In these strange times caused by the SARS-Cov2 viral pandemic, not without uncertainty, fear and confusion, I have heard almost everything, from quite sensible voices, to the most abject nonsense. But no one seems to have asked why there are viruses. Are they biological weapons escaped from hidden military laboratories? are they divine punishment? or are they simply tasteless details foisted upon us by nature?
Why are there viruses? Viruses have existed on this planet long before our species, to begin with. Evolution has maintained them, even though they are not living things in the sense that they are not autonomous or autopoietic. But as by-products of living matter — bits and pieces of genetic programmes— they seem to have been subject to the laws of natural selection and evolution from the very beginnings of life. So why do they still exist? What is their function in the ecosystem so that nature does not do without them?
Well, it seems that they do have a role to play which, although obvious, may go unnoticed by the, shall we say, “global concern”. The role of viruses is to prune populations that go too far, that exceed. They act as a safety valve. When a species increases in numbers beyond sustainability, there are mechanisms of many kinds that are activated to bring them to levels that are less dangerous to the whole. In rats, for example, overcrowding causes males to become more aggressive and bite and castrate their conspecifics, causing the population to decline. There are other solutions, such as a mass plunge off a cliff like lemmings do, and there are also less cruel ones (foetal resorption, etc.), but with the same result. Well, viruses seem to be one more of these control mechanisms.
So, what this coronavirus —and others to come— aims to do is to prune the population of human beings, which far exceeds the biomass that would correspond to us as a simple mammal, and which is already reaching crazy levels in biospheric terms (seven thousand eight hundred million individuals). What happens is that the fact that people start dying in droves, with our elders at the head, because the virus is taught in them, is not convincing at all, and there is no other way out but to resort to the same technology that has allowed us to overcome our biospheric limitations, to now try to stop the onslaught of viruses, defending ourselves with vaccines. Either we vaccinate ourselves, even without adequate safeguards, or we are pruned. Civilisation and nature are in a struggle