Recent surveys conducted by credible pollsters find that 39% of Republican men refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This political subset of the misguided anti-vaxxer crowd is intriguing in several ways, not the least of which is an odd but plausible confirmation of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. The natural selection part.

Natural selection is the process by which nature eliminates genetic variations that harm rather than advance a species. It’s the “survival of the fittest” mechanism. Those best suited to their environment -- disease resistance, for example -- survive and tend to produce more offspring.

See where I’m going with this?

If a significant number of Republican men refuse to protect themselves against a deadly virus, it is certain some of them will contract it and die. Additionally, they might be non-symptomatic carriers, and since Republicans tend to hang with Republicans, the carriers would infect others of the GOP persuasion, some of whom would get sick and die -- spouses, grandchildren, neighbors, legislators, etc. Refusing to vaccinate is an idiotic stance for Republican men to take, but given the Trumpian perversion of true Republican values it’s no surprise.

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Now, Darwinian principles come into play. Natural selection begins to eliminate the idiot gene in order to protect the species. Carriers of the idiot gene die off. Thus, there will be fewer offspring with the corrupted trait. Nature clears the gene pool of a mutation that weakens elements of the organism, in this case anti-science dolts and a Republican Party that seems hellbent on marginalizing itself.

It’s no wonder that a lot of Republicans reject Darwin’s science.

In a more enlightened frame, congratulations and thank you to retailers and other businesses for keeping mask mandates in place, despite premature moves toward relaxation by state and local governments. Fargo businesses (including Forum Communications Co., Hornbacher’s, Fleet Farm, Walmart, Zandbroz Variety, Gate City Bank, West Acres Shopping Center and many others) are putting the safety of their customers and employees first. They are resisting a small cabal of noisy anti-maskers that has embraced pseudoscience to prop up a personal freedom narrative that is as nonsensical as it is dangerous.

One caveat: If a business posts signs informing patrons that “masks are required,” then require masks. It makes no sense, and sends the wrong message, if masks are allegedly mandated by a store, but patrons who stroll in without a mask get away with it. They should be confronted, offered a mask, and if they refuse they should be escorted out. Otherwise, the “required” mask rule is a sham.

Nonetheless, private sector managers and owners read the polls that find upward of 70% of those surveyed want mask mandates to stay in place. Requiring masks is the right public health policy, and it’s good business practice. And I’ve heard this sentiment from all of my friends: If a place does not have a mask rule in place, they will shop elsewhere. Me, too.

Zaleski retired in 2017 after 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. He is the author of a new history of Forum Communications Co. Contact him at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5521 or 701-566-3576.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.