. Anecdotal and quasi-anecdotal evidence from the past few days seems to cast doubt on this claim (for example, the UK Health Minister just got the Plague, despite being vaccinated, and cases are exploding in Israel, a heavily vaccinated country). We have been assured preemptively that cases contracted by the vaccinated are less severe, but the evidence for that seems nonexistent, and given the innumerable other lies we have been fed, there is no reason to believe that.

    If true, this undermines the entire push for taking vaccines, obviously.

    2) I am perfectly willing to believe that there is solid science behind the vaccines. On the other hand, in a justifiably low trust society, where the ruling class has forfeited any right whatsoever to trust, suspicion is appropriate. This is doubly true where, for example, Pfizer deliberately withheld its testing results in order to hurt Trump. What else would they do if commanded by their masters?

    3) It is far too early to say these vaccines are “safe and effective.” (I believe they are still classified as “experimental,” rather than “approved”?) “Safe and effective so far, with very high incidence of side effects, which may be being deliberately suppressed,” seems more like it. I don’t know anything about the science, to say if other vaccines with similar mechanisms have a longer track record, but if not, if this is the first one, this is doubly true.

    Jared’s points also seem worthwhile in this context.

    4) Herd immunity will work when enough people get the Plague. That’s what happened to the 1957 flu, which is a close analog to the Wuhan Plague in danger, except that it put at risk of death a broader range of targets, including children, which the Plague does not. (If we ever get a plague that does kill a lot of children, or a lot of anybody but old people, that’s going to be it for Western society.)

    It’s not clear to me if the virus will mutate and therefore we cannot achieve herd immunity. All viruses have some genetic shift, but all this talk of variants is a clear attempt to make the average person confuse Covid in his mind with the flu, a recombinant virus which really does differ over time. I don’t think coronaviruses are the same, which suggests that, like any particular flu or most (all?) viral diseases, it will simply disappear when enough people have gotten it (or are immunized—if the vaccines work).

    5) I have been blessed in that my mother, who is 83 and in reasonably good health, but with heart problems, did not care at all about the Plague, and took zero precautions. She got it, refused to go to the hospital (“they won’t let me out”), and recovered fine. (She confirmed with serology.) But I have many friends who want to protect their parents, and I sympathize. As a society we should undertake to help, by allowing the old to self-isolate if desired. Beyond that, government should take no restrictive actions at all, and pretty much everything that has been done was the wrong way to go. It appears the Swedes got it mostly right in this regard, although of course, they’re Swedes, so how applicable this is beyond Sweden, who knows? (They have a major Muslim problem, of course—what was the impact among that segment of Swedish society? We’ll never know.)

    • Carlos Danger says

      Charles, you make some persuasive points. I can’t fault your reasoning, but I come out differently on the vaccines. No problem with that. Different people think differently.

      What I do agree with you wholeheartedly on is the role of government during this pandemic. The way the Biden administration is trying to strongarm people into getting the vaccines appalls me. As did the way masks, lockdowns and other non-pharmaceutical interventions were pushed on us. The government should not have that power.

      You also mentioned the virus variants, and how they have been overblown. I agree. Science and sense alike are ignored as the experts and the press rant on about a race between the vaccines and the variants, and other such nonsense. It’s embarrassing.

      Tony Fauci. Rochelle Walensky. Michael Osterholm. Frances Collins. Maria Van Kerkhove. I don’t question these people’s credentials, but I do their judgment. They have been proven wrong time and time again, yet they continue to make predictions and pronouncements they have no business making. They should, I think, shut up.

      And I admire your mother. She shows spirit.

    • Charles,

      I’d like to provide some follow up/engagement to some of your covid commentary. Additional links/information available upon request.

      First, your previous message: “First, we’re told that the vaccine itself protects others, who can now get it, so we can conclude, logically, don’t need to take it to protect them. At the same time, we’re lectured with great shrillness we DO need to get it to protect others, which is contradictory, obviously, and adds to the sinister feel.

      Second, even if others could be protected by me getting the vaccine, let’s be honest–the people who would be being protected don’t deserve our protection. They are, in almost all cases, in one of two groups of people. First, those who have chosen lifestyles that are bad and unhealthy (the fat, male homosexuals) and in this instance are simply continuing to demand others not stigmatize them for their failings. Second, old people who are at the end of their lives anyway, who demand, now as in their whole lives, everyone else take maximum risks and bear maximum costs in order to give them benefit, even if that benefit is tiny. Selfish bastards, the worst generation in human history. No thanks.”

      — The vaccines appears to be quite effective at preventing infections, severe illness, and death. Depending on the vaccine, they prevent infections in between 66% and 95% of people vaccinated, though that is in a “best case” environment, and I would assume (and I think any competent clinician would as well) the actual protection is a bit lower in the wild and against some variants. Also, protection of very elderly people is lower, their immune systems often aren’t competent enough to develop a proper immune response. This is the way basically any health intervention works… a seat belt + air bag reduces your risk of traffic fatality by about 67%, it is a very good intervention and it makes sense to encourage your loved ones to employ it. But it doesn’t provide 100% protection, and it doesn’t mean that other reckless drivers can’t make you less safe. They even have deleterious side effects at times!

      — I think you are letting your polemics get away from you in you second point. Most of us have loved ones who are susceptible to covid and it may make sense to do what you can to protect them. My parents should both have another 10-20 years with us, but my father has approximately a 20% chance of being hospitalized if diagnosed and about 4.5% risk of dying (my mother about half that). Everyone should be able to make their own decisions about what measures they take to protect others, or themselves, but it isn’t negligible. Many of these people really aren’t worthless.

      Now, numbered from the above message:

      1) The vaccines have shown excellent protection so far. Between March 1 (somewhat arbitrary, about when vaccines became widely available) and today there have been about 75,000 deaths from COVID, and there have been about 1,000 breakthrough COVID deaths. This is a little bit apples to oranges as the population sizes aren’t equal across that timeline, but also because the vaccinated population skews MUCH older than the unvaccinated population. In my home county we have ~40% of the population vaccinated, and ~80% of the >65 population vaccinated. We can’t be sure that they will continue to be effective going forward – we don’t know what we don’t know – but natural infections seem to provide robust protection for at least one year, and vaccines use a similar route.

      2) It is perfectly reasonable to be suspicious, but it can be a very poorly adapted strategy when you are overly suspicious. Calibration is very important. Some statistics are much more difficult to fake/shade/spin (excess deaths for instance) and there are a lot of people of integrity still out there doing work. I’ve seen the claim that Pfizer delayed reporting many times. But as far as I can tell it is just whinge – do you have any solid evidence? Given the Trump supporters I know, I doubt vaccine news would have done him much good – though to be fair Trump has been a consistent vaccine supporter.

