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Science shines through the pandemic

Illustration: J.A. Premkumar

Illustration: J.A. Premkumar  

It is heart-warming to notice the improved scientific temper across all social and geopolitical strata

The world has been brought to a standstill by a pandemic, and the future appears unclear. Naturally, humans have interpreted the infection in a wide variety of ways.

The animist believes it is the wrath of the flora and fauna which have been subdued by technological and industrial advances. Their habitat has been infiltrated by the avarice of humans. The nature lover feels that non-human creatures have had the last laugh and are sneering at the now “caged” people forced into isolation.

Despite the troubled times that we are in, the vegans seem to be on cloud nine, as they believe that the rest of the world may at last heed their cries. They have placed their two cents on the origin of COVID-19 to eating meat. They reason that the continued onslaught on animals to satisfy gluttony has resulted in the spread of the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, this theory has garnered some support from the xenophobes who blame the Chinese for the pandemic.

Divine intervention

Many god-fearing individuals believe that the epidemic is a divine curse, giving several reasons. First, the disease has affected only the human race, leaving others safe. Second, it is global and not restricted to any particular geographic zone. Third, there is no cure at sight and the only way to protect yourself is to go into isolation and learn the importance of family and prayers without entertainment or luxury.

Astrologers endorse the belief that awkward planetary positions have spread the bug. They say the epidemic will continue till the planets reach a favourable alignment.

Sections of philosophers are confident that the pandemic is holding a mirror at us to introspect on the consumeristic and materialistic ways of our life, the luxury and pleasure-seeking mindsets and the increasing reliance on electronic gadgets and rapid industrialisation.

They believe that the virus has made us more empathetic and minimalistic and return to our roots.

Such wide-ranging thought processes that attempt to colour a disease from various viewpoints are not new.

Simple triad

While science follows the simple triad of pathogen, host and disease at the three corners of a triangle, humans continue to promulgate alternative theories. In the olden days, those with psychiatric illnesses were shackled on the days of the full moon since it was believed that the patients’ mental state changed with the phases of the moon. This gave birth to the term lunatic. Plague is caused by a bacillus, but medieval Europeans believed that the Black Death was a divine punishment. The dead were cursed to have incurred retribution for sins such as rapacity, blasphemy, sacrilege, promiscuity and worldliness. Despite the improved comprehension of diseases, humankind postulates different reasons for unexpected outbreaks. HIV infection and AIDS were believed by many as god’s punishment for adultery and homosexuality. Though multiple modes of HIV transmission are well elucidated by science, the affected are still stigmatised.

Despite varying perspectives about COVID-19, it is heart-warming to notice the improved scientific temper across all social and geopolitical strata. Many people follow scientific ways to curb the spread of infection by using masks and hand sanitisers and physical distancing.

Society’s increasing reliance on medical science, epidemiological research and health care data is an encouraging sign that this pandemic can be fought off.

rishiortho@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 12:49:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/science-shines-through-the-pandemic/article31375904.ece

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