Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Living Dead

Humanity lives a constant paradox whilst waging a never ending war. We have been beset by a multitude of contagions that have killed multi-millions of people. It is only by a mixture of our ingenuity and the incredible breeding rate of hominids that we have not been wiped off the face of the planet. Yet still the paradox confronts us. Nature has, one way or another attempted to reduce the human population and it is only by science, acting against the natural laws that we have survived.

When we think of science we tend to isolate it from nature or, for those of faith, from God. Science, nature, and God are one and the same thing. They are indivisible. It is only our ignorance, our attempts to shackle what some see as a divinity, a great creator of a very human logic, that the original trinity is subdivided and used against each other. They are one. Science is the understanding of what is God/nature. Science is not man made. It is the manner in which something far greater than us formed all life.  By understanding science, we are unraveling that which is greater than us yet conversely part of us. Paradoxically, as we learn more via the tool of science thereby understanding nature, the more we confront the thing we seek to understand - nature itself.

By rights humanity should either be like dinosaurs, extinct or if not then greatly reduced in population. Between 1346 and 1353 an estimated 75 to 200 million deaths occurred in Europe. The name of this virulent disease was the Black Death. It was a disease, possibly Yersinia pestis bacterium, thought to have traveled  along the Silk Road in Central Asia carried by black rats infested with fleas. Somewhere in the region of 30 to 60 percent  of Europe's population was wiped out. This reduction of human numbers from a global population of 450 million decreased that figure to 350 million. We survived.

The plague also survived and then returned. In fact, it didn't so much return as to not really go away. It just lay skulking like a petulant child ready to have another outburst. From 1360 right through until 1667 it came back, again and again,  killing large numbers of people each time it made another encore. Between 1628 and 1631 over one million French people died of the disease. It hadn't finished yet. 

In 1855 through to 1859 the plague returned spreading across China killing 10 million people in that country and India. We now seem to have it under control or, at least, we think we have.


If you then consider the other deadly diseases that either have or are still assaulting us, smallpox, leishmaniasis, malaria, tuberculosis, aids, typhus and the hidden, forgotten killer, Spanish flu then the numbers of human deaths, using very conservative figures and over the course of 500 hundred years, are 876 million. The likelihood is these figures are  grossly underestimated. If you add to that figure those who died in the 20th century from wars you will need to add another 160 million. That is a staggering 1 billion and thirty-six million. The same approximate number of humans the planet can comfortably support.

Medical advancements have meant many of these deadly diseases have been defeated. The greatest contemporary threat is heart disease, self-induced in many cases, but even that is now in retreat.

Science had assisted us in beating those things sent by nature to reduce our numbers. This brings into sharp focus a dichotomy. Do we continue to battle against nature by doing what is natural and preserving life or do we allow nature to run its course thereby ignoring the first rule of nature - self-preservation. Do we have the right to fight the will of nature by utilizing  science? Are we perverting the natural laws the better to survive?

As a long-standing diabetic, diagnosed Christmas 1957, I owe everything to science. Without it, I would now be dead. But then again, if nature were allowed to have its way then that would mean my, and many millions like me, an imminent demise which in itself is contrary to nature's first law - survival. 

Without the ever evolving knowledge, we have gained the closer we get to understanding the trinity - God/Science/ Nature - the more in defiance of that very thing we have become.

Time and again nature cull us. That combined with our natural insanity for killing each other brings our numbers down and yet, conversely, those numbers are increasing.

Fifty per cent of known cancers is now treatable. Without our being able to find cures for this terrible disease, possibly the most frightening of all, more people would die. It is right that we cure those suffering for who in their right mind wouldn't want to be cured and who, apart from those with warped morals, would not want to alleviate suffering from fellow humans? Yet this is the dichotomy we face.

Death rates are decreasing even though nature has done it's very best to do the job it is best able to do. We have managed to defy all natural laws by  our environmental interventions, our improvements in nutrition and the advances made in clinical medicine, by improved access to health care, by the manner in which we monitor diseases and by both better education and living standards.


The Great Chinese Famine saw 30 million dies. Add another 40 million to the world total who died in the 20th century from famine to 70 million. Another figure to add to the increasing death toll. 

The Catholic Church regards birth control as being anti-God. They suggest the only form of birth control is abstinence. Our planet can support one billion humans comfortably. There are now six point two billion. It is a number constantly growing. It is forecast by the middle of this century that that figure will double. If it does food will be in short supply. The human race will be facing starvation. A grim prospect. 


It is only by our best endeavors that so many diseases are being beaten or kept at bay. And who among us can suggest this is wrong? Who would want to see Cancer run riot again? I wouldn't. Nor do I think we should halt our efforts on preventing disease spreading but as we do we have to realize that we are acting in defiance of nature. Old age too, with life expectancy increasing year on year out, is gradually being extended as people live well into their nineties and beyond.  

We save lives by dint of the force that drives all animals to self-survival. Yet by seeking survival are we not ultimately doing further harm by unbalancing that self-same force? With our incredible breeding ability, the way we are outgrowing the very planet that gave us life in the first place, are we not condemning ourselves collectively? Are not the laws of nature capable of finding some method of limiting the numbers of humans in much the same way it does with other species either by disease or acts of tremendous magnitude, say a vast volcano erupting under Yellowstone park or a great tsunami?

Being the smartest apes on the planet means we now have skills that match the gods. Surely there is nothing we cannot solve? Yes, we are the smartest apes on the planet, no doubt we will think of something.
Won't we?



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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

2 comments:

Robert Bennett said...

Of course the irony of it all is that we are working towards our own extinction due to overpopulation. It's amazing what we've done so far, but we're literally creating our own paradoxes of survival due to over consumption. It will be interesting to see where this takes us in the following 50 years.

Russell Duffy said...

Exactly so. My fears are more for my grandchildren than myself or indeed my children.