      3) They are given an emergency use authorization because the FDA requires a very long safety record before giving full approval. This may be appropriate in most situations, but it is also a product of bureaucratic sclerosis of the sort that you often decry. Had the FDA been more agile and aggressive they could have used human challenge trials and and an expedited process that could have had vaccines getting to the public by last October and probably saved 250,000+ live (in the US alone) and untold illness and suffering.

      The side effects aren’t being deliberately suppressed, they have been discussed in more detail than with any other vaccine I have ever seen. With a very low incidence of blood clots in the adenovirus vaccines the US suspended the J&J vaccine and you had major prestige outlets giving cover to health authorities in Europe who were suspending vaccinations. More recently, there have been reports of (very very rare) cardiac events associated with mRNA vaccines and there has been loads of coverage, even on the three letter networks (CNN, NBC, BBC) taking the risk very seriously. I have honestly never seen the kind of transparency from the pro-vaxx side.

      4) I agree, or at least I’m hopeful, that we will reach herd immunity for covid, it doesn’t seem particularly mutable, it has had millions of infection years, and the most common variants don’t have a high degree of breakthrough. But the 1957 influenza outbreak is a really bad comparison. Over the two year outbreak about 70,000 people died, perhaps two-three times a typical flue season. If you look at an excess death chart it doesn’t make the top 10 years of the 20th century (about 4% in 57 and 1% in 58). 2020 had the highest excess deaths of any year on record at 16%, As you say, those deaths are skewed old, but over 100,000 people 64 and under have died, including a couple of people I know. It isn’t the bubonic plague, but it really is the worst thing we have had since 1918 (which had a lower excess death rate than 2020, but the baseline death rate was much higher in the pre-antibiotic era).

      5) I agree with your dislike, distaste for, and distrust of the restrictions taken by governments responding to covid, and I’m glad my life continued pretty much per usual after May of last year. Actually, due to many of my personal preferences, it was a better year than usual. However, Sweden isn’t as great of a case as you may imagine. Sweden closed secondary schools, banned large gathering (including private), closed public events, and “recommended” businesses close their offices and people work from home. In fact they had a higher percentage of people working from home and less mobility than the US for basically the entire pandemic. I live in an area that had very few restrictions, and I had more freedom than the Swedish throughout. After May 2020 I could go to restaurants, concerts, etc. These places had reduced capacity, but never seemed full even to the lower limits.

      These thoughts are offered simply to provide some balance to the overall page. I think people should make their own decisions about whether to get vaccinated or not, and I think the moral censure around the issue is stultifying and stupid; though in my circles it tends to be the anti-vaxxers who think you are an idiot, or maybe a moral monster, if you get vaccinated. But I think they are an effective public health tool, and the rapid development of the mRNA vaccines shows me that we have more human capital remaining that I had thought.

      • Charles Haywood says

        Thanks for the thoughtful thoughts! Much of this falls into qualitative or subjective evaluation of quantitative data, so I won’t go too far into the weeds:

        1) While my comments on old people may have been on the harsh side, the fact is that our entire civilization has been upended to protect people who are desperate to not face their own inevitable and impending mortality. True, hyper-feminization of everything has made this possible, not just their demands. But it’s still incredibly selfish and destructive. It’s not that the old are “worthless” (which I didn’t say); it’s that it used to be accepted that death came for us all. Old people are at significant risk for influenza, too, and we simply accept that quite a few die every year as a result. Here, it may make sense for old people to self-quarantine, and for resources to be made available to assist. It makes zero sense to do anything else we’ve been doing. None.

        Worst of all is that we ignore all the other massive costs of what we’ve been doing. The error in focusing on old people, regardless of the importance of protecting them, is that huge costs have a result been borne by others, which are ignored or denied. This ranges from millions of children damaged, physically, educationally; and psychologically; to enormous increases in mental illness in young people (some of whom I know); to drug deaths; to suicides; to despair; to the likely ruination of our economies; etc. No, far better to simply have let the Plague blow through all of society; kill whom it was going to kill; and move on. The costs of what we did far, far exceeded the benefit of giving the unhealthy and old a few more years of life. No sensible or decent society would have done this. We are a dumb society.

        2) On Pfizer, we know that the test results were announced immediately after the election. That alone makes it almost certain they were delayed, because you have to believe either (a) the timing was purely coincidental, or (b) a chief executive who knew that he would be ruined and live in obloquy for the rest of his life if he released the results, or lionized if he didn’t, whose entire company is loaded with #Resistance fanatics, chose to do what was in his self-interest (or, perhaps, he did so in combination with others, all with the same interests). Which is more likely? Anyway, they did in fact admit it, in the context of post-election desperate spin pieces, such as this one. Specifically, they gave an original schedule for results, at the end of October, then they admitted they changed the number of confirmed Plague cases required to release those results, which just so happened to change the schedule for release to immediately AFTER the election, and they had no explanation for it, other than “they consulted with the FDA”—that is, with a group of anti-Trump fanatics who control Pfizer’s fate. “Proof” of the opposite is merely Trump’s enemies waving their hands and chanting “Refuted!,” in the usual manner of these propagandistic lies. No, whinging is the exact opposite of the claim that Pfizer delayed the results. In fact, unless 100% transparency of all communications among Pfizer employees were provided, only a fool could believe it was not deliberate, given the context.

        3) I completely disagree the side effects “being discussed in detail.” They’re not discussed at all, as far as I can tell, except to give a propagandistic spin that they are no problem, almost always using the words “extremely rare.” Of course, for every clinical heart event, how much subclinical damage is done? Who knows? (Anyone who takes a contrary position on social media risks permanent deplatforming.) Why has Britain decided to not recommend the vaccine to most under 18? Has that been publicized here? No. Instead, we are bombarded with demands the young get vaccinated. Never, ever, is there a discussion of the almost zero risk for anyone under thirty, and literally zero risk for healthy children. No cost benefit analysis is performed. It is all propaganda designed to push vaccination for all, and as I say, the longer it goes on, the more sinister it feels.

        4) I don’t want to get into the minutiae of the 1957 flu, but it is in fact an excellent comparison. It’s a bit hard to tease out the details, in part because deaths from it were probably understated (no testing) and deaths from the Plague are overstated (as I know from personal experience). Crucially, the 1957 flu killed the young at very high rates, yet we did none of the stupid stuff we did in 2020 and 2021.

        5) I’d like to think the development of the vaccines shows we have social capital left. It may well; I just don’t know anything about the details. But if we can only mobilize that social capital as a result of our fear of mortality, that’s not a good sign for our future.

