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ARE WE A VIRUS? (A Speculation on the Condition of Being Human)

Coxsackie B4 virus seen with an immunoelectron...

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I am now approaching my seventy fourth year and I have seen, and been royally ticked off, by quite enough mankind has done to date, thank you.

 

It has led me to long wonder if we “civilized” human beings are, in fact, merely a virus, perhaps the most viral parasitic species on the planet. I think ample evidence exists that it is possible we have always been this virus upon the earth cloaked in the guise of a highly evolved, positive, and creative life form. Scientists have long sought the missing link. Is it possible that we are the missing link? Is it possible that we are an imperfect species in the process of morphing into something other than what we now are…if we don’t completely destroy our planet before we get to whatever it is our next stage will be? And this is a very large “if”.

 

I am sure most, if not all of you, reading this have already decided that there is no question about it. That there is no way on earth that you are a virus and that what I am positing here is ridiculous at the very least, and that I am somewhere around the bend at the most. Perhaps, but what is a virus? A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of organisms. They affect the behavior of their hosts profoundly. We humans are made up of many trillions of these cells grouped into specialized tissues and organs and thus are quite capable of hosting viruses. Luis P. Villarreal, director of the Center for Virus Research at the University of California, Irvine writes: “When a virus enters a cell (called a host after infection), it is far from inactive. It sheds its coat, bares its genes and induces the cell’s own replication machinery to reproduce the intruder’s DNA or RNA and manufacture more viral protein based on the instructions in the viral nucleic acid. The newly created viral bits assemble and more viruses arise, which may then infect other cells”. It seems perfectly plausible, and fair to me, in view of the fact that viruses cause disease, infection, cancers, etc., and that man-made climate change has brought about the sickness of our oceans now made manifest by so much of our sea life dying out, by these same oceans and the all the continents they surround growing increasingly warmer, by all the death, drought, famine, pollution, and damage we have created, to ask – since we seem to be acting in the very same way that a virus acts, and bringing about the same results – are we a virus?  And as far as a virus being a “small” infectious agent; relative to what we are attacking aren’t we minute?

Simply because we do not look like what science knows – and what we suspect a virus looks like – does not make us not a virus. One thing we do know is that appearances can be quite deceiving.

 

And to what end is our vaunted creativity?  Doesn’t it appear that we have become the architects of the systematic destruction and wanton waste of our planet’s resources, even though there are so many among us who know better? In the face of all we’ve come to know about the terrible damage we do why do we continue to defile the only home we can possibly live in? Why do we seem incapable of changing this situation? It is as if it is inherent in our nature to destroy, to wantonly suck the life out of our earth without mercy …very virus-like.

 

The aboriginal peoples who came before us had a reverence for our planet’s nature far beyond anything we exhibit. They considered the trees, the waters, and all of nature, Godly – and imbued with a powerful spirit. They worshipped and protected nature. They were smart enough to fear nature. They were in constant dread of her just as they should have been. It’s a measure of how far removed we now are from the true nature of things that too many of us dismiss aboriginal peoples as childlike and simple, as if those are bad things to be anyway. If we humans are, as I suspect, nothing more than a virus, then of course they too were a virus. But there are bad viruses and good viruses. If we are a virus then in becoming “civilized” we have devolved into a bad virus. Instead of living with, and among, nature we strive mightily to control her. Unlike aboriginal peoples we think of ourselves as separate from her, as her lord and master. We are no longer in awe of her as befits her omnipotence, nor do we worship her. Not only do we not worship her, we have disrespected her, defiled her, infected her. And what we now worship is far from Godlike.

 

Even the way in which we worship is suspect. To my mind it is laughable to consider a building more holy than a tree, or a lake. Need we be reminded of how much war, death, and destruction our man-made religions have produced while serving all the while to keep us separate from one another, and asking us to believe we’re different and therefore better than one another? Is this more of the viral toxicity that has been spread by humankind?

The age of the Earth is some 4.54 billion years. This figure is based on evidence from radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the ages of the oldest known terrestrial and lunar samples. I mention this in the context of my prior hypothesis that humans may only be an imperfect species on a journey to another, as yet unknown, form. Homo sapiens ancestors Homo antecessor came along around eight hundred thousand years ago, and Homo heidelbergensis, likely ancestors of Neanderthal man, appeared around five hundred thousand years ago. Homo sapiens, or wise man in Latin (if only), came into existence some one hundred fifty thousand years ago. Because as a species we Homo sapiens are so egocentric, because we create so much “noise”, because we have such an impossibly huge carbon footprint unlike any other life form, it seems reasonable to us to think that we humans must be the most important life form ever to inhabit the earth, and that to our minds we have been here for such a long time. But compared to the age of our planet, man has existed for only 0.003% of the time. Compared to the enormity of our planet and its solar system we are, individually, a puny life form as well as a relatively very new life-form.

