Monday, May 28, 2018

Why Would A Good God Create Viruses?

(This blog is a summary of the article written by Anjeanette “AJ” Roberts, PhD, found in Chapter 4 of Building Bridges, Reasons to Believe, 2018)

The presence of “natural evil” is one of the most common objections levied at the existence of God.  How can a good God allow the suffering caused by naturally occurring disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami? Viruses such as influenza, herpes, measles, and Ebola that cause widespread disease and death are a perfect example of this. 
As it turns out, these horrific viruses are actually very rare exceptions. The vast majority of viruses on planet Earth are not associated with any disease or suffering.  The earth is filled with an incredible abundance of viruses.  A single milliliter of ocean water or a gram of soil can harbor 10-100 million virus particles or more.  Viruses outnumber all other living things by a factor of at least 10 to 1 and even possibly 100 to 1. It is estimated that there are 1031viruses on earth – that’s 10 million times more viruses than stars in the universe, but only an infinitesimal fraction of viruses are associated with human disease, or diseases of any kind.
In fact, viruses are critical for sustaining the balance in Earth’s ecological webs and for providing higher ordered organisms ecological space to thrive. If it were not for viruses, bacteria and other single celled organisms would rule the planet, sequestering all nutrients and filling all ecological niches, making higher life and the survival of multicellular organisms impossible. Bacteriophage kill 40-50 percent of all the bacteria in Earth’s oceans on a daily basis.  This bacterial death releases an abundance of biogenic and organic molecules into Earth’s biogeochemical cycle and food chain for the survival of other organisms. It is possible that many viruses also exist to regulate animal populations. Some viruses have a symbiotic relationship with different organisms to help them survive through particular stresses. We need viruses for our very survival.
We are also harnessing viruses to improve our quality of life. We use them as tools to genetically alter organisms and to mitigate disease, manipulating and engineering them to fight cancer and polio. Much of what we know about molecular and cellular biology has been knowledge gained through viral studies. 
Although a few viruses are remarkably bad, life as we know it would be impossible without the vast array of viruses that fill the planet. While we understandably focus on the viruses that are dangerous to humans, our existence actually depends on the presence of viruses. Just like earthquakes and tsunami, viruses are responsible for horrific pain.  But also just like earthquakes and tsunami, viruses are necessary for life as we know it to even exist in the first place.