10 April 2021


I know this is boring because I've made this point before, and not just once. But ...

In a letter recently made public, PF appears to favour the availability of vaccines against Covid to poorer countries, But in the same letter, he also speaks favourably about biodiversity. (As he has previously.)

Covid must be the most spectacular example of biodiversity in our time. Its capacity to mutate seems endless. The facility with which it spreads is awesome. Every patient choking to death in a Covid ward is a witness to its amazing powers and versatility; and to the might and majesty of Nature.

Can somebody explain to me how the same person in the same document can favour attacking Covid with vaccines, and pay lipservice to biodiversity.

(No; please, not your opinions about 'tainted' vaccines, or about blaming the Chinese. Could you just say something which will help me to understand, simply in his own terms, what is going on in PF's strange mind as he perpetrates what seem to me obvious and radical self-contradictions. And why is there so little evidence that anybody apart from me is in the least puzzled?) 


wonastow said...

Was not one of the consequences of Adam's sin a disordering of the natural world? Where formerly the lion lay down with the lamb we now kill the lamb for our food or to make a burnt offering and kill the roaring lion which seeks to devour us. In Eden Coronavirus must have been benign but in this fallen world it imperils us and to save our bodies the better thereby to save our souls we must kill it. No doubt Biodiversity will pull a replacement out of the hat.

PH said...


He is Argentinian, I am Brazilian. Down here the thought process is quite different from where you live.
Your thought up there is perceived by us as a production line: you take fact A, assemble with fact B and trim with fact C. If any of the facts do not fit each other, you go back and try again until you have formed your mind in a definitive way.

We, on the other hand, choose our conclusion and start picking facts that will fit and justify it, which makes it very hard to understand and honestly sometimes have deep flaws which can only be explained as denial of the Truth.

Why does he do that? Because he has two convictions, which are that COVID must be eliminated and that biodiversity is a good thing, so he is trying hard to make a point assembling those two.

Also keep in mind that our continent is in the middle a geopolitical game AND our way of seeing things is affected by how intact a huge part of our fauna and flora is, so we do not like foreign powers that have destroyed theirs dictating how to keep it.

As I said, in Francis' mind it makes sense to defend biodiversity and extermination of the virus because he is trying to assemble two different things and picking facts as he goes, without proof-reading it.
It helps that no bishop makes a brotherly correction so he just keeps trying to put a square on a circle.

Victor said...

Probably he has not quite understood what biodiversity means - just that it is cool to be for it. And being liked by the World is all our bishops are looking for...

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Who knows if he knows what he knows?

Fratelli tutti was the subject of a recent reflection by Rodrigo Guerra Lopez at The Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The gentleman spoke about Neo-Nationalism and Caudillos.

Much of what was claimed in the presentation was largely psychological projection from the Pope his own self. Talk about a populist caudillo; marching behind the banners of Mercy, Brotherhood & Surprise, the Pope demands changes in the nature of the Church & society.

I do not think the Pope spends a lot of time trying to reconcile his politics and praxis with his duties as The Vicar of Christ.

It appears to ABS that he adopts many of the popular attitudes about Coronadoom and so he would not likely risk opprobrium being heaped upon him were he to actualise his defense of bio-diversity; bio-diversity it is just a secular slogan intended to appeal to the emotions of th epoeples not the intellect.

His speaking about Vaccines and Bio-Diversity and Neo-Nationalism, and Brotherhood, and Fraternity and Peace and Surprises By The Holy Ghost and Judas not in Hell and Jesus took on our sins and Luther was right and Field Hospital Tent this and Peripheries that and Who-am-I-to-Judge the other thing etc etc etc is what is currently called Virtue signaling.

It can be had on the cheap whereas real virtue costs and incurs the wrath of the indifferent..

Joseph Culter said...

PF's deeply rooted impulse to Peronist dictatorship style governance -- and now the totalitarian global "reset" -- is the reason for his ceaseless self-contradictions, sewing doctrinal confusions, and logical incoherence. Dictatorship, especially totalitarianism, always depends upon repressing people's ability and right to think for themselves. Incoherence is thus part of the plan, a necessary part Thus, for example, the alphabet-people ideology rapidly showed its totalitarian core in the canceling, firing from employment, and even legal repression of people who dared say, "That's absurd." But what better way to justify repression than to declare we cannot even tell male from female? If that claim is accurate, per force we need an "elite" to tell us how to (not) think and to dictate our behavior. Authentic Christianity will also be suppressed for the same reason. Thinking upends dictatorships. And PF is a deeply dictatorial personality. Hence, even beyond the many occasions when he patently contradicts himself purposefully, and beyond the times he doesn't even bother to consider the fact: decades of ruthless lust for power has so darkened his mind that he has rendered himself incapable of coherent thought. So: he wills it, he ignores it, he cannot even recognize it because power, not truth, is all he cares about.

Christopher Bartley said...

He is saying what he thinks people want to hear. Acceptability, not rationality, is his guide.

PDLeck said...

It is not amazing that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating. All viruses mutate. That is one reason those who need vaccines against influenza require an annual vaccine.

Mutation of a virus is not biological diversity (usually contracted to biodiversity). Biodiversity refers to the entire multitude of living organisms. Indeed, viruses are not living organisms. They occupy a grey area between the living world and inanimate objects.

I see no contradiction in wanting to preserve biodiversity whilst at the same time wanting to avoid harm from those lving things and viruses that can harm us. I do not like snakes but I would not want all snakes killed. Equally though I would never put myself deliberately in the way of a King Cobra.

Even if we approach it from a totally selfish perspeictive as humans it is to our benefit to maintain biodiversity. For example, we do not know when the next anti-cancer drug may be discovered as a product of another living oragnsism.

Banshee said...

Pretty things are biodiverse and part of Nature.

Ugly or annoying things are not part of Nature.

(Although technically, I suppose one could think of the annoying and dangerous parts of Nature as actually being the Fallen bits that are Man's fault, whereas the intrinsic wonder and ingenuity of those things are the parts that are the way God planned them to be.)

This is how the Left teaches people to think, just like people think of computers as "technology," but don't acknowledge writing or language as being a technology.

Jo WA said...

In answer to your final question, dear Father: because we just roll our eyes and move on to something else......
God bless.

Mariana said...

To these old hippies, biodiversity probably only means they are against using weed killer on dandelions.

Compton Pauncefoot said...

You are not alone in thinking this, Father. Unbelievers are all in favour of 'evolution' as long as it does not cause them inconvenience. I often wonder why the entirely natural process of species extinction troubles them. In the final analysis they cannot quite let go their God-given conviction that man is the steward of creation. Unbelievers find it difficult to grasp the implications of nothingness. How often do we hear people thoughtlessly say that in death we achieve immortality by living on in the memories of those we leave behind. But, as I think C. S. Lewis wrote: if the atheists are right, one day humanity will end and we shall not even be a story.

commenter said...

I am not sure that I understand your point. First, I rather agree with PDLeck that evolution or mutation is not the same as biodiversity. All organisms develop their own survival strategies, but the world does not necessarily become more biodiverse if (say) a plant evolves so that its seeds can germinate early or late in response to climatic signals.

And, although I hold no brief for the current Holy Father, I don't think that this particular issue is an example of pernicious doublethink, much less a manifestation of a dictatorial personality.

The Bible gives us many examples of situations where one organism is preferred to another. Tares are rooted out, while wheat is encouraged to prosper. Inventing vaccines, as well as finding efficient ways to control weeds, seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate use of God-given human ingenuity. In any case, anyone who deals with weeds will know that they are likely to last as long on this earth, if not longer, than homo sapiens. Although we may master them locally and temporarily, they have evolved over time, and will continue to do so, to increase their chances of surviving our hoes, our flame-throwers and our herbicides. The same is probably true of viruses.

I have no problem with mankind controlling nature, as far as we are able. I equally have no problem with seeing biodiversity as part of God's plan for the world. Everything has a purpose (even bindweed and hornets) although we may not understand fully what that purpose is.

So the legitimate use of our God-given faculties to find ways to increase our chances of survival and happiness seems to me to be entirely compatible with respect for biodiversity.

james said...

I can think of two answers:

(i) Viruses are not, according to most scientific definitions of life, "alive": unlike bacteria, they are just bits of protein that cannot thrive outside a host cell. Since therefore they do not possess βίος, their existence does not contribute to biodiversity and eradicating them would not diminish it. (It might diminish the diversity of things, but that is not the same.)

(ii) Viruses act by entering the cells of living things and rewriting their genetic code so that the cells make copies of the virus. If viruses could be said to have a goal, it would be the replacement of everything with endless copies of themselves. Their existence conduces to uniformity and not to diversity. Eradicating them would give living things a better chance to live, grow, evolve and so become more diverse.

There may be others, though one can hardly be certain which (if any) the pope had in mind.

Unknown said...

Over in the states we have a syndicated cartoon, 'Family Circle' I've always enjoyed. The Bouncer in Pope reminded me of the character Billy, esp. when he went outside to do something. See sample:


Of course, now that 'Billy' is all grown up... :/

Terry said...

I applaud you both, PDLeck and James, on the fact that your comments are rational, logical and concise. Would that there were more sense, logic and conciseness on these pages:-)

Surely there is no conflict at all between a wish to eradicate (or at least severely reduce the prevalence of) leprosy, smallpox or SARS-CoV-2 and a commitment to active stewardship of a diverse range of flora and fauna. Someone less charitable than I might say that the suggestion of any such conflict is beyond ridicule.

Terry Loane

PDLeck said...

I would like to add corrections to what was written by james.

