I mean, really, the Republicans hate evolution so much they’ll kill everyone out of spite

If you’re looking for some fun summer beach reading, I can’t recommend this article, The origins and potential future of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a summary of the past year of the pandemic.

One year into the global COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of attention has shifted to the emergence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs). After nearly a year of the pandemic with little evolutionary change affecting human health, several variants have now been shown to have substantial detrimental effects on transmission and severity of the virus. Public health officials, medical practitioners, scientists, and the broader community have since been scrambling to understand what these variants mean for diagnosis, treatment, and the control of the pandemic through nonpharmaceutical interventions and vaccines. Here we explore the evolutionary processes that are involved in the emergence of new variants, what we can expect in terms of the future emergence of VOCs, and what we can do to minimise their impact.

Oh, right, I really don’t want to hear about how “several variants have now been shown to have substantial detrimental effects on transmission and severity of the virus”, but they do, and it’s a worry. Here, for example:

So the reassuring (and unsurprising) fact is that the virus isn’t really being selected directly for lethality. Doesn’t that make you feel better? All the virus ‘cares’ about is increasing the number of viruses, of increasing the viral load, and it could do that by having milder effects on their host. The B.1.1.7 variant isn’t doing that. It is increasing the load in your cells with no ameliorating mutations, and so is having more severe effects.

In case you were wondering, B.1.1.7 is going by the common name of the Alpha variant. It’s not nice. At the end of that excerpt, it says a bit about the B.1.167.2 variant, which is even nastier, with 64% greater transmissibility. You probably know it better as the Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in the US.

You know there are also Beta, Kappa, Theta, and Zeta variants, right? I can’t keep track of them all. I guarantee that more will be arising. Isn’t evolution amazing? If only we lived in a country where the power of evolution was appreciated.

The article tries to be encouraging in its conclusion.

As COVID-19 transitions from a pandemic to an endemic disease, VOCs present new global challenges to health by virtue of increased transmissibility and virulence and evasion of natural and vaccine-induced immunity. In this article we have explored the selective forces that shape how VOCs emerge and become established. We also identify possible steps that we can take to limit their emergence and, when they do arise, their impact. Moving forward, we must also consider how SARS-CoV-2 transmits to and amongst other animal species, placing both them and us at further risk. It will therefore be important to adopt a multidisciplinary One Health approach for future pandemic management that accounts for the interrelated nature of human, animal, and ecosystem health.

Oh, good, steps to limit the emergence and impact of variants…[quickly flips back a few pages to see what those are].

More broadly, we can reduce the rate of emergence of new VOCs and slow the spread of existing ones by reducing overall case numbers through vaccination at a global scale and by maintaining or enhancing the non-pharmaceutical interventions that have contributed to controlling the pandemic (case detection and isolation, contact tracing and quarantine, masking and personal distancing, and improved ventilation). Having low case numbers makes it easier to test and genotype a high fraction of cases and increases the efficacy of contact tracing measures to stop onward transmission. Furthermore, mathematical models predict that measures that reduce contact rates with susceptible individuals will not only slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 overall but will also reduce the relative advantage of variants that have a transmission advantage. Thus, the measures taken to reduce contacts and limit the number of COVID-19 cases may have the added benefit of slowing the rate at which VOCs with a transmission advantage overtake the wildtype. This predicted pattern, with selection weakening as stringency measures are increased, appears to be borne out in data for B.1.1.7 from England and British Columbia.

So, all we need to do is vaccinate everyone, keep wearing masks and maintain social distancing…how is that working out for you, America? It’s basic stuff, it’s all within our reach, but it’s Republican policy to deny every one of those actions. Keep it in mind that their policies aren’t just killing their constituents, they’re also increasing the likelihood of new variants that will harm non-Republicans, even in Democratic states, and even in foreign countries that want nothing to do with our contemptible politics.

To be fair, I shouldn’t blame only Republicans. My university is opening up in the fall with no vaccination requirement, and is debating reducing the social distancing requirement.


  1. raven says

    When the Covid-19 virus first emerged, I thought of the irony.
    Where did it come from?

    It evolved from an animal virus.
    Since then, we’ve watched it evolve in Real Time to become more infectious and probably more lethal.

    While we are watching evolution happening with this virus, a large segment of the US population doesn’t even believe in evolution. Evolution happens and it doesn’t care what you believe.

  2. Artor says

    “To be fair, I shouldn’t blame only Republicans. My university is opening up in the fall with no vaccination requirement, and is debating reducing the social distancing requirement.”

    Are you sure, PZ? Who is responsible for that decision? Is Morris run by a board of regents? A president or dean? I’ll bet you $20 they vote Republican.