  10. Fonny says

    @ Mr. Danger;
    Governments worldwide have shown to be utterly corrupt en entirely untrustworthy, ranging from advising us what food to eat when hungry, to how to keep warm when cold. Or how to get to our loved ones we all miss, but this time it is different, you say?
    Even if this virus would be 100 times more contagious and deadly than it actually is, then still a government does have no right to do what it did.
    But they locked us into our homes anyway. They muzzled us anyway. They holed up the elderly anyway. They refused education anyway. They shut down the economy anyway.
    And now I am supposed to trust them to have myself injected with an experimental medicine? The public backlash against forced injection seems to be to big to ignore, so they “nudge” you. Or they make your life a living hell. Or put you in jail for 6 months, if you want to eat in a restaurant.
    In your posts you repeatedly implore to get injected, so governments can ease restrictions, which should not have been implemented to begin with. It is the same as saying to a slave he can become free, but only after putting on handcuffs.
    There is NO preconditoin for freedom, Mr. Danger. NOT ONE.
    So no. My freedom is mine, and is non-negotiable. Even if for some reason I should be the last non-injected person on earth, I would still refuse.

  11. E. J. Freeman says

    “The vaccines have passed the FDA drug approval process with flying colors.”

    So have antidepressants, but we now know they are just placebos with side effects. The FDA is probably less corrupt than many other institutions, but still, you shouldn’t just automatically trust their decisions.

    • Carlos Danger says

      Good point about the FDA’s approval of SSRI antidepressants as being safe and effective. If you actually look at the data, there’s nothing there to support the approval. Unlike the vaccines, where the data of safety and effectiveness is as solid as a rock. (Well, maybe not quite that solid.)

      In God we trust. All others (FDA included) must bring data.

  12. All responses to Wuhan, including the “best” response (whatever that might have been), would have been determined arationally, if they were motivated by crowd behavior. Indeed, this is a problem which does not go away with a nobility: any nobility, being merely a subset of a larger group, would still have group dynamics which would allow for crowd or mob behavior to emerge. Technological advances have not only made this a possibility, but in some ways an inevitability, as we have all grown accustomed to carrying a crowd in our pocket.

  13. Jared says

    Leaving this here, because I feel like commenting on it, but don’t know where better to put it:

    I’ve mentioned Ian Frazer a couple times in comments on TWH; I’m not sure most people are aware of him, but he is a professor at the University of Queensland who was principally involved in the development of a HPV vaccine (and for that work was awarded Australian of the Year) some years ago. My wife studied bioinformatics at UQ, so I have been familiar with him and his work for some time.

    He has commented on SARS-CoV-2 numerous times over the past year and a half, and though I haven’t found that his comments have been well-disseminated, they have been remarkable to follow.

    From the beginning, Frazer seemed to take a relatively based line on all things COVID (perhaps “semi-based” is the correct term; not fully based, but maintaining what seemed to be a genuine air of scientific detachment, and any deviations from full basedness were surely at least reasonable and worthy of consideration at the time). Some of his initial commentary was leaked from a meeting with Sydney businessmen:

    [..] he told those at the talk that there were two viruses at play here: one was SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19; the other was panic and “the insanity surrounding it”.

    “We do not have nor will have anything practical to stop its spread probably for the next 6-12 months,” he said.

    That means no vaccine. That means no drug. By that stage, by Frazer’s reckoning, the virus will have run its course – or it will still be hanging around, like a bad smell, targeting the elderly and those with poor immune systems.

    Containment had to occur before the virus entered the country – and we now know that’s too late now.

    Professor Frazer’s plea was for a fact-based public education campaign that did not involve fighting in the toilet paper aisles or stealing sanitiser out of someone else’s trolley or a media obsession bordering on hysteria.

    In his view, we need to acknowledge that most of us will be exposed to it, and many, many, many will contract a mild version of it.

    His point is that the spread of COVID-19 is inevitable, but not deadly. This will not end the world.


    Shortly afterwards I saw him featured in a short interview with the Australian Academy of Sciences, where he summarised the threat in a manner that I believe broadly holds true today:

    The best evidence suggests that the majority of us over the course of the next two years will acquire infection with this virus. That does not mean that we will become ill with it. Indeed, the vast majority of people that get the virus infection do not seem to have any symptoms at all. But about 40% of people who get the virus will get a flu-like illness. Less than 1% of people who get the virus will end up with a serious complication requiring intensive care.


    In a way it’s very similar to the other viruses of the coronavirus family, which we know quite a lot about because we’ve been studying them for many years. Coronaviruses cause the common cold, and this is a virus, the new virus, which infects the airways in much the same way as the cold virus does. The difference is that for a very small percentage of people that get the infection it causes nasty inflammation in the lungs, which can be eventually serious or fatal if it goes on without control, but that’s a very rare complication of the infection.


    I’m omitting it for brevity, but he went on in the above interview to discuss what he believed were the positive merits of initial Swedish-style “social distancing,” the socially-damaging nature of the initial Wuhan-style lockdowns, and the likely timeline of the epidemic (about a year — crucially, he estimated the epidemic to end naturally prior to the development of effective vaccines).

    The next commentary I saw of his was in September of last year, in a short video posted by the European Patent Office. In this he discussed, very frankly, issues around vaccine development and the overall threat of SARS-CoV-2:

    The major reason [it’s difficult to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2] is that this is a virus which does most of its damage on the surface of the lining tissues inside your airways. That’s where coronaviruses like to reproduce. And the problem there is that the immune system is inside you, but the virus is doing damage on the surface of you. And our immune system tends to ignore things on the surface until they get really nasty and the virus gets inside of you. And coronavirus does most of its damage in the lung without having to get inside of you. It stirs up inflammation and causes a lot of cell death. And our body’s defences against infection tend to be weak in that area, they don’t do well. So if our own defences against infection don’t do well, a vaccine won’t likely do better.


    Most of [the vaccines that were in clinical trials at the time] seem to produce nice immune responses in animals. Maybe one of those will turn out to be an effective vaccine in humans. It will take a while to find out, because we will have to do trials in humans to show the vaccine is safe. Because there is also a track record of coronavirus vaccines making people get sicker when they are exposed to the virus [emphasis mine]. At least from the animal studies that were done with the previous coronavirus, there was a serious risk of making 1 in 100 people, or at least 1 in 100 animals that were infected with the virus, sicker by the fact that they’d been vaccinated beforehand. And if that were to happen in humans, that would be unacceptable, because only 1 in 100 people who get the COVID-19 virus get really sick with the infection. Most of us would just have something like the common cold. And if 1 in 100 people who get really sick with the natural infection, and 1 in 100 people got sick as a result of the vaccine, that wouldn’t really be a win.

    It will take a long time to prove that we have an effective vaccine. [..] best guess, if everything’s rushed through the system: 18 months. Less likely to happen that quickly, more likely to take a couple of years.


    I mean, the current COVID-19 infection is really not a terribly serious infection. It only kills 1 in 100 people. [..] I think we’re probably in a better position with COVID-19 than we realise.