(i) If viruses are 'just bits of anything' it is of nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) and not protein.

(ii) It is not to a virus' advantage to get rid of its host as it will then have no means of reproducing itself. Viruses have played a significant role in evolution, so they have been important and not only as pathogens.

E sapelion said...

I can't pretend to have a worked out answer for you, Father, but -
A discussion of biodiversity should include the concern expressed by God's comment to Noah - Gen. 7:3 ‎(as Mgr. Knox has it): "no breed must vanish from the earth". And the purpose given in Gen 1:28 for the creation of Man "let us put him in command". This is a picture of stewardship, in accordance with God's loving plan, which unfallen man would have put into effect.
It contrasts with the view of your second paragraph, of free for all, 'Nature red in tooth and claw'.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

So have I got this right? Viruses do not count as being 'alive', so eliminating them is not the elimination of something alive, and accordingly is not a reduction in 'biodiversity'?

Perhaps I need to be given a copy of the text of the official definition of 'life', according to which, I gather, something which can spread itself and mutate is not "alive".

BTW: my query was ad hominem. I am not necessarily opposed to the elimination of forms of life which harm ( or even merely displease) our species. It was perfectly OK by me to exterminate some of the life-forms on Lundy island so that other life-forms could flourish. I simply have problems with the claim that biodiversity is by definition good when this is accompanied by a willingness to eliminate some species.

commenter said...

Father, You may be over-thinking this. Developing an effective vaccine doesn't mean that the virus will be eliminated, any more than mass swatting of mosquitoes will lead directly to their extinction.

The only virus which seems to have been completely contained (not eliminated) by vaccination is smallpox.

So, if the Covid virus is a living thing, bio-diversity is unlikely to be reduced by the vaccination programme. Whether "willingness to eliminate" a virus is somehow wrong is a rather theoretical point, as whatever we do is highly unlikely to eliminate the wretched thing.

If the previous experience of the SARS virus is anything to go by, the virus will re-emerge having evolved (yet again) to maximise its chances of survival. We will have to learn to live with it, using evolving vaccines if necessary - just as we do with the flu.

On the wider point about whether biodiversity is by definition good, personally I am persuaded, and glad that the Pope is speaking out on this. The thought that we have to truck bees around some large countries to pollinate fruit trees, because intensive agriculture has fatally weakened local bee populations, should give us all pause.

Thank you for launching an interesting debate.

PM said...

As we are not Manicheans, we believe that God is the creator of all that is and that all of it is, in some sense, good; as the Angelic Doctor puts it, being and good are convertible. Evil is thus a privation, a lack of some good which should be there. God creates what is, not what is not.

But evil comes in two kinds. There is what St Thomas calls malum poenae, evil suffered as when the lion devours the lamb or we fall ill and die. This is part of the consequences of living in a material world. The lamb suffers but the lion flourishes and the food chain and life cycle continue; so there is at least a concomitant good. When we fall ill and eventually die, that is also the consequence of living in a material world: to refer to St Thomas again, composites come together and break up as part of the natural cycle of life. To say that God is at fault for this is implicitly to claim that we could do a better job of creating the universe if we out our minds to it. I am sure that the Almighty would welcome any ideas. :-)

Yes, sin disfigures and distorts creation. But the Original Justice we humans forfeited by sinning was more than natural: God planned to take us to himself and preserve us from corruption by grace, which we threw away. Our bodies are not immortal by nature, but can become immortal again by the grace of the divine re-creation through the Resurrection.

We have scientific explanations of why there are diseases, tsunamis etc in the world, but there remains an element of mystery about how they can be part of divine providence. We are not God, we do not fully understand his purposes, but we are in no position to give him a performance appraisal for creating or 'godding'.

But the greater mystery, as Herbert McCabe used to insist, is why there is moral evil in the world. Because moral evil, whether or not it involves directly harming others, is always pointless self-harm. Yet God holds us in being even as we do it. Not only that, he sent his Son to redeem us! That is the greatest mystery of all.

PM said...

To bring my previous comment down to earth, God creates all that is, including viruses. It is human recklessness that has transferred the Coronavirus from bats to humans, just as it was human recklessness (per the introduction of the goat) that turned the granary of the Empire in North Africa into a desert.

The point is that we are part of the creation and should treat it with due care. It is not some alien Other created by a malign Manichean anti-God .

PDLeck said...

Dear Fr Hunwicke, There is no definition of life. We biologists have been struggling for years to come up with a definition, but so far have not come up with an acceptable one. That is because life is so amazingly complex no simple definition will suffice.

A virus is not alive because it contains only one form of nucleic acid: DNA or RNA. Living organisms always have both. Another reason is viruses have no metabolism. That is why they are obligate intracellular parasites. They can only function, as it were, inside the cell of an organism. It would be wrong to consider them as inanimate as the desk on which my computer sits. They exist in a grey area between the living and non-living.