the virus and the camel pdf

Chinese Industrial Profits 2019 (REPORT)


  1. Norman Pilon says:

    Excellent analysis, as usual.

    A mere editorial quibble pertaining to this assertion that you make in connection with the virus: “making it probable that one of the functions of a virus is to inhibit overcrowding and thus prevent ecological disorder.”

    I don’t think that there is any kind of ‘functional intent’ behind the emergence and effects of any pathogen outbreak, which your assertion, as written, seems to imply.

    Environmental conditions have consequences, either favoring or inhibiting the proliferation of and interactions between specific forms of life, and these consequences, especially at the level of viruses, are rather more probably fortuitous and blind.

    Of course, your assertion may be metaphorical although it isn’t obvious to me that it is intended as such.

    To my mind, it would be more accurate to assert something along these lines: “Finally, the density of humans in this part of the city acts as a conveyor belt for transmitting viruses which feast on overcrowding, [albeit ironically having at the same time the effect of inhibiting that overcrowding and other potentially attendant ecological repercussions].”

    Otherwise, you write what in my opinion is a flawless piece.

  2. As soon as I wrote that sentence it bothered me. But every time I moved to delete it, I thought this has to be right. Take the question of bacteria. Without bacteria, corpses would not decompose into their elements, making possible new life. The planet would be metres deep in dead life. So bacteria are really the bin men and women of nature. Yet we fear bacteria at a personal level because they can be lethal.

    The role of viruses is more complex. By weight, viruses including those found in the oceans outweigh all other life despite being individually miniscule. Based on modern research, they are considered to be the first form of life, the first assemblers of DNA. They play a major role in cell diversification. A recent study cited below demonstrates that 30% of protein variation between humans and the larger ape family were due to viral intervention. So perhaps viruses have a role to play in the adaptive interaction of living species and their environment. If there is a stable relation between humans and other species, then probably viruses are dormant, but if this relationship is disturbed on either side this could lead to viruses become more active, and being parasitic, jump species to control incursions or to find new hosts, and it is only as a side effect that DNA in the surviving incursionists are changed. So if we look at a bigger picture, say the destruction of the rain forests in Africa, then it will be the case that the hosts of a particular virus are being killed off as well. Under these circumstances, local viruses are triggered to either preserve their hosts or adapt the aggressor into becoming a new host. if that is not possible, the aggressor host is killed off preserving what is left of the original hosts. Thus in the overall scheme of things, the primary role of viruses may be the preserver of species and when this is not possible to adapt other species, which when beneficial, despite the initial culling phase, may adapt the new host to a changed environment.

    Clearly it takes more than a chance encounter for viruses to become virulent. It requires intense interaction for viruses to mutate and jump species, and further, to become viable in the new host species after a prolonged period of infection. I intend to investigate this subject in greater detail, and look forward to your further comment.

    • Norman Pilon says:

      Hi, Brian,

      I gather from your reply that there is a real difference of opinion, then, between us on the question of evolutionary ‘adaptation.’

      For example, in your discussion of viral ‘adaptation,’ you seem to impute ‘intent’ where I see none, as when you paint the following scenario: ‘local viruses [may be] triggered to either preserve their hosts or adapt the aggressor into becoming a new host. if that is not possible, the aggressor host is killed off preserving what is left of the original hosts.”

      Granted that outcomes may superficially resemble what you describe, from my standpoint, viruses do not ‘attempt’ to either preserve or kill off hosts, that is to say, to ‘intentionally’ adapt to a changing environment.

      Environments change, and either the changes are not so extreme as to subvert the existence of existing strains of viruses; or the changes are sufficiently extreme to subvert these strains; or coinciding with extreme environmental changes, some individuals among existing strains might incur mutations that fortuitously make it possible for descendants of the old strains to exist under the new prevailing extreme conditions — and all of it happens, yes, quite by accident.