    (N.b., I interpret his last off-the-cuff remark there as meaning that COVID-19, i.e. the onset of symptoms following a result of infection with SARS-CoV-2, kills 1 in 100 people. The unconditional IFR of SARS-CoV-2 is almost surely much lower.)

    He has given other interviews or commentary, but these are the most interesting ones that I recall seeing. And up to this point, I’d agreed with just about everything Professor Frazer had said, modulo perhaps some particulars on the merits of “social distancing” or what have you.

    But just yesterday I decided to check if he had made any more recent commentary, and what I found is a complete about-face. From a recent interview with 7 News Australia:

    Vaccination is the only way out of this for Australia. Once we get a substantial part of the population vaccinated, we will be able to go back to as near to the normal life that we used to live as we can. Until that happens, we’re going to go through this period of infection, lockdown, and all of the challenges that that faces.

    The data suggests very strongly that both vaccines are pretty much as effective as the other one. They protect the individual against getting seriously ill and ending up in a hospital. These vaccines do not stop you catching the infection, and they don’t stop you spreading it to other people, unfortunately, which is why it’s really important that we get everybody vaccinated, because the vaccine is a personal protection against the bad consequences against COVID-19 infection.


    [Everyone in Australia should get vaccinated as soon as they can.] In the meanwhile, follow the government’s advice, because it’s the only protection that we have against the infection.


    We don’t know which [vaccine] will give us the longest-term protection yet, that’s the one thing we’re not sure about, but since the virus is changing we’re probably going to need regular updates of vaccine and vaccination over time. So this year’s vaccine, like the flu vaccine, may not be next year’s vaccine, and we might have to get annual boosters in order to keep our immunity high. Which vaccine gives us the longest protection will be come evident with time, and then we might change our policy, but right at the moment we don’t have enough evidence to make any particular ruling except that the vaccines work.

    [The vaccines] have slightly different side effects, but the important thing to understand is that these side effects, the serious ones, are extremely rare. And now that we recognize them, we can spot them early and usually treat them effectively.

    It’s not too soon. I mean, you really need to get vaccinated now. The point is that you have to understand that if you’re expecting that everybody else will protect you through them being immunized, then you’re incorrect, because you will still be vulnerable and they will potentially still be infectious, even although they won’t get sick. So people have to understand that this is personal protection, and personal protection comes only through vaccination.


    I find those comments to be utterly mind-boggling. He has gone from pointing out, I believe correctly, that for most people SARS-CoV-2 is not a particularly serious concern, to claiming that vaccination is the “only way out of this,” where “this” is the grisly salad of lockdowns and such that everyone has gotten accustomed to, implied now to be necessary, and where the end goal for Australia is only something approximating life as it existed prior to March, 2020. Meanwhile, absent vaccination, following the government’s advice is supposedly “the only protection [Australians] have against the infection.”

    And what’s more, the bulletproof solution involves vaccines that he admits prevent neither infection nor transmission, and whose serious side effects are “extremely rare, but increasingly treatable.”

    To reuse a comment Charles made somewhere, I find this all to be literally unbelievable. It is not possible to hold the following ideas in one’s head simultaneously:

    1) COVID is of minimal concern to most people, who, if infected at all, will suffer neither serious nor even moderate illness. Complications are rare.

    2) Chinese-style lockdowns are unnecessary.

    3) This will probably be all over, naturally, within 1-2 years.

    4) It will take a minimum of 18 months (from September, 2020) to develop and evaluate the efficacy & safety of vaccines, at absolute top (“rushed”) speed. But this is very important, because coronavirus vaccines have a track record of making people more ill on subsequent exposure to coronaviruses.

    5) COVID is of such concern that every person should seek to be vaccinated as soon as they possibly can.

    6) If we don’t vaccinate enough people, this will never be over — we will be stuck in periodic, necessary Chinese-style lockdowns and flare-ups forever, as the government is the only entity that can protect us. What’s more, regardless of our near-term success, we will need to maintain a very high level of overall vaccination indefinitely.

    7) We know enough to state that the vaccines, all of which have been being distributed since about six months after September, 2020, are safe and effective. Side effects are rare, but increasingly treatable.

    N.b., the “complications are rare, but increasingly treatable” line is too much, because obviously the same is true for COVID itself, and has been so for some time.
    The efficacy of e.g. Ivermectin as a prophylactic and early treatment seems to be well-known at this point. Meanwhile, while both are small, for various demographics inoculation with certain vaccines e.g. AstraZeneca is presently believed to carry a higher risk than does COVID (, and the story may get worse if antibody-dependent disease enhancement turns out to be an issue (

    Anyway, since the above ideas are mutually contradictory and cannot be held simultaneously, why does Frazer seemingly hold them? Is it that he now feels that COVID is more dangerous than he understood it to be through September of last year? And if so, why? Because it certainly doesn’t seem that way to me. Not like I follow it closely these days, but it seems to me that nothing terribly interesting has been learned about COVID since the Diamond Princess, except perhaps that it’s seasonal, and that it’s even less of a concern to your average person than might initially have been surmised from that data.

    Frazer does not seem to be a stupid man, nor, unlike many others, one who was histrionic about all this from the beginning, so I find his recent commentary to be very strange. But then again, what hasn’t been strange about the last year-and-a-half..

    • Carlos Danger says

      Jared, that’s a very interesting post. Those comments by Ian Frazer do show an evolution of his views. But I don’t find his comments contradictory or mind-boggling. My own views have also evolved over the past 18 months, along similar lines. As did those, more famously, of Donald Trump.

      What we are all saying, I think, is that vaccines will hasten the end of the epidemic. Children should not be vaccinated in most cases — there’s no need. But adults should so that they may move from the “susceptible” group to the “recovered” group in the SIR model quickly and safely without ever being in the “infected” group. Enough do that and, together with those who did become infected and recovered, the population has herd immunity and the epidemic ends.

      Those with interest may want to look at this 2001 website explaining the math behind this basic SIR model, which was based initially on William Farr’s 1840 paper and has been confirmed in the real world over the years:

      Drugs like ivermectin may help a little in safely getting to herd immunity, and maybe even (though I doubt it) masks, but those kind of interventions are nothing like the vaccines we are so lucky to have. I echo Ian Frazer’s and Donald Trump’s encouragement: Let’s all get vaccinated, end this epidemic, and get back to our normal lives. Let’s do it now.

      • Jared says


        Those comments by Ian Frazer do show an evolution of his views. But I don’t find his comments contradictory or mind-boggling. My own views have also evolved over the past 18 months, along similar lines.

