Lop-Sided Philosophy: Disease

Life does not last forever. For individual organisms, for species as a whole, for life-supporting planets, there will be an inevitable demise, and with a tiny but finite probability, sentient beings and civilisations as we know them will rise and fall in an endless cycle. Amongst the pattern of the universe's evolution, the thermodynamic illusion of life and conscience will be drawn into the reality of cold matter, but life is insignificant as far as the cosmos is concerned, and its end is not the end. Looking into the details of life, the same is true on a local picture. One sentience is crucial to that being, but it will die, and the ecosystem is only aided by its lack of free energy consumption. Deaths in these ecosystems, however, are often driven by the influence of environment and of other organisms, through hunting, but also through illness by means of genetics and microbes.

Disease, the killer of plants, animals, humans and natural microbes, is often mediated by harmful fungi, bacteria and viruses, which require living cells to reproduce. In their nature, they only do this to reproduce and survive off of the resources that the host provides. It is how they have evolved, and it is how our evolutionary ancestors have maintained survival over many more millenia than humans have been around. Just as the lion kills the zebra for its survival, and just how the fetus needs optimum incubation conditions, the e coli feeds off of the resources that the human naturally produces for it in abundance, allowing for such an environment for mitosis to accumulate the bacteria within the host, with the side-effect of inflating the host's urinary tract. That kind of side-effect is what we call disease.

Whatever form this sickness comes in, be it a dysfunctional kidney, pain in the testicles, an embarrassing overrun of wind; humans and animals have evolved immune responses, but when that isn't enough, we have made copious attempts to actively fight back; from Stone Age brain-scraping with flint to nowadays, where we give our own white blood cells target practice and cut brains open with greater sanitation. We go to any length to wipe out these harmful beings, but does that agree with our usual ideology towards other living organisms? We have made organisations and pressure groups to protect endangered species from the problems with cultural and economic demands, but this does not include these living beings which are part of the ecosystem. The contradiction to the widespread belief that disease should be combated no matter what is that one animal's medicine is another animal's poison.

Bacteria and viruses each reproduce using systems and chemicals corresponding to their species, and a host undergoes a reaction depending on its own genes. Human DNA makes us react intensely to influenza, while a cat cannot suffer from exactly the same virus. In the same way, cats suffer illnesses that humans do not, and we are safe around critically ill cats under the circumstances. Imagine how a sentient individual of specific DNA structure can put what we find harmful to their advantage. Manipulating these biological processes could save lives, even if they are not human. Why are we not so hesitant to wipe out these antigens?

With this approach to these microbes, to keep them alive and thriving may easily be doing many plants and animals justice. Though we can more easily see what is killing them than what is making them stronger on a microscopic level, we could discover that what is making some things suffer, for the most part, ourselves, may be the cornerstone of an ecosystem. Looking at the bigger picture, is it really ethical to eradicate these monocellular beings if they are keeping some creatures alive, directly or otherwise? What helps us to survive could be a death sentence for a countless range of important animals and plants. Perhaps millions of people in Africa are dying from undiscovered diseases, but perhaps their deaths take little toll on the network of life in Africa as we know it. Studying the cure should take a backseat to studying the potentially useful roles in the natural world first. Of course, this will take much longer than simply eradicating the bug, but if we prolong this permanent cure, we could keep the natural world from declining entirely, and millions of people will only be dying for a good cause, to prevent the number from reaching the billions.

That is my lop-sided philosophy on this case, and from this point onwards, whenever I feel sick, I will think about the sophisticated way of nature that is (probably) making a sacrifice to allow many more to live in the future. Either that, or I'll ask the doctor to give this particular stomach bug what for, after all, it's one of many.