Is Sapiens smart enough to survive?

I saw the above image when Samuel Tenenbaum shared it on Facebook, and it reminded me of the book I am finally almost, almost, almost done reading, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

It reminded me of something I keep thinking of while reading the book. I keep thinking, Yeah, maybe we’re the homo that is the most sapient, so the name of the species works. But are we really smart enough to keep going?

I suppose you noticed a day or so ago that, thanks to Omicron, the United States just set yet another record for new COVID cases in a day.

This, despite all the free vaccines and boosters. This, despite the fact that it’s perfectly obvious how to avoid passing on infections, which create new, more contagious (and more likely to overcome vaccines) variants as they reproduce through the population.

We know what to do. We — as a total population — just don’t do it in sufficient numbers to snuff this thing out.

A virus is about as stupid a life form as you can imagine, if you even want to call it a life form. It doesn’t even form cells, much less anything remotely resembling a brain, in contrast to the huge hunk of gray matter than homo sapiens has been blessed with.

But over and over again, it keeps outsmarting us.

So maybe, in Darwinian terms, it’s the one that deserves to win out.

I don’t believe that. I really don’t believe it at all. I’ve got a lot invested in this big-headed species to which I belong. I know we can do better. In fact, I keep getting kind of ticked at Yuval Noah Harari as I read his book, because again and again, he declines to give our species the kind of respect I think it deserves. Or that I at least want to think it deserves.

But time and time again, we just don’t do what we know how to do. It’s like we’re trying to shove ourselves toward extinction. Which ticks me off. And really, really disappoints me…

25 thoughts on “Is Sapiens smart enough to survive?

  1. Barry

    My sister and her husband tested positive over Christmas. Both are vaccinated (no booster, but outside of a slight fever and sore throat, both have been fine (and staying at home)

    My sister works at hospital and keeps telling me she is glad they were vaccinated because her hospital ER has been overrun with really sick people this past week. Apparently deaths are down, but feeling really, really sick is still pretty high.

    A friend of my wife’s at church also has COVID. He is unvaccinated and has been very sick. He hasn’t had to go to the hospital but through a friend my wife was told he has felt as sick as any point in his life over the holidays so far. He was not able to join family on Christmas eve or Christmas day. In fact, he was in bed both days.

  2. Doug Ross

    Anyone else willing to participate in this COVID survey covering the past 22 months?

    Have you had COVID: No

    Have you been tested for COVID: Yes, three times. Once prior to Thanksgiving 2020 to make sure we could meet as a family, once following a long trip that involved multiple flights, and once just because someone else in the family was taking a test for work. Never was symptomatic.

    Have you been vaccinated: Two Pfizer shots and a Moderna booster.
    If vaccinated, any side effects: None besides minor pain the next day at the injection site
    If not vaccinated, why not: N/A

    Do you know anyone personally (not anecdotally) who has died from COVID: one person in March 2020. She was elderly, obese, and had been in the hospital multiple times in 2019 for serious heart issues.

    Do you know anyone personally who has been in the hospital for COVID: None, besides the person above.

    Do you know anyone personally who has tested positive: Two family members, One pre vaccines who had the equivalent of a moderate flu for four days. No lingering effects. One was more recent, twice vaxxed pre-booster, following a business trip. Two days of low grade fever, no work missed.

    Have you traveled outside your home state? Yes, many times beginning as early as May 2020.
    Have you flown in a plane: Yes, trips to Alaska, North Dakota, and Las Vegas in 2021.
    Have you returned to work: I normally travel 45 weeks a year. Have worked remote since March of 2020.
    Have you stayed in a hotel? Yes, at least once a month since May of last year,

    What is you COVID risk mitigation strategy: Exercise every day (walk 5+ miles outdoors), take vitamin D, C,, and Zinc daily. Have only eaten inside restaurants a handful of times. Wear a mask inside stores but never outside.

