King Canute and the Cult of Zero Infection

By | 4th July 2022

…Even a monarch cannot countermand the fundamentals of the universe.

This is a lesson that some still struggle with in considering the goals of clinical medicine and public health. If they only had enough money, power and time, biomedical scientists could eliminate infection and, at least by implication, allow humans to live forever. Philosophers, ethicists and theologians have long pointed to the dangers of this programme, of living life in a permanent struggle to avoid our unavoidable death. It is also inconsistent with the fundamentals of evolution…

…The pursuit of zero infection from bacteria by the use of antibiotic treatments has created conditions for the evolution of bacteria selected for their resistance. The same logic applies just as much to viruses…

…The humility of King Canute in the face of nature is worth recalling as a check on the enthusiasm for zero-infection. It is a fine-sounding slogan but do we really want to live in a society where everything else is sacrificed to this goal?

A Social Science Space blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.