There are many shortcuts to fantasy, but there are no shortcuts to the scientific truth


by Geert Vanden Bossche, Geert Vanden Bossche:

People asked my opinion about the following article:

“How the unvaccinated threaten the vaccinated for COVID-19: A Darwinian perspective”

Author: Emanuel Goldman; PNAS September 28, 2021 118 (39) e2114279118;

My comments:

This is yet another example of a professor who thinks he has a good understanding of how this pandemic is evolving and who is firmly convinced he can take advantage of Darwin’s law to put the blame for the catastrophic evolution of this pandemic on the unvaccinated. I am sure he didn’t read my contribution ‘Repetitio est mater studiorum’….


But once, again, let’s get started by assessing his experience in some of the fields that are critically important to understanding the evolutionary dynamics of this pandemic (according to some of the criteria I listed in my contribution ‘Separating the wheat from the chaff’).

  1. Q: Does Goldman understand immunology? No

  2. Q: Does Goldman understand vaccinology? No

So, why does he even try to tackle an issue as complex as a population-level interaction between the host immune system and a virus within the context of mass vaccination?

I’ve inserted my comments below (in italics) in the text of his article. Again, they should illustrate how uninformed, biased interpretations of the data can have a disastrous impact, not only in that they violate the science but also in that they lead to irrational social discrimination. Again, I doubt that Goldman is willing to engage in an open scientific debate on a public platform. He should, therefore, at least seriously consider withdrawing the nonsense he’s trying to sell as a science-based statement.


“How the unvaccinated threaten the vaccinated for COVID-19: A Darwinian perspective”

Imai et al. (1) have characterized yet another variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for COVID-19, this one originating in Brazil. The good news is that it appears that vaccines currently available are still expected to provide protection against this variant. However, what about the next variant, one we have not seen yet? Will we still be protected?


In 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species (2), in which he outlined the principles of natural selection and survival of the fittest. The world presently has the unwelcome opportunity to see the principles of evolution as enumerated by Darwin play out in real time, in the interactions of the human population with SARS-CoV-2. The world could have easily skipped this unpleasant lesson, had there not been such large numbers of the human population unwilling to be vaccinated against this disease.

Goldman doesn’t seem to realize that protection against disease has nothing to do with Darwin’s principles of natural selection and survival of the fittest. In case of viruses, the latter have to do with replication and transmission. So, what viruses care about is barriers that prevent them from replicating / transmitting, not from external influences that prevent them from being more or less pathogenic. This is to say that natural selection of viruses in the presence of neutralizing antibodies does not occur as a result of vaccine-mediated pressure on viral pathogenicity.

SARS-CoV-2 has shown that it can mutate into many variants of the original agent (3). An unvaccinated pool of individuals provides a reservoir for the virus to continue to grow and multiply, and therefore more opportunities for such variants to emerge.


As Goldman has no clue about immunology, he does not understand that the overall (i.e., population-level) immune status of the population constitutes the barrier that is critical to Darwin’s selection and survival of the fittest (as virus replication and transmission critically depends on the ‘resistance’ mounted by the host immune system). In addition, Goldman doesn’t seem to realize that more infectious variants were already circulating before mass vaccination started. So, when mass vaccination was initiated, the question that really mattered was to know which part of the population would give more infectious variants a competitive advantage. It seems logical that more infectious variants can only enjoy a competitive advantage on a background that exerts selective immune pressure on viral infectiousness, i.e. on spike protein (as the latter is responsible for viral infectiousness). When people get jabbed in large numbers with S(pike)-based vaccines, this undoubtedly leads to massive S-directed immune selection pressure in the vaccinated part of the population. In contrast, the unvaccinated do not provide such competitive advantage to more infectious variants as they eliminate Sars-CoV-2 lineages without exerting immune selection pressure on viral infectiousness (i.e., on spike protein). This is because unvaccinated either get asymptomatically infected, i.e., they overcome the infection thanks to their innate immunity, which is known to be multi-specific ( i.e., NOT variant-specific) or they contract symptomatic infection, which equally results in multi-variant-specific acquired immunity. In none of these cases does an unvaccinated person exert any immune selection pressure on viral infectiousness, i.e., on spike protein. The unvaccinated part of the population is, therefore, anything but a reservoir for the virus! On the contrary, their capacity to eliminate the virus in a non-selective manner will lead to a diminished concentration of more infectious immune escape variants in the unvaccinated population, and even in the overall population provided the unvaccinated part of the population represents a significant part of the overall population!(which is now increasingly becoming problematic). Goldman’s interpretation does not take into account that unvaccinated people do have protective immunity, either due to innate or naturally acquired immunity.

When this occurs within a background of a largely vaccinated population, natural selection will favor a variant that is resistant to the vaccine.

Yes, natural selection of more infectious variants happens within the vaccinated population, but not in the non-vaccinated population. This already explains why there was a fall in cases when the lockdown measures in the UK were abandoned and society opened up again. Opening-up society resulted in absorption of more infectious variants (i.e., the Delta variant) by non-vaccinated people. In this population, the Delta variant had no longer a competitive advantage (as unvaccinated individuals can effectively deal with ALL Sars-CoV-2 lineages). I am truly curious to hear whether Goldman has another explanation for the fast and spectacular drop in cases subsequent to the lifting of lockdown measures in July 2021.

So far, we have been lucky that the variants that have emerged can still be somewhat controlled by current vaccines, probably because these variants evolved in mostly unvaccinated populations and were not subject to selective pressure of having to grow in vaccinated hosts.

The more infectious variants that started circulating before mass vaccination had already been subject to S-directed immune selection pressure! How could one otherwise explain that all these variants developed mutations that were converging towards immunodominant domains in the S protein? As I’ve been explaining in one of my previous articles (, this selection was most likely due to overcrowding (e.g., in favelas or slums in certain cities in Brazil or South-Africa) or possibly even due to prolonged infection-prevention measures in other regions (as prolonged infection-prevention measures lead to suppression of innate immunity and could now, indeed, provide a competitive advantage to more infectious variants).


Nevertheless, the Delta variant is exhibiting increased frequency of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated (4).

The real danger is a future variant, which will be the legacy of those people who are not getting vaccinated providing a breeding ground for the virus to continue to generate variants.

Shame on you, Goldman, for blaming the unvaccinated, whereas it is clear from my explanations above that you don’t understand at all why the unvaccinated are anything but a breeding ground for more infectious variants! Because of mass vaccination, there is now a large part of the population that exerts increasing S-directed immune selection pressure that provides more infectious variants to gain a strong competitive advantage and reproduce more effectively on a background of highly S-specific neutralizing antibodies. It’s obviously because of the profound lack of knowledge in immunology that some of the brightest minds can make some of the most stupid statements.

Read More @