    What are your three main points regarding COVID:

    1. The media and government have done a terrible job of information gathering and dissemination. The focus on cases and not hospitalizations and deaths has been fear mongering at its worst especially the lack of data related to the demographics of those who suffer the most. The focus should have been on protecting the elderly and encouraging obese people to improve their physical condition. Instead, we locked down children who were at extremely low risk and caused them more harm with the lockdowns.

    2. Remote education was a disaster that will have repercussions for a decade. Even at the college level, it exposed the vast gap between the value of a college education and the manner it is delivered. I expect many students to forego on campus college in the future.

    3. No government entity in the U.S. did a good job of dealing with COVID. Rules were not based on science, just fear. Many politicians were hypocritical in their behavior compared to their public statements. As usual, opinions were based on politics, not facts and the media (especially liberal outlets) used COVID as a way to drive viewers rather than provide information.

    1. Barry

      Dutch vaccine sceptic and anti-lockdown economist dies of Covid
      Robin Fransman, 53, died on Tuesday, weeks after refusing to have a Covid vaccination

      Vaccine sceptic Robin Fransman died from Covid-19 yesterday after revealing almost a month ago that he had tested positive for coronavirus, a Dutch newspaper reported.

      The Dutch economist first spoke out about the coronavirus measures in April last year and became increasingly critical.

      Mr Fransman used his social media platforms to promote conspiracy theories, some of which denounced the concept of long Covid as a fantasy.

      He also downplayed the effectiveness of vaccines, and vowed to not yet be inoculated against the disease.

      Mr Fransman was the founder of Herstel-NL, a controversial organisation founded in February that lobbied for an alternative to lockdowns in the Netherlands.

      On November 28, he tweeted that he was not vaccinated but that it was “fine for vulnerable people” to have a shot.

      Five days later, he tested positive and was admitted to hospital soon after. He died one month to the day after he sent his tweet.

      Mr. Fransman had earlier stressed that his immune system was strong and he was in good health.

  3. Barry

    Well this sounds perfectly exciting . Look where right wing nuttiness has gotten us ….

    Millions of Angry, Armed Americans Stand Ready to Seize Power If Trump Loses in 2024

    Mike “Wompus” Nieznany is a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran . He also walks with a cain.Neither will it slow him down when it’s time to visit Washington, D.C.—heavily armed and ready to do his part in overthrowing the U.S. government.

    Millions of fellow would-be insurrectionists will be there, too, Nieznany says, “a ticking time-bomb” targeting the Capitol. “There are lots of fully armed people wondering what’s happening to this country,” he says. “Are we going to let Biden keep destroying it? Or do we need to get rid of him? We’re only going to take so much before we fight back.” The 2024 election, he adds, may well be the trigger.

    Nieznany is no loner. His political comments on the social-media site Quora received 44,000 views in the first two weeks of November and more than 4 million overall. He is one of many rank-and-file Republicans who own guns and in recent months have talked openly of the need to take down—by force if necessary—a federal government they see as illegitimate.”

  4. Barry

    My sister texted today to say my brother in law is feeling miserable because of COVID.

    He is vaccinated and she sees no reason for him to have to go to the doctor or ER. He is having no breathing issues at all and she says his lungs sound clear. But he’s feeling awful.

    My brother in law is one tough dude. I’ve seen him go fishing when he had the flu. She said he’s not even getting out of the bed right now.

  5. Barry

    A Republican judge in Texas has ruled against the Navy in taking any adverse reaction to members that have refused to be vaccinated.

    Apparently these 35 include SEALs that are extremely religious. One of their claims is that the vaccine was developed using aborted fetal cells , but the Republican judge apparently had no issue with that even though some other vaccines also were developed with aborted fetal cells- namely:
    Chicken pox

    I wonder if any of those folks have ever had a polio or chicken pox vaccine? hmm…. (I bet they have)

    Advancements in Aids treatments, macular degeneration treatment, cancer, spinal cord injuries and Parkinson’s also routinely uses such cell lines. I guess they have no problem with those though. hmm. Odd.

