Viruses frighten and disgust me. Always have.
Not enough people realize that viruses are not alive.
People keep calling in to public-service radio talk shows and asking questions like, "If I put something in the freezer, will that kill the virus?"
Sure, freezing would kill the virus ... if it were alive. It's not alive, and we really should have schools that taught people basic facts like that.
Viruses, outside of their hosts, are inert packages of information. These packages gain power only after gaining entrance to a host cell.
Virus propagation is diabolical.
You get a cold. Your nose runs. Your eyes water and itch. You touch your face to address the runny nose and watery eyes. Your hands are now covered with viral material. You touch doorknobs, cooking utensils, and a loved one's face.
You have done the virus' work for it. You have spread disease to those about whom you care.
Once the virus enters its host, it penetrates the host's cells. The host's cells go on to use their own machinery to produce copies of the virus. Tens of thousands of copies may result. This is called viral burst size.
Then, the cell dies.
And it isn't even alive. It's just a little package of genetic material a package that is "smarter" than the human beings it has been parasitizing for all of human history.
We have conquered Earth, from pole to pole, from jungle to desert, from Everest to Death Valley; tigers have devolved from the fearsome enemies that snatch our children to characters in a Netflix miniseries; we have landed on the moon, and we can't lay a glove on the common cold, something that isn't even alive.
They say that the word "virus" comes from the Latin for "poison." Poison makes sense. Poison is not alive, but it kills us. But poison doesn't manipulate us to aid its deadly mission. Poison doesn't lure us into touching our eyes and nose with our hands, thus increasing the chance that the poison will go on to hurt others.
They also say that no one knows for sure how viruses came to be.
Viruses look, to me, like life itself in its ugliest form. No driver, no intention, no telos, all destruction. And I don't know how to understand that without looking at life in a much darker way. And without looking at the author of life in a much more questioning way.
Viruses cause me to look again at the life that entrances me. I look at birds in all their wonder and can't not believe in God. I confront viruses and I really wonder. God, was if you who created life after all? As described in Genesis, even if that is just a poetic account of deeper truths?
Or was it just blind chance after all?
Life just seems like an ugly accident. Something that reproduces stupidly and blindly. What could be more blind or stupid than a motive-less package of genetic information penetrating a cell only to kill that cell? What could be more blind or stupid than the cell obeying its murderer's orders?
Humanity is so naked and helpless in the face of viruses. Why? Why haven't we studied them more, rather than spending money on the space program?
Why can't we communicate with our cells, and tell them, "No, this invader is bad. Don't let it in."
We do. We have vaccines, and they are wonderful, and their development includes wonderful stories. Jonas Salk, for example, who developed a polio vaccine, has a well-deserved reputation as a real hero. Louis Pasteur is another world-famous hero in the war against viruses and disease. And the list of heroes grows everyday, in the martyred police officers, nurses, doctors, aides, and other health care professionals, family members, and other helpers who are giving their lives to the fight against the coronavirus.
I have to get back to work, so I must tie this up.
Heroes aside, I am face to face with a virus. It looks like life as one big result of the chance collision of molecules, not as the magnificent handiwork of a benign creator.
I'm hoping and praying that a believing Christian or Jew who understands something about viruses will read this and get back to me.