  3. dorght says

    Living in Missouri I’m observing the increasing social pressure to not wear a mask. Less and less people are. Surely all those mask-less people are also fully vaccinated as suggested! Yeah, bullshit.
    Used to be I was wearing a mask equally not to catch it and not to spread it to others. Now I feel like fk them, I’m going to protect myself and not bring it to home to infect family. If Delta gets worse here in the St. Louis area (vs current rural outbreak) I’ll go back to wearing safety glasses too. And yes, I’m fully vaccinated but really a 6% chance of catching and spreading it is still to high.

  4. hemidactylus says

    Though fully vaccinated I haven’t gotten the courage yet to stop wearing a mask and protective eyewear at work or in public places.

    And this: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/13/coronavirus-delta-variant-nevada-outbreak-health-workers

    “Eleven workers at the Sunrise hospital and medical center, only one of whom was unvaccinated, tested positive for coronavirus after attending a party in early June, hospital officials confirmed to the Guardian.

    None of the workers infected were hospitalized, nor were there any fatalities.”

    So yeah. Still masked with eyewear. Fuck social pressures!

  5. hemidactylus says

    And copypasting myself from Discord:

    Am I reading the sit rep wrong but is the current GOP strategy for their own misinformed base to not get vaccinated and to serve as plague rats and possibly die so Biden fails his objective to have a much higher percentage of people vaccinated and turn the tide on COVID? He may have been a horrible person, but I don’t know that Lee Atwater would have pushed such a sociopathic agenda.


    Own the libs (cough, cough, croak).


    “On day two of the conference, Saturday, journalist and writer Alex Berenson — an outspoken anti-vaccination advocate — discussed a lack of vaccinations in the U.S., earning cheers from the crowd.

    “(The government) was hoping they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated, and it isn’t happening,” he said.

    Other speakers also attacked vaccines, and Fauci, including Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who painted America’s vaccination initiatives as governmental overreach.

    “We’re here to tell government … don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie,” Boebert said.”


  6. garnetstar says

    Good for the above posters who are staying masked. Me too. You’re right that it’s just too high a chance.

    And, @6, yes, I really think that one of the republicans goals is to keep Biden’s vax program from succeeding. They think that mass deaths and illness and overwhelmed medical facilities will help them in the election. They are that sociopathic.

    But, Biden isn’t going to be hurt politically by all that! His voters really appreciate the vaccines, and give him the credit for the roll-out. The people ravaged by Delta will be a lot of MAGAs, and their families might be so distressed by severe illness, hospital bills, and funerals, that even they want a change. This strategy of killing MAGAs may backfire.

    I’m hoping for a very quick and complete burn of Delta through the US. Most of we vaxxed will not get very sick (some deaths, though!), and perhaps then we might get a respite. If Delta can just move fast enough, almost everyone will soon be vaxxed, temporarily immune from getting over Delta, or dead. Then we could get a bit of a breather.

    Just a hope.

  7. Timo Kaaarp says

    @#3 The Vicar. The article shows Biden trying to tackle death by gun in addition to his work on reducing death by Covid.

    Will the Republicans vote with Biden to ensure he can ameliorate both of these tragic and mostly self-inflicted pandemics?

    No. They won’t. They will let many, many Americans die before countenancing acting like actual servents of the American public.

    Even if Biden isn’t the best option, he’s still a significant step up from the worst.

  8. tacitus says

    To be fair, I shouldn’t blame only Republicans. My university is opening up in the fall with no vaccination requirement, and is debating reducing the social distancing requirement.

    They should look at how the Delta variant spread like wildfire through British university campuses like Durham and Oxford. Any policy decisions they take now not to require vaccines, masks, or distancing are going to be overtaken by events within the next few weeks.

  9. tacitus says

    @1:raven While we are watching evolution happening with this virus, a large segment of the US population doesn’t even believe in evolution.

    That’s microevolution. They already believe in that. They’re waiting for the the virus to turn into a dog.

  10. robro says

    In case you’re keeping score, here’s a list of variants as compiled on Wikipedia: four “Variants of Concern”, four “Variants of Interest”, and three former “Variants of Interest.”

    While I’m a bit more relaxed being fully vaccinated, I’m still using my mask, skipping social events that I would love to attend, and avoiding crowded venues. It just makes sense.

  11. Bruce says

    Now that Canada grabbed all the kid-killing headlines, the U of Minnesota wants to play catch up and win with more kid deaths from THIS year. Needless and painful deaths for the loco parentis win. Take that, Canada-huggers. We’re number one.

  12. Jazzlet says

    I had a small operation last Friday, the hospital was certainly taking Delta variant seriously, I had a PCR test on the Monday and then had to quarrantine until I went into the hospital on Friday morning. The staff wanted to be doing their normal jobs, but weren’t at all sure how long they could continue to do operations with the way the Delta variant is running willd in the UK. Understandably they feared that they’d all be back caring for COVID patients in the near future.