      As Darwin has argued, ‘adaptation’ can and does happen without the intervention of intelligence, be it the intelligence of a God or that of a creature undergoing haphazard mutations or having to confront the contingencies of incremental or abrupt environmental changes.

      So design — i.e., biological adaptation — is not from my standpoint (necessarily) born of intelligence, that is to say, of ‘intent,’ be it divine or otherwise, and I place the emphasis here on ‘otherwise,’ because I suspect that you don’t subscribe to the religious version of what goes by the designation of ‘intelligent design.’

      And just to underscore the point that so-called viral adaptation is purely by chance, virologists hold that unless viruses undergo mutations, their ‘behaviors’ remain unchanged, that is to say, without a mutation, there can be no ‘viral adaptation.’ But since all mutations are nothing if not chance occurrences, it follows that all so-called ‘viral adaptations’ are also pure contingencies.

      In connection with the coronavirus, I’ll leave you with this:

      Kristian Andersen, an infectious-disease researcher at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, is not concerned about the virus becoming more virulent. He says that viruses constantly mutate as part of their life cycle, but those mutations don’t typically make the virus more virulent or cause more serious disease. “I can’t think of any examples of this having happened with an outbreak pathogen,” he says.

      In situations where a virus jumps from one animal host to another species — which is probably how the new coronavirus began to infect humans — there might be a selection pressure to improve survival in the new host, but that rarely, if ever, has any effect on human disease or the virus’s transmissibility, says Andersen. Most mutations are detrimental to the virus or have no effect, he says. A 2018 study2 of SARS in primate cells found that a mutation the virus sustained during the 2003 outbreak probably reduced its virulence.

      Researchers have shared dozens of genetic sequences from strains of the new coronavirus, and a steady supply of those sequences will reveal genetic changes as the outbreak progresses, says MacKay. “Viruses don’t change behaviour unless they change sequence, and we need to see constant or consistent virus change,” he says.

      Source: Coronavirus outbreak: what’s next?

      What is in bold is my emphasis.

      • I agree with you that there is no design and no conscious adaption. in fact I find it difficult to disagree with anything you said. There is one point about adaption. It is true that over time viruses tend to become less lethal during the course of multiple transmissions. This is not a question of design or chance. Killing off hosts stops transmission ending that more deadly strain but less virulent strains endure because they do not kill their hosts so transmissions continue creating a bigger population of hosts..

        it is also true that biologists do not consider viruses living forms. And yet all life swims in a viral soup, us included. in other words they create a separate environment which goes unnoticed because viruses being microscopic are unseen and therefore less tangible. this is what I need you to comment on. Do you agree they form an environment in which life lives.

        And, if they form an environment how does this react with the physical environment or the living environment which is so influenced by the physical environment. That is my point. Never mind our DNA which show multiple impacts from viruses, our very blood testifies to the intervention of viruses. We as a young species, may only have four blood types, but horses have eleven types despite the fact their diet is quite standard.

        I look forward to hearing from you have narrowed the discussion down.

    • Norman Pilon says:

      BTW, Brian, after posting my somewhat clumsy attempt at cinching what I take to be the difference between our views on evolutionary adaptation, I decided to refresh my exposure to Stephen Jay Gould’s views on the matter, and found this excellent synopsis online, in .pdf format, titled, “The Worldviews of Stephen Jay Gould: An Overview of the Themes that Appear in Gould’s Writings,” by Lawrence N. Goeller, Alexandria VA, December 2011.

      If the link should happen not to work, here’s the link to the website where I found that overview: See the link labelled “original essay.”