 

Measured by the life of our planet we are but a microscopic blip of matter on the radar of time…far less important than one-cell bacteria, and as infinitesimal as any virus when juxtaposed against the background of the entirety of our planet’s known life forms. In view of all that, and the fact that 99.9% of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct, I wonder if it is not too far-fetched to think it entirely within the realm of probability that our life form will come and go in the relative blink of an eye simply by obeying nature’s law of the survival of the fittest, which will find us wanting just because we are so destructive, and that like the life form Paramecium Bursaria Chlorella to pick one, we too are a toxic virus…just, maybe to us anyway, a little prettier?

 

© tony powers and Barking in the Dark, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to tony powers and Barking in the Dark with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About barkinginthedark

Tony Powers is a writer/actor/musician. His full bio may be seen by clicking on the picture, and then clicking on either of the 2 boxes below it.

Discussion

32 thoughts on “ARE WE A VIRUS? (A Speculation on the Condition of Being Human)

  1. Wow, humans do act like virus to the earth…then probably what’s keeping this virus from overtaking completely the earth’s health is those few who are malignant and abnormal and wouldn’t go for what it’s supposed to do and protect it in stead…that being said, I think there’s already a part of earth that is in serious condition now…and maybe the climate changes is some kind of infection or reaction to the virus that is attacking it.

    Posted by Aian Ramos | December 24, 2012, 6:21 am
  2. As one virus to another…………..am i free to see my virus nature and change it when and how I want? That would make me a little more “talented” than a “textbook” virus? I do not know, i’m just wondering. Man is not only destroying the earth, he is also singing songs and petting dogs on the head? And complaining about being compared to a virus? Also, it is tempting to over romanticise native american culture and people, but building a rocket ship to take people to the moon is pretty heady stuff. I guess I’ll use my favorite word lately “mixed bag” to
    describe we humans these days. Thanks for making me think about these things………

    Posted by askcheeta | December 21, 2012, 5:07 pm
  3. INTERSTELLAR ADVENTURERS

    They kept worlds alive
    Long enough to launch themselves
    On fresh destruction

    Posted by Ben Naga | December 21, 2012, 4:18 pm
  4. We are not a Virus.
    But we have divorced ourselves from Nature a long time ago. And since then we have been developing this way of being, thinking, acting, and seeing the world that is more and more cut off from what is True, Natural, Cosmic. We were once healthy cells in this beautifull organism knows as Earth (think Native Americans for example), but we have become a Tumor. We must see beyong the illusion of the human world, wake up from the halucination known as Civilization, and surrender ourselves to that wich IS. The Cosmos/Nature/God, outside and within, and let It take control. In this way the cure for this great evil, this tumor, this ignorance of the way things truly are, will eventually start to heal us.

    Posted by Bruno Tarrana | December 21, 2012, 3:12 pm
    • bruno, thanks for the comment. virus…tumor…there may be a difference in the biological make-up of these things, but what they have in common is they are both parasitic. i agree with what you say about waking up…much of what you write is in my essay…but i fear we won’t/can’t wake up to what is really real in time. thanks again. continue…

      Posted by barkinginthedark | December 21, 2012, 3:36 pm
    • A tumor is another good analogy…or metaphor…I always get the two confused…there is hope Bruno…mutation…we have seen it now and again born from the general human virus…or tumor…but it is rare…we all have our ideas of that positive mutation…for example…I think of Beethoven…or Mozart…or Bach…for example…there are of course more…but what better mutation than that in the realm of high music…another language of sorts.

      Posted by Tincup | December 21, 2012, 4:13 pm
      • I don’t know much about hope, mutations or music. But one thing I know, through personal experience, is that more often than not the best and most eficient teacher is pain and suffering. We will only change collectively when on the verge of self-annihilation. If we change at all! But it’s ok! Maybe the Earth will be better without us. Maybe then I can come back as a seahorse or something.

        Posted by Bruno Tarrana | December 21, 2012, 5:02 pm
      • ha ha ha…another laugh…indeed…another dark thought of mine…only through a global catastrophe that impacts all mankind will we perhaps…think of another way…a seahorse….interesting…I would prefer the dolphin…or Orca…perhaps we have been those before…time is eternal…:-)

        Posted by Tincup | December 21, 2012, 5:07 pm
  5. Reblogged this on Contemplating The Human Direction and commented:
    I have found a kindred spirit…in an unexpected place…a reason to keep blogging into the vastness of eternity

    Posted by Tincup | December 21, 2012, 2:45 pm
  6. LMAO…I have found a kindred spirit…continue….