    The judge wrote” The COVID pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms”

    One of the other grounds the members cited as “belief in modifying one’s body is an affront to the Creator”

    I wonder if any of them have tattoos, or have had plastic surgery or have had surgery at any point where any number of modifications were made to their body? What about a dental implant? What about screws or pins in a broken limb? Do any of them use cosmetics to change their appearance? What about getting their hair styled/cut, or dyed? I doubt Creator God had them coming out of the birth canal with a nice haircut and eyeliner.

    My question is: could this end the long standing requirement that military members receive all sorts of vaccinations?

    If members have religious problems with vaccines, why would they only have a problem with 1 vaccine?

    So requiring and mandating a COVID vaccine is against their freedom of speech but requiring they get measles, rubella and other vaccinations isn’t?

    1. Doug Ross

      Or maybe they’re healthy adults who have almost zero risk from COVID, especially now with the less severe Omicron variant so they choose to take their chances. Or maybe they are skeptical because we were told the vaccines prevented COVID but now the messaging has changed?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        What on Earth does their healthiness have to do with anything? They’re sworn defenders of this country. The least they can do is take simple, basic steps to prevent themselves from spreading this pestilence and helping it evolve and continue to ravage that country.

        I understand that you’re a libertarian, but can you really not see that this is not a “me” thing? It’s about the most basic kind of responsibility to one’s fellow human beings.

        This is painfully obvious…

        1. Doug Ross

          Should we force them to take the HPV shot as well? Flu shots? Tests for STDs? Should people who have had COVID and have antibodies be forced to have the shot?

          COVID (especially the current variant) is less than the flu for the vast majority of young adults. The shots do not prevent COVID, only severe symptoms for most.

          This is science, not libertarianism. Refute my beliefs with data.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “Should we force them to take the HPV shot as well? Flu shots? Tests for STDs? Should people who have had COVID and have antibodies be forced to have the shot?”

            Of course, if a case can be made for doing so for the good of the Service or the larger society. Why not?

            And I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about when you say, “Refute my beliefs with data.” Especially when, in the previous sentence, you said it’s not about your beliefs

            Anyway, have a good day, Doug. I’m off to do some work…

            1. Barry

              “ “Should we force them to take the HPV shot as well? Flu shots? Tests for STDs? ”

              If there is one institution in America where people should do whatever they want to do, it’s within the military.


      2. Barry

        They might be very healthy but the military makes healthy people do all sorts of things even though they are healthy. Like taking all sorts of vaccines like they’ve been doing for decades. Actually, newbies get tear gassed (CS Gas) in training- even though they are perfectly healthy.

        My cousin went into the Army after college (Then sent to Iraq as a 2nd Lt). He was use to running half and full marathons in college. The Army didn’t care. He had to run like everyone else even though he was in better shape than most all his superiors.

        The military doesn’t leave it up to individual members to decide what vaccines or what tests, etc they will undertake. The Supreme Court has pretty consistently ruled that the military, headed by a cabinet secretary answerable to the elected President is best equipped to decide military policy with respect to such things.

        Who told you vaccines always prevented COVID?

        Funny, I never remember anyone saying getting a vaccine absolutely prevented COVID. In fact, the FDA releases from the clinical trials are clear in reporting high percentages but none mention 100%.

        I do remember people saying if you got a vaccine, your risk of severe disease and hospitalization decreased significantly which has been born out repeatedly by all kinds of studies, including local hospital reports right here in South Carolina. In fact, here is Dr. Fauci in December 2020 saying just that as the first vaccines were given emergency approval:

        “We have at least two incredibly efficacious vaccines that are extraordinarily effective with regard to severe disease.” Dr. Fauci at the 2020 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting & Exposition

        I’ve been getting a flu shot for 20+ years. I’ve never had my doctor guarantee me I wouldn’t get the flu. He has told me dozens of times that getting the flu vaccine will provide me with solid protection in most years that should help avoid getting as sick as I would have without the vaccine.