      From one of the pertinent sections of that essay, a brief quote speaking to our difference of opinion, I think:

      What he charged [adaptationists] with was invariably assuming that any feature or structure must serve, or in the past have served, some purpose that was favored over many generations by natural selection. In this view, for example, when ancestral humans lost most of their body hair but retained their eyebrows, their starting point would be that eyebrows serve (or served) a function, leading to favorable treatment at the hands of natural selection. All that remained was to come up with a “just-so story,” Gould charged, to explain what that function might be. Lip service might be paid to non-adaptationist arguments, but in practice it was almost always assumed – usually with no evidence – that the form of any given structure in an organism was the result of natural selection working on highly plastic material. Here and elsewhere, he essentially accused the adaptationist orthodoxy of replacing the all-powerful and optimizing God of “natural theology” – another popular topic in these essays – with natural selection as His secular equivalent.

      See page 26 of the .pdf, in the section titled, “Adaptationism and the Spandrels of San Marco.”

  3. Pingback: The Virus That Broke The Camel’s Back — Brian Green | theplanningmotivedotcom | Taking Sides

  4. Norman Pilon says:

    Do you agree they form an environment in which life lives.

    Of course I agree. For viruses, like everything else that impinges upon micro- and macro-organisms, are an integral aspect of the environment, as are all living species themselves, as is every single instance of any organism whatsoever.

    Viruses are an aspect of the environment in which we live just as much as we ourselves are an aspect the environment that makes for and constrains their existence.

    Everything conditions everything else, whether or not it rises to our notice, although the effects of some interactions will be more proximate and salient than others.

    Reality is a concrete whole.

    But human perception and understanding is abstractive: we have a habit of regarding aspects of reality as being in themselves self-subsistent wholes or entities.

    In reality, such self-subsistence is an illusion albeit an illusion that human cognition does not seem capable of evading and that in practice does permit us to influence (or master) in some respects what we take to be our surroundings, and this in accordance with some of our needs and desires and intents. We act and think and feel as if our existence is somehow apart from the reality in which we imagine ourselves to exist, but we do not in fact exist apart from it, but are very much integral to it, though we tend not to see or feel it as such.

    So yeah, of course, viruses create conditions that are part and parcel of what we may regard as being our environment.

  5. Cameron says:

    As the number of confirmed cases keeps rising parabolically, 37,137 at the moment, it appears to me that we are still at the early stage rather than the middle or the end. In my opinion the hope of going back to normal starting on Feb, 9 is/was wishful thinking. For example, Volkswagen postponed restarting production at most China plants until Feb. 17. Apple said on Friday its retail stores in all of China would stay closed and that a later reopening date would be determined next week! Obviously these multinationals don’t believe it is contained.

    And then there here are wild guesstimates of the impact on Chinese GDP. JPMorgan now expects China Q1 GDP To drop to 1%, crash To -4% If Coronavirus is not contained. Goldman Sachs cutting its first quarter GDP target to 4% from 5.6% previously and saying an even deeper hit is possible. So for Q1 estimates are all over the map from +4 to -4%. For full year global impact Barclays calculates that the impact on the world economy could range from almost no change to its current global growth forecast of 3.3% for 2020 to sub-3% growth in the worst case.

    I am trying to quantify the impact by correlating China’s GDP with oil prices. Oil price (WTI) 200 day moving average is $56+ and currently $50+ as of Friday. That’s lower by about 10%. If we apply that 10% to China’s GDP we end up with -4% which comes close to JPMorgan’s worse case scenario. That would constitutes a crash. I am aware that oil prices are global not national level so my method is very crude to say the least. China’s GDP is17% of the global total. At -4% it’ll provoke a global recession.

    On another note, total repos on the Fed’s balance sheet of February 5, released Thursday afternoon, have plunged by $85 billion from the peak on January 1, to $170 billion, below where they’d first been on October 2.


  6. Thank you for that analysis. I suspect we will begin to know the extent of the damage to the world economy this coming week when the Chinese economy is due to reboot. On your second point I am surprised as two REPO offerings last week were over-subscribed. I need to look into that. Presently studying epigenomics and viruses.

  7. Pingback: The virus that broke the camel’s back – The New Dark Age

  8. Danielle O says:

    Thanks great blogg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: