Let’s hear it for the virus – a remarkable product of evolution by natural selection. A small chunk of RNA in a protein coat that has changed our lives dramatically, and ended many too. You have to admire it, or rather the process of evolution that has shaped it and made it so effective.
I’ve heard this virus, a tiny length of nucleic acid capable of replicating in cells, called many things. We personify it as clever and evil which is giving a length of RNA a considerably inflated personality and moral compass. But although the virus is not scheming against us, has no ambitions, has no plan up its non-existent sleeve, it is certainly deadly.
Viruses are remarkable, they don’t eat, they don’t breathe, they don’t do much until they get into an organism in which they can replicate, and then they replicate. But a replicating virus is on an evolutionary road to nowhere unless it has a mechanism of getting from one host to another. Viruses don’t have wings, they can’t swim and they don’t have legs – their movement from host to host is dependent on the behaviour of their host (or hosts). That’s us. We facilitate the transmission of the virus, not the virus.
We would do well to reflect on the power of nature and if we learn anything from all this (which I hope we will, but the signs are not good) part of that greater awareness should be that physics, chemistry and biology are not just ‘different ways of looking at reality’ but they are the most powerful ways of looking at reality in order to understand how the world is. That’s quite a good foundation upon which to reflect on our plaace in the world.