        His later comments can’t be reconciled with his earlier comments unless his views on the nature of COVID or vaccine development have changed. And if that’s the case, fine, I’d be interested in hearing them, but I haven’t seen anything in the data myself that would lead to such a dramatic change of opinion. Thus, boggling.

        What we are all saying, I think, is that vaccines will hasten the end of the epidemic. Children should not be vaccinated in most cases — there’s no need. But adults should so that they may move from the “susceptible” group to the “recovered” group in the SIR model quickly and safely without ever being in the “infected” group. Enough do that and, together with those who did become infected and recovered, the population has herd immunity and the epidemic ends.

        I take issue with everything you’ve said here, but crucially: by what mechanism could these vaccines — which, per Frazer, do not confer immunity, nor prevent transmission, but (at best, for now) decrease the incidence of severe symptoms in at-risk populations — hasten the end of the epidemic? Even under the simplified mechanics of the SIR model: surely something that neither confers immunity nor prevents transmission can move individuals directly from the S category to R?

        Departing from the SIR model, the only argument I can think of would be to assert that infected vaccinated people, being less prone to severe symptoms, tended to be less contagious (not hacking and wheezing on people in public and such), and that this would thus decrease the viral reproduction number or something. But this seems very unlikely, since it is severe, not mild, symptoms that the vaccines seem to be particularly capable of preventing, which would occur well after any period of serious contagion anyway, and it’s further not clear that increasing vaccination levels would do any better than trying to have people follow the common-sense approach of staying home if they get sick.

        Absent an effective capability to prevent infection and transmission, Frazer’s argument for the vaccines went “if you’re relying on other people to protect you, you’re incorrect, because you’ll still be vulnerable” but who in the world is avoiding vaccination because they expect other people to protect them? I would say that, sensibly, those who are uninterested in vaccination perceive the disease as posing minuscule risk to themselves (or otherwise don’t care about getting it) and suspect that getting vaccinated isn’t going to (directly, i.e. epidemiologically) help anyone else either.

        Let’s all get vaccinated, end this epidemic, and get back to our normal lives. Let’s do it now.

        Things seem to have broadly gotten back to normal in e.g. Florida, Texas, South Dakota, and Nevada, and this of course has nothing to do with vaccination rates. Meanwhile in other places with very high vaccination rates, many restrictions persist. By “the epidemic” I can only thus understand that you mean “the restrictions on normal life,” which, wherever they are, are independent of the present circulation of any virus.

        • Eugene says

          Without further getting bogged down in this discussion, I will just note that I agree with everything Jared has said, and especially the concluding remark in his last comment. The restrictions stemming from the virus are largely political and societal; they were not inevitable, and our empirical experience, as well as pre-Covid pandemic planning, is very clear on that point. That was my position originally in the spring of 2020, and all the events that have taken place since have only reinforced it. If anything, I am more open to conspiracy theories than I ever thought I would be (we’re obviously not talking the 5G-causes-Covid variety).

          As long as the public continues to believe that restrictions are necessary to deal with Covid, we may well have to live with restrictions permanently, vaccines or no vaccines — and even if the existing restrictions go away, a very bad precedent has been set, so they will likely come back, in one form or another, if only to deal with other emergencies.

          • Charles Haywood says

            I agree with Eugene here. Nothing material has changed in my opinion about the Plague since around April 2020. My only change is that I now reject taking the vaccine, because of what Alex Kaschuta called “the Jonestown vibe.”

            We will find out in the next four weeks or so if it is true that the vaccine (which perhaps should not be called that) has rapidly decreasing efficacy, which some evidence suggests is the case. (We will find out because it’s probably impossible to hide–Facui and his ilk would lie to us, but evidence from other countries prevents that). If that’s true, it’s going to be interesting.

            And for the record, nothing against this discussion (which I encourage), but I thought we could stop talking about the Plague, and here we are, still focusing on it! I’m not sure what this says, exactly, but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing good about our society. But then, that’s always my conclusion.

          • Carlos Danger says

            Eugene, well said. But what’s the connection between vaccination and restrictions? I agree that the restrictions to fight Covid have done more harm than good. That the cure has been worse than the disease. Disagreeing with you, though, I still think that we should all get vaccinated and end the epidemic now.

            Are my positions contradictory? Or are the two questions, to use the hoity-toity term, orthogonal?

          • Jared says

            Jared, the vaccines do confer immunity.

            Note that I specifically said “per Frazer,” referring to his commentary that they don’t. Perhaps he was speaking in an intentionally dumbed-down fashion in this interview (very likely), or was referring to the fact that, IIRC, trials were focused on measuring risk reduction in terms of serious complications, rather than infection.

            For what it’s worth, I believe that the vaccines probably do confer some limited immunity for some time — I noted the following Israeli statistics, for example:


            Some British statistics I saw looked similar, though maybe slightly worse.

          • Carlos Danger says

            Jared, thanks for the correction. I had misunderstood your comment.

          • Carlos Danger says

            Jared, I read your comments (and Eugene’s and Charles’s) more carefully. My apologies. You are right. My response was superficial. I glossed over the points you were making without ever responding to them.

            Let me see if I understand your argument now. I will put it in terms of the SIR model.

            1. Ian Frazer said that Covid-19 is not a particularly dangerous disease. As the disease spreads through the population it will infect people, giving them natural immunity, and move them from the susceptible to the recovered group. When enough people have moved, we will have herd immunity. That will take about 1 to 2 years to happen.

            2. Ian Frazer said that vaccines will probably not help much. They will not be developed in time and they will not give immunity that will move people from the susceptible to the recovered group the same way as infection will. In addition, the vaccines may pose more of a risk than getting immunity naturally.

            3. Ian Frazer now says that everyone should get vaccinated, and re-vaccinated.

            4. That boggles your mind because 3 contradicts 1 and 2. Why did he change his views? Especially since the data we have increasingly shows 1 and 2 to be correct, and to contradict 3.

            Do I have that about right?

  14. Carlos Danger says

    Interesting comments about the epidemic and immunity. I’d like to respond, but having been chastised (lightly) by our host, I’ll not. I think Charles is right — we could talk about this forever in this forum and not get anywhere.

    This is a topic best addressed by getting together in a room with a whiteboard and some pens and erasers. Really, if possible, but virtually if not. Sometimes even that is not enough, but I think it would be here. The science behind this epidemic is fascinating — not Fauci’s faux science, but real science — and seeing science play out in real life every day is a rare treat.

    Climate change is another topic where we see science play out in real life. Tom Chivers at UnHerd wrote a column today on Stephen Koonin’s book Unsettled. In his column, Tom Chivers compares the epidemic to climate change, noting that models of both have to be interpreted carefully.

    I agree. Modeling complex systems is my area of expertise. (Though Stephen Koonin is much better than me.) With both the epidemic and with climate, I think the models can help us figure out what to do. But what do you do when people don’t understand how models work, and jump to conclusions based on the models as if they represented reality instead of a simplified version of it?

