A couple of days ago, I came across a post on the Catholic blog, Vox Nova, that interested me. The issue was whether the last strains of the smallpox virus, kept alive today only in laboratories, should be destroyed in order to protect against it somehow being “returned to the wild” to again become the deadly scourge that it once was; or whether even this deadly pathogen must be preserved as a part of God’s creation? I think that the author’s gist is contained in the following except from that post, but here is the link, if you would prefer to see it in context and make your own call on it:
[I]f the world is God’s, then our decisions must show deference to God’s own plan. We are stewards, and presumably (like all stewards) have a great deal of autonomy and authority, but in the end we are constrained by the plan of the actual Master of creation.
And what does this tell us about smallpox? I am not sure, but despite the very compelling arguments of those who argue for the destruction of smallpox, some part of me hesitates to willingly destroy any part of God’s creation.
After reading the post and the comments it gave rise to, I posted the following comment of my own, using artificial birth control as an analogy:
If it is God’s plan that every act of human sexuality potentially result in a pregnancy, making artificial birth control a violation of “natural law,” then how is it not also a violation of natural law to prevent the smallpox—or any other—virus from doing what God designed it to do–which is to invade a host and multiply in the environment for which it was designed? In fact, is not all of medicine a human effort to thwart the designs upon our mortality made by natural law? What gives man the right to cherry-pick those natural processes which will be allowed to perform the teleological functions for which they were designed by the Creator? If one answers this question by saying that God also designed man with the intellect to develop vaccines and other means of fighting disease, one can counter by saying that the same God-given intellect should therefore be licitly used to keep human populations from growing too large for the resources available to them. That is stewardship.
Anticipating a possible response to my first comment, I attempted to head it off at the pass by posting this:
To suggest that the answer to the question I posed above is “abstinence,” is to suggest that we should abandon immunization programs and go back to relying on quarantining the ill to prevent the spread of epidemics. Clearly, the most effective methods which human ingenuity can contrive are the methods which should be employed to resolve any problem of stewardship facing the human race.
Whether one gives credence to the concept of “natural law,” or not; and whether one believes that we are living in “God’s creation,” or not; the question is still an interesting on, the answer to which I don’t find to be patent.
After more than 24 hours of waiting without result for some intellectually confident Catholic blogger to respond to my comments, I decided to bring my reflections home to Rodak Riffs. It has often been my experience that Catholics, when they have no response to some contra-doctrinal idea encountered in the world-at-large, simply ignore it. In this they show themselves to be closet disciples of Wittgenstein (“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.") and, ergo, crypto-Positivists.
Be that as it may, however, I find the issue of the deliberate annihilation of a living species—pro or con—to be an interesting one; so I pose it here.