        In fact, earlier this year my doctor told me to go ahead and get my first dose of the shingles vaccine. He then said it should reduce my chance of getting shingles by about 90% or so but I could still have a case. He then added with the vaccine, it should reduce the severity though if I did get it. (Yep- that’s the way vaccines work).

        1. Doug Ross

          It isn’t difficult to Google the changing story about the efficacy of the vaccine and boosters. People getting COVID now have double vaccines and boosters and are still getting sick but avoiding hospitalization and death. If that’s the case, then there’s no reason for those who are vaccinated to not go about their lives as normal and treat it like any other cold or flu. If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re not, go out. Wear a mask or don’t if you are boosted.

          When are those free at home tests coming?

          1. Barry

            I don’t think anyone should be shut in at home if they aren’t sick. I personally haven’t seen anyone stating that people should do that.

            Looking at the original FDA document that approved the emergency use authorization in Dec 2020 where it states that the vaccine is no guarantee to stop transmission is worth noting.

            WIS TV reported this morning that Prisma Health midlands and upstate reported 80% of the current hospitalizations related to Covid are of unvaccinated people.

            My sister, an RN at a hospital texted me on Wednesday saying everyone in their ER this week seeking treatment for Covid was unvaccinated. The few vaccinated individuals she had seen in the last few weeks in the ER due to COVID were people suffering from various immuno-compromised related diseases.

    2. Ken

      Per the DoD, these are the mandatory vaccinations that all service members are required to receive before initial entry or basic training:

      Hepatitis A
      Hepatitis B
      Measles, mumps, rubella

        1. Barry

          No vaccine is 100% effective.

          Members of the military still have to get them. The military isn’t too concerned with your freedom of speech.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I approved the latter part of that comment, but not the initial part containing personal reflections on Doug.

            This was a short while after I deleted an entire comment from Doug (about someone other than Ken) on similar grounds.

            I’m going to look for reasons to approve comments, but not if they contain personal observations that make this a place where I would not wish to hang out…

            1. Ken

              You continue to believe that a person’s attitudes about society and politics can be neatly separated from their personal character. But that’s not the case. And making out as if it is totally misses the situation we are facing.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Well, we all seek to understand other people, and ourselves, the best we can.

                In any case, I will continue to endeavor to shape a space where we can continue to share that seeking process, and perhaps help each other out, without being distracted by negative reflections upon each other.

        2. Guy

          Answer— none of them are 100% effective in preventing any of the diseases listed. I doubt that was your intended point?

      1. Barry

        Yeah, but the Republican judge says the members have freedoms to decide on their own.

        I expect this will be appealed and ultimately tossed. (This judge, after reading about him, is a pretty partisan fellow).

        More info:

        The below is written by Ian Millhiser. He received a B.A. in philosophy from Kenyon College and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University, where he served as senior note editor on the Duke Law Journal and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He clerked for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

        One of America’s most partisan judges just gave Navy SEALs permission to defy a direct order

        The disturbing implications of a GOP judge’s ruling against the military’s vaccination requirement, explained.

        One of the most well-settled principles of US national security law is that courts give tremendous deference to the military’s decisions regarding how to maintain discipline among its own personnel. “The essence of military service,” the Court held in Goldman v. Weinberger (1986), “is the subordination of the desires and interests of the individual to the needs of the service.” Servicemembers voluntarily give up some of their constitutional rights when they choose to join the armed services.

        And yet, on Monday, a notoriously partisan federal judge in Texas thumbed his nose at decades of law and Supreme Court precedents, holding that members of the military may refuse an order to take the Covid-19 vaccination if they object to it on religious grounds. In a brief order in US Navy SEALs 1-26 v. Biden, US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor claims that a policy requiring nearly all servicemembers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 violates both the First Amendment and a federal religious liberty statute.

        O’Connor’s SEALs opinion isn’t just wrong under established precedent, it is egregiously wrong. It’s also weakly argued. He spends less than six pages discussing the core issue in the case — whether the military’s vaccination policy must include exemptions for personnel with religious objections — and does not even acknowledge Supreme Court cases that directly refute his analysis, including the Goldman decision

        More –

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