Trump's Covid-19 response: science or pseudo-science?
What if Trump’s disregard for masks and social distancing, combined with his demand to reopen the economy, reflects his advisors’ push for developing herd immunity in the U.S.? if so, Trump may think he is acting in accordance with scientific principles in spite of usually disregarding science as fake and fraudulent.
Herd immunity implicitly presumes culling the herd of its weaker members, those least able to survive a present threat. This adheres to the evolutionary principle of the survival of those best suited for current conditions.
Not wearing masks and not socially distancing allows the Covid-19 virus to spread more easily from person to person. Persons who have an asymptomatic or very mild case are well-suited for survival. Those who develop a serious, life-threatening case are less well-suited for survival.
Reopening the economy increases the probability of these cases overwhelming the healthcare system’s capacity. The human herd collectively – in the U.S. and/or on earth – will become stronger as the weaker die. Existing data suggests, most fatalities will be older individuals, have pre-existing conditions, or be elderly with pre-existing conditions. By the time the population reaches herd immunity, the result will be similar to what a rancher hopes to achieve by culling a herd. Survivors will be less vulnerable to death or serious illness cause by the Covid-19 virus. If enough people die, life will measurably improve for survivors: the rate of global warming will slow, fewer persons will suffer from expensive health problems such as obesity and emphysema, and demand for safety-net programs decrease.
Regardless of those potential benefits, advocating herd immunity smacks of eugenics, i.e., intentional efforts to breed a better, healthier human through genetic selection. In the case of herd immunity, the genetic selection is indirect, a function of demonstrated survivability rather than direct genetic selection. Nevertheless, the parallels are strikingly similar. Both
- Cull or eliminate the weaker or less desirable, however defined
- Presume that humans possess the wisdom to know what trait(s) will best equip humans and the rest of the cosmos for flourishing in the future
- Ignore the accumulating evidence that human flourishing depends upon reciprocal altruism and its presumption that human flourishing requires healthy interdependence based upon mutual respect and care
In sum, words and actions that promote the ideas that masks are superfluous, social distancing is unnecessary, and the economy should fully and immediately reopen suffer from the same scientific defects and ethical shortcomings that led to the rapid branding of eugenics as an unethical and baseless pseudo-science.