You only ail once…

An argument in favour of evolution and vaccination...

To me, evolution is the greatest theory ever. It does a remarkable job of explaining our existence and our relationship with every other living thing on the planet. The theory of evolution is implicit in many modern disciplines. The fields of biology and medicine would have no basis without it. It has been one of the most useful ideas in the history of humankind as it, in part, explains how diseases work and has helped us be better prepared against exploits to many of our weaknesses. We live longer than our ancestors did because of our knowledge of evolution.

The theory of evolution has managed to redefine the scope of history. What was once just about the recent endeavours of humans and their many civilisations is now, in addition, a chronological study of everything that has led to us. Psychology, which was a field that relied completely on empirical observations, with an evolutionary perspective, gets a proper theoretical basis, and has thus become extensible to other animals. Every concept remotely related to evolution gets enriched by it.

It’s a simple but brilliant idea – our parents and progeny are a bit different from us; over a many generations, those differences multiply and species evolve. The elegance of the theory of evolution is only matched by the sheer amount of ignorance on the subject. Somehow, people find it easier to believe they were created in their current forms a few thousand to a few hundred thousand years ago, than even think that they might be the product of billions of years of evolution by natural selection. Evolution is very real. It’s proof is all around us.

Today, I’m going to provide you one such direct, verifiable, tangible and reproducible proof of evolution. Its reproducibility is somewhat involuntary. You’ll be forced into the experiment at the most inopportune times. It’s something you’ve definitely experienced, if you’re reading this, and shouldn’t be much difficult to relate to. So let’s get started.

The experiment

There is no reason to actually wait and perform this experiment. It has already happened to you a few times now. I’d still say it’s much more preferable to do it once after being fully aware of the steps involved. It usually happens as what follows; read and understand them all before attempting.

Mandatory medical disclaimer: This article does not at all, in any form, claim to provide professional medical guidance, and neither is it implied; it should be treated as such. Take it with a grain of salt. (It’s a popular idiom, not a prescription.)

  1. Get sick

    You’ll need to catch a common frequent communicable disease. Influenza or the common cold are your best choices. Of course, you can choose less frequent but necessarily communicable illnesses like measles, mumps, chickenpox or any of your other notable “common childhood ailments”. You can also experiment by proxy if you’d like; use your child as the subject.Make sure you fulfil all your duties toward your ailing child. You’re an observer; you are not to try making it worse for them, no matter how annoying they’ve been lately. Also, I wouldn’t recommend telling them they were the subject of an experiment until they’ve attained an appropriate age.

  2. Get well

    Do this your own way. The common cold doesn’t last very long and will be gone without medication. The flu can be got rid of with a flu shot. An otherwise healthy person would be able to combat chickenpox on their own in just over a week. If you really don’t like the idea of being sick very long you can medicate and get better sooner. The speed at which you get well has no relevance to the experiment as a whole.

  3. Make someone else fall sick

    This usually is done simultaneously with the previous step. You wouldn’t need to move a muscle (any more than you normally do) for this one; just go by your somewhat restricted routine and you’re sure to infect someone you come in contact with. Of course, if you care about the health of others too much, you can choose to drop this experiment altogether, but it would be better if you ignored that voice in your head. Be in contact with people regardless of your compassion. You’ll actually be doing them a favour. (You’ll learn how.)

  4. Be around the person you made fall sick

    This would require some proximity. Ideally the person whom you’ll make fall sick has to be someone who lives with you. After you yourself are no longer ill, you’ll have to start make observations. Check the following.

    • Have you fallen sick again?
    • Have any of the symptoms made a reappearance?
  5. Wait for the next outbreak

    If your ailment of choice was the common cold or the flu, you’ll catch them again in a while. Make a note of the gap between recovering from one instance of the illness and catching the same illness again. If you chose any of those childhood illnesses, don’t bother with this step. It’ll almost certainly never be back.

Common observations

  • Many a time, people will catch an illness from you despite the fact that you’ve completely recovered and exhibit no symptoms of the illness.
  • You’ll never fall sick of an illness immediately after recovering from it. It’ll probably be a month before you catch the common cold again and perhaps a year before your body plays host to the influenza virus.
  • You can be as close as you want to the one you gave your disease and you still won’t catch it.
  • One usually does not suffer from a childhood ailment more than once in their lifetime.In fact, you’ll sometimes see parents purposefully get their children to catch those diseases and be done with them, so they wouldn’t have to suffer from it later in life. I think it’s a pretty despicable thing to do, but I know of adults who live in fear of those diseases because they never had them as children.

So, what’s going on?!

Well, a lot of things actually. Let’s, for now, assume we were subjected to the common cold.

In your sickness

When you yourself are sick, your immune system tries to counter the sickness. For the common cold, that would require it to do everything in its power to undo the effects of the cold virus. The same goes for flu, which is characterised by a fever – the body’s way of attempting to destroy a virus it believes is temperature sensitive. The heightened temperature from the fever also aids the immune system a bit.

Strength of the illness
Your immunity
Their immunity

The illustration describes the strength of the illness relative to the strength of your immune system prior to your sickness or in the earliest stage of infection. The immunity bars are not representative of your resistance to every disease, but only the one in question.The illustrations are only visible on webpage of this article. Do consider visiting.

Danger
Your health

It appears the illness has a head start on you.

In your health

When you’re healthy, your body will have completely undone the illness. It would destroy most of the invaders in the process and strengthen itself, thus rendering the more resilient invaders incapable of doing any more damage while it remains in your body. Oh! And they will live in your body forever.

Strength of the illness
Your immunity
Their immunity

Here you’re clearly ahead of your experimentation buddy and the illness. So, you don’t get ill. Your buddy, however, lags behind the illness and is susceptible to it.

Your health
Danger
Your health

In their sickness and health

When you transmit the disease, your body has already disabled a portion of the invaders. The invaders you’re transmitting are the ones who are relatively stronger than your immune system at the time. The disease you’ve given the other person is, on average, a bit more advanced than the disease you already have. Now, that might not make much difference and they’ll get well just as soon as you did, assuming the two of you were in similar states of health prior to the illness.

If you did, however, transmit the illness only after fully recovering, you’ve given them a bit more advanced form of the illness than you would while you were sick. Again that makes no difference to you as you’re already immune. You can stay very close to them without feeling any symptoms as you already have the antidote.

Strength of the illness
Your immunity
Their immunity

Here, despite the illness making a minor progress, it’s still not strong enough to take you on. You and your buddy are immune.

In the sickness of others

The disease goes through a lot of hosts. At every step its weakest members get destroyed leaving only the resilient ones to continue the process. Per host, the difference in their ability to make people suffer is not that significant. On the other hand, an illness that has made through a few thousand hosts would be massively different as compared to the illness one already had.

Strength of the illness
Your immunity
Their immunity

Every time a person falls sick, the illness advances a bit, just like it did when you yourself were infected. However, since the disease didn’t take you on for a while, your immunity to the disease didn’t improve. The disease got stronger outside your system and thus became capable to take you on again.

Danger
Your health
Danger
Your health

Compare that to the very first set of progress bars. They’re similar, aren’t they?

And back to you

You will suffer from the common cold again despite building an immunity to it. You’re not combating the same disease you had beaten a while ago. The one is different. It’s stronger. Of course, like earlier, your system will fight this one just as valiantly and make sure you’ve come out of it healthy.

Strength of the illness
Your immunity
Their immunity

The entire process happens over and over in an endless cycle. You never ail twice of the exact same ailment.

Something about vaccination?!

Yes, vaccination is very important. Of course, it’s a lengthier subject to discuss and we will be doing that from time to time. For now, let’s try and understand its importance in this context.

Vaccination allows one to develop an immunity to the disease without the unnecessary hassle of letting one suffer from the illness. It does so by introducing a severely weakened version of a disease into the system, triggering an immune response. The immune system creates antibodies for the illness thus ensuring, that if the more potent version of that disease ends up in your system, you will already have the antibodies for it. Vaccination also prevents the disease from evolving and getting stronger as it is destroyed by the body almost as soon as it arrives.

A failure to vaccinate makes one susceptible. In addition, since the disease has a non-hostile host, it can evolve and supersede the scope of the vaccination, thus posing certain danger to even those who have vaccinated. To avoid vaccinations is to needlessly cause suffering.

Final words

Evolution isn’t a fantasy of the ungodly. It’s not a fabrication. It’s very real. It’s happening all around us. It’s happening right now. The most common argument cited against the theory of evolution is that it cannot be directly observed. They’re mistaken. It can be observed and it’s extremely easy to do so. It’s evolution that makes diseases able to strike us repeatedly. Evolution, however, also ensures that only those best suited to combat those ailments carry forward their lineage. Those with systems stronger than the disease will live long enough to procreate.

Luckily, for us, we’re no longer at the mercy of nature. We’ve learnt how things work and we’ve got better at keeping ourselves alive. We are the way we are because of science and we’ve got to do our best to keep it that way. Being science educated is no longer the exclusive domain of scientists.

Think!