This article was Co-Written between Jing Ke and Samantha Logan for a class project.
Science is a march of progress that is tidally locked with nature. Gradually, with every step, medical advancements and scientific knowledge teach us more about the world we live in. Each advancement builds on prior knowledge and progress that creates other, potentially greater questions about nature. For every scientific discovery and resulting advancement, the course of nature adapts, things change, and society must discuss whether that advancement is truly in our, or the world’s best interest. No greater example of this cycle is more suitable to illustrate it then the Anti-Vaccination and Anti-Antibiotics movements.
This blog and the project attached will illustrate one very simple fact: The medicinal miracle of vaccines and anti-biotics has been met with greater viral and bacterial threats in nature. For humans to remain healthy and for devastating diseases to stay cured, every person must understand our dependency on vaccines and anti-biotics. We must also understand the recursive role nature takes in this cycle. To elaborate on this we will start with a primer on vaccines and anti-biotics. Then we will discuss the cycle of science and nature, and finally the recent trends against science that want to disrupt that cycle.
How Viruses and Vaccines work
In science, part of the cure against diseases and viral outbreaks are the bacteria and viruses themselves. One way of discovering a cure for or developing resistance to these foreign entities is to disassemble the virus or bacterium being targeted and create a harmless version that is still identifiable by your immune system and introduce it to our bodies via a vaccine.
These changed versions of the viruses or bacteria train your body so when the real deal enters you do not fall ill, because your immune system will already identify the unknown intruder in your body and eliminate it.
Scientists have also developed ways to target the pathogen itself and prevent the bacteria/virus DNA from being replicated, thus stopping the spread of the bacteria/virus itself. Other cures have been made where they directly target the cell wall of the bacterium and rip it apart, causing the bacterium to die out. Both of these solutions are however more expensive and harder to implement than a vaccine. Each of these solutions over time create resistant strains to the method used, and the only way to prevent this is to get them all before they have the chance to mutate and evolve into a resistant “super-bug”.
When bacteria constantly encounters lethal antibodies in your body, there is a more likely chance that one bacterium will develop resistance and it won’t be long before the entire strain becomes immune to the antibodies. Bacterium can pass on their immunity by interlocking their proteins and then transferring plasmids (bits of dna carrying proteins) between not only their own species of bacteria, but other strains as well. If a developed anti-biotic that targets the bacteria is not present until the very last one dies, the chances a bacteria pass on it’s resistance skyrockets. This is why doctors tell you to take all of your anti-biotics until they are gone – not just until you feel better.
The Anti-Vaxxer and Anti-Anti-biotic Movements
The vaccine and anti-biotics processes have been known to science for a very long time. The first smallpox vaccine was created in 1684 (via historyofvaccines.org – seriously check their site out!) and the first anti-biotic, Penicillin, was created by Alexander Fleming in the 1940s. Since then huge diseases have been largely cured or rendered ineffective to the population such as Denge fever, Yellow Fever, Measles, and more, but that does not mean those diseases are gone. We co-habitate with them and they continue to grow and evolve with us. The most primary example is that of the Zika Virus which evolved to create an outbreak fifty years after it had been known to humans according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The required vaccines doctors ask children to take are vital to the continued life of people all over the world over a very long time, but recently, due to a fake news article connecting the vaccines to autism (historyofvaccines.org), parents all over the world have been swearing off vaccines. Anti-biotics have also been proven to mess with the pro-biotic bacteria that keep us healthy in our bodies and failure to use them properly has created a great fear of “super-bugs”. These movements are advocating a life in an environment where we are not immune to the regular viruses and bacteria so we do not spawn greater threats. The flaw in this argument has to do with the cycle of evolution, and our interference with it.
The Evolutionary March of Science and Nature
As stated in this blog before, these viruses and superbugs are not affecting our bodies due to our immunities in vaccines and thorough use of anti-biotics, but that does not mean they are gone. It means they exist around us and simply do not harm us. Any Darwinian Evolutionary scholar worth their salt will tell you that viruses and bacteria evolve very quickly and their hosts are not just humans. The plague was carried on rodents and Zika is carried on Mosquitos. These viruses and bacterium will continue to evolve whether we are there or not, and they remain dangerous to us. The catch however, is when we STOP vaccinating, or we don’t take our anti-biotics seriously we accelerate their evolution instead of stunting it.
We will conclude this blog with a second critical fact. Our first fact was that this cycle exists and at this point stopping the cycle is a terrible idea. Our second fact, is that stopping this cycle will do nothing to help humanity. These medical advancements have saved countless lives over half of a century, and if we stop the cycle, these bacterium and viruses will continue as they did prior to vaccines. People will die.
We implore you. Continue the cycle of science and nature, keep us one step ahead, and do your responsibility as an adult. Wipe down your house’s surfaces, vaccinate your children, ensure they take all of their anti-biotics, and take them to get regular checkups.
This blog is a part of a series! Check out the others here!
- What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?
- Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science
- Rome built in a day: How we made a Sisyphus machine
- Nevertheless She Persisted: The Cycle of Science and Nature
“Alexander Fleming Discovery and Development of Penicillin – Landmark.” American Chemical Society. American Chemical Society, 2017. Web. 18 June 2017. <https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/flemingpenicillin.html>.
“History of Vaccines – A Vaccine History Project of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.” History of Vaccines – A Vaccine History Project of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia | History of Vaccines. College of Physicians of Phillidalphia, 2017. Web. 18 June 2017. <http://www.historyofvaccines.org/>.
WHO “The history of Zika virus.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, 2017. Web. 18 June 2017. <http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/timeline/en/>.