I think it’s tremendously important to recognize that shaming is a hardwired human behavior resulting from the fact we’re a group species. As we lack powerful muscles, bone-crushing jaws, and sharp claws, we depend on being part of a group for our survival. Thus we’re evolved to accept whatever assertions are made by purported authority figures (regardless of their actual validity) and thereafter enforce group norms (whatever they happen to be).

Of course it’s easy to see that very often this behavior leads to woefully sub-optimal outcomes. Just because medieval villagers gleefully burned old women as witches and terrorized any of their fellows who were reluctant to join in, this doesn’t mean the activity was wise. Just because Hitler’s propaganda convinced a huge number of ordinary Germans that Jews were to blame for all of the nation’s woes didn’t mean this was a helpful norm to reinforce.

We’re all eager to signal that we’re part of the group and of course the mass media and social media hugely reinforce our hardwired tendencies by presenting a single simple-minded narrative. But before we all rush out to practice “shaming” those who seem to be insufficiently conforming we may want to pause a moment and consider whether we have a solid basis for our behavior. Remember: there are a great many epidemiologists and biochemists who for very rational reasons believe our present actions are misguided. The economic costs we’re imposing on the world’s poorest and most endangered people are brushed aside but we are likely to end up killing millions in order to temporarily “save” the lives of the very old and very sick here in the West. All in all, it’s not clear that shaming people for a rational decision to step outside our global mass hysteria is a wise or helpful response. It would be better to consider, perhaps, how we could better insulate those most at risk instead of incorrectly imposing measures that imply everyone is equally at risk of death. In reality 98% of people are at risk of zero symptoms or a mild cold. That hardly seems worth sacrificing the lives of tens of millions of the world’s poorest peoples — unless we feel that their dark skins and remoteness from us, plus the fact the Western media is carefully avoiding the topic — makes them acceptable “collateral damage.”

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.