    I’m reading Le Bon’s The Crowd now (guided by Charles’s excellent review) and one sentence just read stood out for me: “Ideas, sentiments, emotions, and beliefs possess in crowds a contagious power as intense as that of microbes.” We really are seeing that happen both with the virus and with climate change. Both are epidemics of unfounded ideas. And what is the cure for that?

    • Charles Haywood says

      Well put, Carlos Danger–but no “chastisement” here!

      • Eugene says

        Carlos Danger,

        There is a direct connection between restrictions and the vaccines. Essentially — and this became obvious within weeks of the announcement that vaccines had been found, which is why I greeted the news with mixed feelings — any return to normality is contingent on a successful vaccine uptake on the part of the population; there can be no normal life if the majority of the population is not vaccinated. This is just wrong — not in my opinion, but generally wrong, since humanity has navigated pandemics that were far worse. Governments are effectively blackmailing their citizens whose interests the former are supposed to serve, and the latter don’t even realize it.

        The corollary of this is that, should the vaccines prove to be ineffective (I believe the Israeli PM has said the vaccine is not as effective against the Delta variant as was previously thought), we will be back in the same situation in which we were before the discovery of the vaccines — lockdowns, etc.

        Moreover, it is increasingly clear that the vaccines are the new masks, with the “no jab, no service” now being acceptable terms of service. Recent measures taken by the governments of France and Israel introduce sweeping restrictions on the unvaccinated (which is somehow worse than total restrictions, since targeted restrictions in this case are discriminatory in nature and normalize segregation along medical lines), and a successful implementation of vaccine passports, if it takes place, will make it likely that restrictions on the unvaccinated may become permanent.

        As for the need for people to get vaccinated, it is perfectly fine for us to be in disagreement. I think we agree on the essential: vaccine coercion is unacceptable, and a Covid-19 vaccine should be a personal choice.

        • Carlos Danger says

          Eugene, I meant something different by saying the restrictions and the vaccines are orthogonal issues.

          Look at it this way. We are in an epidemic. That means that new cases of Covid-19 are increasing exponentially. We have a vaccine that we know from randomized controlled trials and other scientific evidence is safe and effective in preventing Covid-19. We know from the SIR model–proven to reliably predict the course of every epidemic in human history–that the more the vaccine is used, the quicker and more safely the epidemic will end. Covid-19 will become endemic rather than epidemic, letting life return to normal.

          That’s the vaccine analysis. Now let’s consider restrictions. Let’s make assumptions about restrictions rather than look at what restrictions are really being imposed. Let’s assume first that the government is imposing no restrictions at all. Does that assumption affect the vaccine analysis? No, that analysis does not change. Now let’s assume that the government is imposing draconian restrictions, requiring masks at all times and imposing endless lockdowns. Does that assumption affect the vaccine analysis? No, that analysis does not change.

          The reverse is also true. Governments around the world have tried various non-vaccine restrictions to try to end the epidemic. Among them are mask mandates, lockdowns, social distancing guidelines, encouragement to wash hands, and bans on gatherings. In theory, those measures might help, but there is no scientific evidence showing that they do.

          That’s the restrictions analysis. Now let’s consider the vaccine. Let’s assume first that no vaccine is available. Does that assumption affect the restrictions analysis? No. Now let’s assume that a safe and effective vaccine is available. Does that assumption affect the restrictions analysis? No.

          That’s what I mean when I say the two questions are orthogonal. When discussing whether one should get a vaccine, I don’t think the question of whether the government is imposing harmful restrictions matters.

          • Eugene says

            Carlos Danger,

            I understand what you mean, and I would have no objections were it not for two things:

            1. We do not have full clarity with respect to either safety or efficacy insofar as the vaccines are concerned. I am sorry, but at the present moment we just don’t.

            2. The very parties that are pushing the vaccines, praising their safety and efficacy, seem to be doing everything they can to ensure the vaccines and restrictions are anything but orthogonal.

          • Carlos Danger says

            Eugene, thank you for the response. It helped me realize that I may be diseased.

            How so? I quoted above from Le Bon’s book The Crowd the following sentence “Ideas, sentiments, emotions, and beliefs possess in crowds a contagious power as intense as that of microbes.”

            If so, I seem to have caught the vaccine mania bug. I must have gotten it from Tony Fauci or Rochelle Walensky. Symptoms include force feeding faux facts to the uninfected like a French farmer forces grain down the throat of a duck to make foie gras, and (figuratively, at least) chasing the uninfected around with a hypodermic needle trying to cajole, convince or compel them to let the vaccine be jabbed into their shoulder.

            Knowing that I am sick, I will now rest quietly until I have recovered. It may take awhile. It’s a vicious disease.

  15. Eugene says

    Carlos Danger, I wouldn’t want you to walk away from this exchange feeling deceased! You are a perfect gentleman, and it’s always a pleasure to discuss things with you.

    • Carlos Danger says

      Eugene, thanks for your kind comment. I’m just walking away from this exchange until I get my facts straight. My unofficial motto has always been “In God we trust. All others must bring data.” But in this case I took fudged data to be true, without checking, and then lectured people based on that fudged data. I’m embarrassed by my lapse.

      Not that data always gives us answers. Data is always incomplete, always hard to interpret. On Covid-19 vaccines, for example, the data can support both the view that one should get a vaccine and the view that one shouldn’t. Either case can be made citing valid data.

      This data conundrum is not new. It’s commonplace in science. A good example is the battle over whether cigarette smoking causes lung cancer. Ronald Fisher thought that it did not. A.B. Hill and Richard Doll thought that it did. The latter two turned out to be right.

      (A website called Priceonomics has an excellent article on this story at And I love the motto of that website: “In Data We Trust”.)

      One key difference in approach between Ronald Fisher and the A.B. Hill and Richard Doll team was how open they were to where the data took them.

      Ronald Fisher held strong political views. A commentator later wrote: “Fisher was a political conservative and an elitist. . . . Fisher was upset by the public health response to the dangers of smoking not only because he felt that the supporting data were weak, but also due to his holding certain ideological objections to mass public health campaigns.” He didn’t think the government should be telling people not to smoke. That should be a personal decision.

      A.B. Hill and Richard Doll seemed not as biased by their beliefs. Richard Doll later said “I personally thought it was tarring of the roads” that caused lung cancer. But as the data came in, even though it was far from conclusive, his mind began to change. Richard Doll drolly added, “I gave up smoking two-thirds of the way though the study.”

      Not that Ronald Fisher didn’t live up to his view of the data too—he smoked a pipe until the day he died (of colon cancer, not lung). But Ronald Fisher stood firm in a view that the facts were steadily eroding. He just didn’t face the facts. Yet we know, now, that he was dead wrong.

      • Carlos,

        I for one don’t see anywhere that you went wrong or didn’t have your facts straight. Can you point out where you think you erred? Ideologues always disregard data/information that doesn’t fit their Kantian grid.

        • Carlos Danger says

          CW, I still feel that the facts support everyone getting vaccinated. But I was too optimistic about the effectiveness of the vaccines. I blithely thought, for instance, that due to the vaccines the pandemic was over in my area in California. It’s not.

          • Thanks, Carlos. Sounds like its an excellent reminder that “scientific” knowledge is provisional, and as conditions change we should update both our understanding and our priors. The alternative is having our understanding and priors determined by ideology, which is mostly what I see in discussions around vaccines and covid (and many other contemporary topics).

            The main elements of vaccines/safety haven’t changed since the beginning of the year, as far as I can tell:

            1. The vaccines have a relatively good safety profile – though serious side effects do occur. Particularly allergic anaphylaxis, myocarditis, and blood clots with the adenovirus vaccines. The myocarditis occurs about an order of magnitude less frequently from vaccination than from a covid infection.
            2. The vaccines are quite effective (at preventing symptomatic illness) against the pathogen they were tested against. There was always the possibility vaccines would be less effective against viral variants.

            Now we have new information and we can add three more elements:
            3. Protection provided by the vaccine is likely less effective than from a natural infection and, at least against the delta variant, seems to have reduced effectiveness against contracting an infection.
            4. Vaccines are less effective at preventing infection by the delta variant. They likely provide between 40 and 65% protection against infection 6-8 months after vaccination.
            5. mRNA vaccines, and possibly adenovirus vaccines, provide protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death for at least 8 months after administration.

            I don’t see where your core reasoning was far from that, although it appears that the inferences you made based on the facts were overly optimistic.

            On a side note – it has been odd to me to see a lot of people concerned about excess “safetyism” with regard to mask mandates, lockdowns, economic restrictions etc. (Full disclosure: I’m one of them, I think we have elevated safety in public discourse/public choice to an unhealthy degree) who are now constantly spreading fear about the safety of a vaccine that is far safer that a covid infection. It all smacks of a purity/disgust response that is pre-rational.

          • Carlos Danger says

            CW, your summary of the facts is spot on. The vaccines work, and work well, but not well enough to be a panacea that will end the epidemic as I had hoped and, naively, predicted.

            Still, as you point out, promoting the vaccines is not the safetyism of mask mandates, lockdowns, and the like. Instead, solid science supports the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines for teens and adults. That many refuse the vaccines is (in my view) unfortunate. Very unfortunate.

            But understandable. In a crowd, as Gustave La Bon put it, there is an “intensification of emotion” and an “inhibition of intellect”. Politics, prejudices, gut feelings, and “expert” opinion (guesses, really) take over and drive decisions.

            Science takes time for rational thinking and experimentation, and in the panic of a pandemic we don’t have time or reason. That’s just the way the world works. It’s interesting to see that play out in real time.

            And too in this epidemic we can observe our world as a scientific experiment where a pathogen spreads and evolves among us. That’s a rare chance. In particular, scientists have been tracking variants of the coronavirus using genetic sequencing, and that lets us see evolution in action. We’ve never been able to do that before.

            What’s exciting to me is that the evolution we see is not Darwinian. Here was a chance for us to see the random mutations and and natural selection of gradual (“natura non facit saltus”) Darwinian evolution occur before our eyes. Instead, we see variants appear suddenly out of nowhere, as if “there’s [genetic] sequence dropping in from outer space”.

            Where did these variants come from? Not from random mutations. Not from natural selection. Not gradually over time, but in one leap. Sophisticated genetic engineering happened to create these variants, but who or what did the engineering? No one can explain it.


          • “What’s exciting to me is that the evolution we see is not Darwinian. Here was a chance for us to see the random mutations and and natural selection of gradual (“natura non facit saltus”) Darwinian evolution occur before our eyes. Instead, we see variants appear suddenly out of nowhere, as if “there’s [genetic] sequence dropping in from outer space”.

            Where did these variants come from? Not from random mutations. Not from natural selection. Not gradually over time, but in one leap. Sophisticated genetic engineering happened to create these variants, but who or what did the engineering? No one can explain it.”

            I’m far from an expert in genetics, but I don’t think this is correct. We talk about variants, but there are actually several lineages with many states of mutation along a continuum. We have to remember that there have been hundreds of millions of infection years with covid already, it has had a huge amount of virus time to change and mutate, and most of the mutations are quite modest. We have only been talking about a few variants, but there are many more:

            Also, see discussion of covid evolution here:

            We also have to remember that very few infections are sequenced. There are rapid tests to determine which “variant of concern” people have, based on a short signature. But they won’t identify gradual genetic changes, and most people world wide have not been tested at all. It isn’t surprising to me that there are a number of interrelated genetic changes by the time a new variants has “emerged.”

          • Carlos Danger says

            CW, one might expect there to be “several lineages [of the coronavirus] with many states of mutation along a continuum”, as that is what Charles Darwin’s theory posits. That reflects the axiom Gottfried Leibniz relied on as a co-founder of calculus: “natura non facit saltus” (“nature makes no leaps”). Charles Darwin cited that same axiom in his tome Origin of Species.

            Charles Darwin also said,

            “Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps.”


            “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

            As a model, neo-Darwinian evolution depends on successive modifications. A mutation slight enough to be caused by a random copying error occurs. That mutation improves the fitness of the organism enough that it becomes fixed in a population by natural selection. Then a new random mutation builds on that. And so on. A continuum, as you say.

            But do we see this continuum in the evolution of the coronavirus? No. The variants we see aren’t built on each other. They sometimes share the same mutations, but those mutations don’t come from a common ancestor. The mutations in the variants seem to pop up out of nowhere.

            Take the delta variant, for example. Genetic sequencing shows that it has at least 13 significant mutations in the 30,000 base pairs in its genome.

            To think that that many mutations happened randomly at one time is fanciful. But as far as we can tell the delta variant’s ancestor was the original form of the virus, not a mutation. No intermediaries have been found.

            I take your point that those intermediaries might exist but were not detected. But is that reasonable to assume? The coronavirus continues to circulate in its original form. It is very stable, randomly mutating relatively rarely. A variant with many mutations suddenly appears and spreads rapidly, but it too is very stable, rarely mutating.

            The variant is a discontinuity in what is otherwise continuous, slow, random mutation. If there were a continuum, there would be some evidence of intermediaries. There isn’t.

            That’s not unexpected. The coronavirus is unusual among RNA viruses in that it has a strong error-checking system to catch random mutations. Scientists speculate that the mutations causing the variants come from a single horizontal gene transfer rather than accumulated random mutations, and that makes sense.

