An evolutionary truth: There is safety in numbers


The old aphorism “… safety in numbers,” has a biological and evolutionary basis. Primates, human and otherwise, evolved as social critters. Banding in even small groups provides protection against predators. 

From humankind’s earliest history, there is evidence that they lived first, in small bands; later human associations grew into tribes, then clumped into cities, and then nations and empires. 

Put another way, humankind evolved as social animals. Live outside your social order and you won’t live long. Living as part of a social group is existential, and that is why gathering in clusters has been embedded into our DNA over the course of 35 million years of primate evolution. 

So, we humanoids have a built-in inclination to do whatever is necessary to be accepted (and remain) as part of the tribe, whether all its individuals actually believe their “dogma” or just pretend to do so. The outcome is what counts, and that is staying a bona fide member of The Tribe. 

Well known journalist and author, Jonathan Rauch (no relation to our former Mayor) just published The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth. No matter what you believe, reading it will help you understand the basis for why you believe what you believe. 

Do you not think it strange that most new and deadly infections of COVID-19 (Delta version), come from states in the deep South? Fewer than 40 percent of southerners are vaccinated. 

The shared, unifying culture of the Antebellum South was torn asunder by the (un)Civil war, and was further deconstructed during “reconstruction” times. Perhaps today, descendants of those southern tribes are now drawn to reconstruct that unity of being a member of a Tribe. Quien sabe? 

One thing is certain – a very large number of southern folks defy being vaccinated against COVID-19 because they robustly (even if falsely) claim it impinges upon their God given rights of freedom. Perhaps death is the ultimate “freedom”?

Sharing a Tribe’s common “belief” does not make it true. Indeed, over time we have discovered that many beliefs have proved to be utterly and dangerously false. Some folks call that progress. 

Rauch’s keen insights, based on scientific research, provide several keys to understanding why we think we understand what it is we think we understand. 

While knowing the truth may not set you free, keeping the culture does make you safer. Remaining part of the Tribe is the most important thing. So, to stay a member in good standing, everyone buys into the ethos of the Tribe, true or not. Belonging is everything. This is why so many can believe so much with so little proof. 

“Faith” notwithstanding, those in power who spew disinformation (when did we start to call lies disinformation?) about COVID-19 immunizations as being unsafe or being a conspiracy to do away with non-white folks are wrong. In this case, they and those who drink that toxic Kool-Aid are dead wrong. 

I don’t know if they lack reason (some surely do), are fearful (some surely are), care only about being re-elected at the cost of the lives of those who elect them or because of a genuine but misguided concern for their health and well-being. None of that gaslighting means anything. That has not made a tinkers’ damn bit of difference, except in the wrong direction. 

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Get immunized and live; if not, you exponentially increase your chances of becoming infected and dying. 

In the meantime, the unvaccinated are infecting and killing others besides themselves, now mostly young people, negatively impacting the economy and filling hospitals and ICUs to over-capacity. 

The stunning numbers of new infections tell the tale. Ignore the truth of those numbers at your own risk, and ours. Those are some of my truths to share. 

“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers. 

David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at david.m.taub42@gmail.com. 

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