  13. tacitus says

    Hospitals in Missouri are already reopening their coronavirus wards, with some seeing a tripling of their intake in the last few days. Delta is currently estimated to be causing around 58% of cases. It took about three weeks for Delta to go from 50% to 99.8% of cases in the UK.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Delta wave peaking at or above the maximum caseload of the previous wave, despite nearly half the population being vaccinated. The UK is ahead of us with vaccines and the Delta variant is closing in on their January peak in record time.

    A lot of unvaccinated people are going to get caught out by this, and some vaccinated people too.

  14. billseymour says

    doright @4:

    Living in Missouri I’m observing the increasing social pressure to not wear a mask. … If Delta gets worse here in the St. Louis area … I’ll go back to wearing safety glasses too.

    Earlier this afternoon, I went to the Target store in South St. Louis County.  I saw one person (other than myself) wearing a mask.  Yeah, it’s going to get worse.

    tacitus @14:

    Hospitals in Missouri are already reopening their coronavirus wards, …

    From what I hear, that’s happening a lot in the southwestern part of the state.  Some hospitals can’t handle the number of cases and are sending folks to hospitals in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

    Springfield, MO is deep-red fundigelical.  I’m surprised that Skepticon was tolerated as long as it was. 8-)

  15. devnll says

    Now now; you know these new strains aren’t actually “evolving”, because evolution is a lie. They were created by god in order to murder people more efficiently.

  16. says

    Ya know, with all of those variants named with Greek letters you’d think this had something to do with fraternities. But they’re deadlier.

  17. dean56 says


    Yeah, only those Republicans would choose to ignore the pandemic!”

    Nobody has said that — the reference (to clear for your muddled mind to get it) was to the absurd and disturbing power big money from the right has weaponized in academics.

    “So, are you going to deny the reality of this, or are you claiming that Biden is really a Republican?”

    The lack of relevance of that comment to the current discussion was already pointed out #8.

    I realize it’s too much to hope for you to make comments that are on-point and relevant, not the free-form spittle crap you typically spew, but it would be nice if you’d try.

  18. cartomancer says

    tacitus, #9,

    Neither Durham nor Oxford are campus universities. They are both medieval collegiate universities, where students and facilities are embedded here and there in the city, rather than all being cooped up together in a single location. That changes the dynamics of transmission considerably.

  19. says

    I had a professor one time at a religious school (I never told them I’m an atheist, and they never asked, yuk yuk) wonder out loud about how treatment-resistant diseases are forming, and my immediate thought was they’re mutating, because EVOLUTION, duh but I didn’t say anything, because it’s just so much easier to keep your head down in that kind of environment. Although, there was one prof who openly complained to us about her colleagues not accepting evolution, so there’s that… But anyway, yes I’m a coward, and that’s why I love commenting here, I can blather on anonymously and ignore everybody else, kind of like creating my own news bubble! Yippee!

  20. Badland says

    Timo Kaarp @8

    The Vicar is our resident bothsides crank who rarely sees a claim about Republicans without jumping in with a tendentious “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DEMS” claim. I think of them as a deep cover Republican sympathiser trying to suppress the Dem vote and blur the lines between the parties. They likely aren’t, but their arguments are almost perfectly designed to have that effect.

    Hope that helps.

  21. unclefrogy says

    @21 in other words an irrelevant fool to clouded by emotions and belief to have everything they say taken seriously.

  22. daved says

    There’s also a lambda variant, which is the dominant strain in some parts of South America, especially Peru, and seems to be at least somewhat resistant to the Chinese “Sinovac” vaccine. It’s been detected in lots of other countries, including the US.

  23. asclepias says

    I’m still masking, too, and I left a complaint with my physical therapist earlier this week–masking there is optional, so most of the patients aren’t masking, but I think it’s mandatory for staff, as all of them are. However, several of the staff (including one of the therapists!) are either wearing their masks below their noses or under their chins. They should damn well know better!

  24. tacitus says

    There’s also a lambda variant

    Lambda would have to be significantly more transmissible than Delta to be an issue in the US right now, even if the vaccines in the US are less effective, which the initial testing of Lambda with the mRNA vaccines appears not to show.

    New cases from Delta are up 50% in one week in the UK and is closing in on the peak of the previous wave when nobody was vaccinated. We will get all we can handle with Delta over the next couple of months.

  25. dali70 says

    Just wait. Places like Tennessee will soon be seeing outbreaks of not only covid variants but polio, mumps, measles and host of other communicable diseases not seen in generations with their ignorant vaccine stance.

  26. Kagehi says

    I swear its only a matter of time before the GOP creates a secret organization called the CVA to “erase” all knowledge of variants (but really incompetently). Its super secret “leader” will turn out to be one of the Trumps, and it will protect this secret with a wall of infected children, who will immediately give anyone trying to approach a fatal communicable disease.

    Oh, wait.. that is a TV show script, more or less? Damn, its so hard to tell fiction from reality, when dealing with “conservatives” any more…

  27. birgerjohansson says

    Kagehi @ 27
    We have been living inside a South Park episode since 2016 (the British for even longer).