"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, June 18, 2012

On the benefits of the bubonic plague

A few weeks ago on NCIS: LA, a doctor was captured who wanted to reinfect much of the world with small pox! (Thank goodness agents Hanna and Callen got her in time!) Her thinking?  The planet was overcrowded and needed to be saved. By getting rid of horrible diseases which killed lots of people, we were tampering with nature and allowing the earth to get too crowded.  It took thousands of years to reach a billion people and then within only a few short years (comparatively), another billion, then another and another. Now I am wondering how many others out there think like this doctor and believe diseases should be free to run rampant and kill people in order to save the planet. Maybe wars and infanticide can be good things so the earth doesn't get too crowded. Um, I don't think so, but perhaps some do.

Later in May as I was reading From Plato to NATO the author, David Gress, states that in "1348, bubonic plague arrived from south Asia, killing around a third of the population in its first visitation, and thereafter returning every generation  or so to cull those who had been born since the last epidemic.  ...The plague solved the food crises, and for survivors, reversed the balance of economic power between peasants and landlords. Until the famine that began in 1315, the population of western Europe had been growing probably somewhat more rapidly than the food supply. Europe around 1300 was full of landless laborers willing to work for a pittance.  Peasants were increasingly tenants, not owners, and at the mercy of landlords who could evict them and find more docile tenants without difficulty.

The plague changed this.  Surviving peasants found themselves fewer and more in demand. Landlords suffered losses when their tenants died and, unable to meet their obligations, were willing to pay more to have their land tilled and rents paid. Peasants who received better conditions were more often able to buy their land."  (pg. 234-235)

So there ya go again.  Plagues' benefits.  I guess, too, there are wars and abortion and infanticide (humanity's ways) and earthquakes, tsunamis and famines (nature's way) of controlling the population.  And homosexuals. They can't have children. Well, they can, thanks to technology.  Same with infertile couples. What do you think? Are we tampering too much with nature by finding cures for diseases and allowing infertile couples to conceive whether it be by IVF or some other means?

If only we could find a way to harness those hurricanes and stop those shifting plates underground ... or maybe not.


I wonder if Earth would think differently than we do.


Sarah Familia said...

Interesting points. I personally think that everyone should at least consider adoption. There are so many children who need homes.

LK said...

we live in a surprisingly fragile ecosystem. Some of our advances in medical technology could be harmful in how that ecosystem functions. Thats why superbugs develop along with horrible diseases like cancer. The system is designed to control itself. We all can't live forever we'd overwhelm the system. Its like here in Iowa. The deer population is out of control because we got rid of the preditors. Now humans have to go in and control the population because otherwise the deers are disrupting the ecosystem (mostly by causing car accidents and eating crops). Got rid of the control and the population went out of control. Not good for an ecosystem.

Now don't think I'm a fan of cancer or something. But disease has a purpose. Everything does.

Amber said...

Where's the 'like' button on here? i want to *like* LK's comment.

Somewhere along the line people went from being able to work with the ecosystem to thinking that they have the right to do whatever the hell they want and damn the consequences.

sanil said...

I think all living things fight for survival and often at the expense of other living things. It's completely natural for humans to seek ways to extend their lives, just like it's completely natural for diseases to infect people. It's not a matter of one being necessarily better than the other, but in either case there's a price to be paid because putting the system out of balance does lead to problems like not being able to support the needs of so many more people being alive at a time.

I also think it's interesting that this mostly becomes a concern when it affects us. The plague had a benefit because overpopulation had been a problem before, and now that the population was lower the remaining people had better lives. Balance restored! I doubt most people would ever be concerned about the effect on the environment, except that eventually destroying the environment hurts humanity. And yeah, it does. There's going to be a heavy price at some point, maybe another plague. A lot of people will die and maybe that creates more opportunities for the people who survive. But without the advances we've made, wouldn't there be as much or more death earlier? Who can say one life is more important to save than another and that it's a bad thing to preserve life now? Nothing really changes, and the world has shown itself to be pretty capable of finding a new balance over time as new species are introduced, for example. A species working to extend its life is just part of that long process.

Susanne said...

Sarah, I hear that a lot and thankfully know several couples who have adopted. It can be a great thing! I've only heard one that was really negative about it (the child was older, from Russia and suffered from Reactive Detachment Disorder due to her childhood) yet loads of others who had wonderful experiences with both domestic and international adoption.

LK, good points and I like the example of the deer and predators. You say disease has purpose. So what do you say to people who accuse God of being awful for allowing suffering (disease, earthquakes, famine, etc.)? I'm sure "disease has its purpose to control the delicate ecosystem" doesn't go over well! :) I'm guessing what you might say, but am curious what, in reality, your thoughts are on that. Thanks for chiming in!

Amber, for real! I often wish I could find "like" buttons on blog comments!

Sanil, great thoughts as always.

I enjoyed all the comments. Thank you all!

Rebekka @ Becky's Kaleidoscope said...

I do think disease can play a role, but I don't think they're completely necessary today. In earlier times people had no knowledge about contraception and planning for children (and also having many children were necessary as so many would die). Today however, I think it would make more sense to try and limit the amount of children, rather than having disease limit the population.

Karrie said...

I honestly couldn't figure out what to comment on this post because I kept giggling about " (Thank goodness agents Hanna and Callen got her in time!)"


Karrie said...

Okay, fine.. a real comment... In response to a comment, of course:

Sus asked "So what do you say to people who accuse God of being awful for allowing suffering (disease, earthquakes, famine, etc.)? "

They'd still have a valid criticism toward a diety who is a "personal god" who takes an active role in his creation's life. i.e. - if he really is involved enough to care about whether or not my mom gets a good parking spot at Walmart, or if everyone in the local basketball game is safe... then why did he set up a system in which reproduction is commanded, but resources are limited, and then the "cure" for reproduction is death, but not just any old death, but horrible, painful, and tragic deaths for a lot of people? That would be the criticism, even if we admit that disease does play a ecological role.

This type of "balance thinking" and acceptance that "bad things just have to happen - circle of life and all that jazz" is much more in line with the "watchmaker" views on God. If there is a diety, a creator, and he created the system, "wound it up", and stepped back - then terrible things, accidents, and diseases might be part of his system, but he has no direct hand in how the world plays out.

This concept of traditional Deism would shield this type of God from the criticism that is often valid when confronted with the idea of a very involved, caring, personal diety. (why save one kid from breaking his ankle at a basketball game because they prayed, but ignore the kid being beaten at home every night, even though he prays?... why let one person have a heart attack in their sleep, yet another go through months of excrutiatingly painful cancer before dying?... etc...)

Susanne said...

Thanks, Karrie! Good thoughts as usual. :)