When it comes to survival, vaccinated children are the fittest

Little boy gets a vaccination

Everyone knows that evolution works by survival of the fittest. Anti-vaxxers seem a bit confused on this point. One of the resident anti-vax trolls on this blog, ciaparker2, illustrates the problem.

Cia says:

On the one hand, weak babies and children stand a much greater chance of surviving to reproduce now than was formerly the case, which may or may not be good for them. On the other hand, the survival of the weak damages the vitality of the species, while the survival of the fittest, natural law, enhances it.

What Cia and other anti-vaxxers fail to understand is that on the cusp of 2018, vaccinated children ARE the fittest.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Fitness is measured by surviving offspring, not surviving genes.[/pullquote]

Cia and her anti-vax friends are confused about genes, fitness and natural selection.

Genes are the units of inheritance. Many genes correspond to specific traits like hair color or height. Genes can change over time because of mutations. Each time the DNA of a gene is duplicated, there is a small possibility of error, a mutation. Most errors have no impact on the animal that inherits them. Some mutations are harmful, leading to the early death of the animal. A very few mutations are beneficial; they give the animal a greater chance of surviving to reproduce.

Evolution works by natural selection, also known as “survival of the fittest.” The animals that have the greatest number of surviving offspring are the “fittest” for that environment.

Based on her comment, Cia seems to think that children who survive when they haven’t been vaccinated are fitter than those who survive because of vaccination. Therefore, vaccination decreases the overall fitness of the population.

Let’s try a thought experiment to show Cia and other anti-vaxxers the error of their “reasoning”:

Imagine a lion and a man meet on the savannah and the lion outruns the man, brings him down with his superior strength, kills the man, and eats him.

Who is fitter for the environment of the savannah? The lion, right? The lion has survived with the ability to have more offspring and the man is dead and can reproduce no more.

If a lion is fitter than the average man, how much fitter will it be compared to a man who is below average?

Imagine the same lion meets a different man who is weak, slow and nearsighted, but this man has a gun. The man aims the gun, shoots the lion and eats it.

Who is fitter in the scenario? The man, right? He survived and can go on to reproduce and the lion can’t.

What’s the difference between the two disparate outcomes? It’s the gun, right?

Possessing guns increased the fitness of the man and since his descendants have guns, too, their fitness will also be increased. That’s why there are a lot more people today than lions.

Although it looks like technology is more important than genetics, that’s not really the case. Strictly speaking, it isn’t the gun that increased the man’s fitness, it is the genes for intelligence that allowed people to invent guns. Despite the fact that lions are still bigger, faster and stronger, people are smarter and that makes them fitter. Have guns “weakened” the human genome? Have they deprived the human species of vitality? Hardly.

Vaccines are like guns.

Those who are smart enough to get them are fitter. The “vitality” of their descendants is increased. Technology doesn’t weaken the human genome; it makes those who possess technology and utilize it fitter than those who don’t. Therefore, vaccinated children are fitter than unvaccinated children.

Remember, fitness is measured by surviving offspring, not surviving genes. The lion’s genes may “stronger,” but it is just as dead when shot by the gun as it would be if humans had doubled in size, speed and strength and overpowered the lion that way.

It’s pretty obvious that children who die of disease are unfit by virtue of the fact that they can never reproduce. Back when vaccine preventable illnesses routinely carried off millions of a children each year, the children who survived were fitter than those who died. But now that vaccines can prevent death, the children who survive without vaccines are no fitter than those who survive because of vaccines. And the children who die of vaccine preventable disease because their ignorant parents withheld those vaccines are the least fit of all.

Human beings have become the most numerous large animals on the planet. We have spread to and mastered nearly every place and climate. We didn’t outcompete other animals with size, strength or speed; we outcompeted them because of intelligence. Vaccines, like all technology, doesn’t “weaken” the underlying genome; it’s the manifestation of our superior intellect. In other words, it’s a product of better genes.