    Posted by Tincup | December 21, 2012, 2:43 pm
  7. Wow i completely agree, and have been questioning myself about his very subject for sometime, i believe that we are a virus, we seem to be” as humans “possessed by survival of the fittest which is in our dna, which has transpired into greed and power, a need more want more reflex, and even though deep in our hearts we know this is bad, we just can not help ourselves, and i believe money is a major factor.
    I dont mean to be down or negative, but “it really does feel strange writing this” i feel ashamed of us all as humans, we are so intelligent but also so so very unintelligent and neglectful of our surroundings and each other, its a human trait we cannot help, the virus theory is not in anyway a silly idea, as we just cant help ourselves.
    The aboriginals and native indians, i believe as stated, have far far better beliefs but are still floored because as humans, they still fear differences, after all its only natural,survival of the fittest ect, because we are acting like a virus, i believe we have pushed the earth past the point of no return, to defend itself, or cleanse itself.
    Maybe the next breed of human may learn from our dreadful mistakes, by finding some of our tech and reading it as we do the cave paintings. oh well have a nice day :-)

    Posted by Anonymous | July 16, 2012, 3:39 pm
  8. Something I have been trying to put into words for so long, you managed with ” it is laughable to consider a building more holy than a tree.” I’m sure most other life forms do see us as a virus. Excellent post again.

    Posted by Nonstepmom | October 19, 2011, 8:57 pm
  9. Now this one ought to get pressed!

    Posted by BrainRants | October 19, 2011, 2:00 am
  10. I always imagined us as barnacles on the whale-like skin of the earth. I like your analogy better.

    Posted by Averil Dean | October 18, 2011, 8:06 pm
  11. I enjoyed reading your post. It brings back sweet memories of Hegel, Kant, and sleeping in the back row of my freshman philosophy class.

    You may reasonably lament some of the “selfish gene” (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene ) aspects of human nature, however, the “virus,” metaphor weakens when you consider the remarkable adaptive capability of viruses.

    Furthermore, when your characterize viruses as “good” or “bad,” you are making a value judgement — from YOUR human viewpoint (rather than from the viewpoint of the virus.) You accept your “punyness”, so you might consider taking that logic to the next level … which is that you (and humans generally) cannot see the “big picture.” Only a supreme being (God, etc.) has that ability.

    There are no “bad” viruses. Just a bad case of influenza (if you are a human.)

    Posted by Rocky Humbert | October 18, 2011, 12:53 pm
    • thank you for reading, and for the thoughtful comment. I have to agree about “good” and “bad” viruses. But I do not believe in an “anthropomorphic” supreme being. continue…

      Posted by barkinginthedark | October 18, 2011, 1:07 pm
      • I was not suggesting that you should or must believe in an “anthropomorphic” supreme being. It was an oblique reference to epistomology and one approach to dealing with the struggle that you seem to be facing. I’ve noticed that many people who share your political views (not that there’s anything wrong with them) fail to accept their own inability to see the REALLY big picture. For example, I am “god” to an ant living in my backyard. And, we are (currently) incapable of perceiving whether we are just proverbial ants to an even bigger landowner. If one is a physicist, this viewpoint problem is substantial — and related somewhat to relativity theory.

        A fall-back position for certain liberals (not that there’s anything wrong with them), is that what may superficially appear self-destructive in the timespan of their lives, could be quite productive in the timespan of eons. There’s certainly as much physical evidence to support this view as the notion that humans are destroying the planet.

        On the physics, you might enjoy the Shrodinger’s Cat paradox. It illustrates one of my points nicely.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger's_cat

        Posted by Rocky Humbert | October 18, 2011, 1:31 pm
      • Rocky, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I have no struggle. I have also thought that to an ant I am just another of the many vicissitudes of the naturally occurring phenomena of the universe which affect its existence. As for the big picture…yes…what is, is, and can be viewed as both positive and negative in the long run…a thing is a thing and is + or – depending on our perspective. I will reply more thoughtfully tomorrow as i am about to board a plane. Thanks again. continue…

        Posted by barkinginthedark | October 18, 2011, 2:23 pm
  12. Brilliant and well written…my comprehension limit merits another reading of your post as this is a little out of my league but I recognize brilliance.

    Posted by An Embarrassment of Freedom | October 18, 2011, 12:05 am
  13. I completely get your point and agree.

    My sister and I have been saying that we humans act like a virus. We say it a lot when some new, ridiculous piece of flawed thinking about how environmentalists are impeding “progress” comes out, but you have researched this concept and stated the case like we never could. I applaud you.

    Posted by Sparks In Shadow | October 17, 2011, 9:56 pm
  14. difference between viruses and humans: humans can commit suicide as a race, taking plenty of other species along with them, whereas viruses can’t.

    it seems as if humans are destroying the Earth, but actually they’re just altering it so as to make it unlivable for humans. after we’re gone as a race, the Earth can lounge back and spend 100 million years or so replacing the oil we’ve used up, for example.

    Even if we somehow manage to kill off every other life form, I suspect that single-cell organisms of one type or another will manage to hang around. And even if we finish them all off, the Earth can relax and while away a billion years or so creating life again, while also waiting for meteorties bearing life to land. Or little green men saying, “Hey, where is everybody?”

    Or maybe I’m just a cockeyed cheerful optimist. :)

    Posted by joem18b | October 17, 2011, 9:16 pm

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