            But where do the transferred genes come from? That’s the problem. And no one has any answer.

            I quoted Nels Elde, an evolutionary geneticist at that University of Utah, as saying it looked like the genes dropped in from outer space. He was joking (I think), but that’s as good an explanation as any. Francis Crick thought that’s where DNA might have come from. Fred Hoyle did too. I still see papers on that panspermia theory. (

            I think that theory is wacky. But what we are seeing from the evolution of the coronavirus into variants cannot be explained by orthodox evolutionary theory. Charles Darwin needs to be thrown under the bus and we need to pay more attention to James Shapiro, author of Evolution: A View from the 21st Century (a book boring and fascinating at the same time).

            To me, the theory of evolution is the most exciting area of science. And seeing the evolution of the coronavirus in real time gives us more to guide our thinking than I ever expected it would.

          • Carlos,

            Thanks for the continued interaction. Interesting stuff, I will look into it more. I don’t think a small scale “punctuated equilibrium” to use an out of favor Gouldian term is any trouble to explain given the ordinary instability of mutated forms and given the tiny amount of measurement vs. the amount of virus. But I’m not speaking from deep knowledge here.

            BTW, on Panspermia/Cosmic Ancestry I’m familiar with the stuff being pushed by Hoyle’s student Chandra Wickramasinghe and his students. I think they are mostly crackpots (Cephalopods are unrelated to other earth life?!) but sometimes interesting.

          • Carlos Danger says


            Thank you for your perceptive comments on my off-topic rantings on a subject I find fascinating but few others do, particularly after I buttonhole them about it until their eyes glaze over. You’ve been patient and your responses perceptive.

            I may write an article about neo-Darwinian evolution and the coronavirus variants and post it somewhere. I’ve been simplistic but bombastic in my comments here and the topic deserves more careful treatment, just as the points you raised deserve a better response.

            (Good point about “punctuated equilibrium”, as that’s just what I am talking about. Though I consider punctuated equilibrium to be pretty mainstream now and more Eldredgian than Gouldian.)

            (And wacko is right for Chandra Wickramasinghe. Did you see the theory of him and others that the entire Covid-19 virus literally did come from outer space on a meteorite that struck northeast China on October 11, 2019, viral debris and particles from which rained down on Wuhan a month to six weeks later and then fell across the globe?

  16. Eugene says

    P.S. I meant “diseased” and not “deceased”!

  17. goodlander says

    To my own triangulation of the facts in this terrible polluted information space there is not much to worry about with the plague nor the vaccines. Probably the plague is riskier than the vaccine but:

    1) Refusing the vaccine is easier.
    2) You can contribute to NPR-fed ghouls living in a state of permanent fear.

    So the decision pretty much makes itself.

  18. Hi Charles,

    Not (directly) related to Gustave Le Bon, or your review but tangentially touching upon the same subjects, I would like to post a link here to my own review of Jeremy Black’s France, a Short History, if you will allow me.

    Mr. Black’s book is an excellent concise overview of France (that’s my review in a nutshell).

    But I touch in the review on the question of epidemics (Honk Kong and Asian flu) and also France’s history of famines and how such events have been treated very differently as we moved into the modern era, of crowds and raised awareness.

    It is interesting to note that as we moved into the era of these mass crowds (literacy/enhanced propaganda and media reach), starting with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, famines and pestilence have become less excusable and also ways for the state to further its reach (and people also expect this, taking it as a given, just as the socialisation of children is no longer the responsibility of parents but is largely carried out by schools, the media and the children’s peers–social control can be a two way street, or as Napoleon put it: ‘the people do not detest their leg irons, as long as they are gilded’).

    An example of this is the poverty and food shortages that fanned the flames of the Revolution, but these phenomena were much worse in earlier years, but such events were mostly ignored and certainly not blamed on the king (who was not held responsible for Acts of God).

    A case in point is the famine of 1692, that caused no huge amount of animus directed at Louis XIV and is today almost forgotten…although it cost the lives of more than a million Frenchmen (out of a total population of just twenty million at the time).

    The Map is not the Terroir/a review of Jeremy Black’s France, a Short History:

  19. agent00F says

    “recently the made-up threat of the new “Delta variant,””

    This statement followed up with a lot of words none of which can be considered STEM/quantitative evaluation of merits perfectly exemplifies the popular mind, where anyone’s opinion (particular one’s own) is considered at least equal if not superior to actual technical expertise.

    “Superior” because it’s said with the kind of confidence nobody with any appreciation of statistical measurement of empirical reality etc can ever carry.

    The number of death in this country is an objective assessment of where leadership & followership via this populist mentality result, but again the popular mind will confidently ignore simple factual reality for whatever it chooses to believe instead.

    • Charles Haywood says

      What words are those? I could easily prove anything I say about a scientific matter with quantitative analysis, unlike nearly 100% of the official line (and did to some extent in my Brawndo Tyranny piece), but that is not the point of this particular piece. The point is that proof is pointless when faced with crowd (and other; see “The Apple and the Arrow”) behavior.

      The death toll is (a) exaggerated, as I know directly from personal experience; and (b) not remotely an “objective assessment” otherwise, because key facts (e.g., that the vast majority of those dead would have died very soon anyway, and that 80% were fat, both showing that many people have almost nothing to fear) are deliberately concealed and lied about). “Simple factual reality” is the exact opposite of the truth.

  20. agent00F says

    > The point is that proof is pointless when faced with crowd (and other; see “The Apple and the Arrow”) behavior.

    Of course, as abundantly evident with the masses who can’t read the relevant scientific lit to save their life, yet seem absolutely certain nonetheless despite views contradictory to said lit.

    > e.g., that the vast majority of those dead would have died very soon anyway, and that 80% were fat, both showing that many people have almost nothing to fear

    It’s true that much of the deceased were old, and overweight as americans esp in that demographic often are. But it’s also true, and frankly christian, to judge a society based on how well it protects its weak & vulnerable.

    • Charles Haywood says

      1) As has actually been proven by studies, those skeptical of the official line do, in fact, study the relevant studies. A supercilious response such as yours is no response at all.

      2) This response is an attempt to dodge the point; I forget which logical fallacy this is, or can’t be bothered to remember, for the losing side to change the topic to one’s supposed moral superiority on an unrelated, but plausibly associated, moral axis. If we wanted to “protect the weak and vulnerable,” we would have done essentially nothing that we did do. (Sweden did, with some success, but started late and thus their actions were incomplete in this area.)

    • Charles Haywood says

      Thanks. My OED begs to differ. “adv. and conj. . . . In any way, in any respect, at all.” Or, more applicable here, as dialect (I would say colloquial), “In any case, at all events, anyhow.” Cite is to Dickens.

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