Do Germs Cause Disease ?
To understand this pandemic, we have to go back to the beginning. The 'Germ Theory of Disease' is the foundation stone on which the entire edifice of Modern Western medicine is built. But is it correct ? Is it serving us well at this critical point in our history ? Or are its fundamental flaws being exposed into the open ?
One microbe, one disease, this is the Germ Theory expressed in its crudest terms. For those of us in the nutrition space, this idea has a familiar parallel - 'Calories In, Calories Out'. Both have essentially the same character, they are the transposition of a MECHANICAL method to the area of human health and nutrition, with a simple and linear notion of causality. As such, they both suffer from the same limitations, at best they are an OVERSIMPLIFICATION, at worst they are misleading and unhelpful.
The Germ Theory of Disease is a fascinating object of study, precisely because it resonates so deeply with our culture, our civilisation. If we stand back and look at it from a distance, questioning its basic assumptions, as philosophers do, then it casts a highly revealing light on the distinguishing features of our era.
The first assumption it rests on is that microbes are harmful, and that we are best off isolated from them. This has been taken to its extreme with calls for the smallpox virus to be eliminated from the earth. This is a metaphysical premise that sees our world and nature as hostile and separate from us, to be held at bay at all costs. The ideal is a sterile environment, clean, dead.
It also rests on the idea that disease is random and has no meaning, no lessons to teach us, in no way is a reflection of how we live. It is simply caused by a bug, nasty in its nature. This is a core concept within the scientific world view that emerged with Modernity, the universe is a meaningless place, everything is arbitrary, the product of blind forces such as evolution. If you get sick, tough luck. This is still our predominant view of cancer.
This conception leads us to adopt strategies and interventions to protect ourselves from harm. The task is simple enough, identify the culprit behind a disease, find a way to target and neutralise it, and all will be well. The theory lends itself to the project of Modern technology, which is to gain and exercise control of our surroundings, to exert our subjectivity, to bend nature to our will. In the health realm this leads to the search for magic bullets (see earlier article here), and it sits perfectly with our current consumerist and hedonistic way of life, where you can eat processed crap because you like its taste, and then get a prescription to undo any damage this causes. This element of freedom from consequence, from responsibility to either ourselves or our world, lies at the heart of our civilisational impulse.
The form of medicine that has emerged from this foundation sees itself as an outstanding success. But as time goes by the picture is becoming more murky. The initial breakthroughs brought by the germ theory lay in controlling bacterial infections following surgery, often for the treatment of battlefield wounds. This saved lives, but it also set the pattern. Modern medicine's greatest achievement turned out to be finding solutions to problems, ENTIRELY OF ITS OWN MAKING, tuberculosis being one as Weston Price documented (see here). Surgical interventions create an entirely artificial context, where the body's most important defences, above all the skin, are compromised. Under such conditions, infection DOES present an immediate threat to life, and a simple targeting of the bacteria WILL make a difference, but this is only so because the conditions are far removed from a normal and healthy environment.
The same applies to the great epidemics of Modernity, cholera, typhus among them, a result of the overcrowding, poor sanitation, and general squalor of the industrial age and its urban hell holes. As these social conditions improved during the 20th century, the level of disease also declined, well ahead of the introduction of vaccines for specific illnesses.
Cancer proved to be one of the germ theory's first major stumbling blocks. All attempts to discover the virus behind this disease failed, and in the end the hypothesis had to be abandoned. This has been followed by the onset of the chronic illnesses that plague our societies today, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and so on. In the face of these challenges, a cure resting on the idea of a linear cause and effect has turned out to be elusive.
Association instead of causality
Instead, Modern medicine has veered in the opposite direction, to the statistical method we see in this pandemic (see here). Association has had to take the place of causation, with the epidemiological method of nutrition 'science' taking the lead, and becoming a laughing stock as a result. The nutritional mainstream consists of an endless stream of mutually contradictory studies affirming this or that risk factor as associated with a particular condition.
In the meantime, the search for the missing microbes needed to account for the remaining diseases has taken a dubious turn. Bacteria, fungi, and other microbes are easy enough to detect, they can be simply observed under a microscope. Viruses, on the other hand, are of a quite different order, and can only be found after a long chain of laboratory procedures that are best described as a manufacturing process, involving petri dish cultures. What exactly is produced at the end of these is open to debate, and the assigning of specific diseases to each type highly problematic, not least because of the ever present possibility of reverse causality, namely that it is the illness which may create them, not they who create the illness.
When it comes to influenza viruses such as corona, the situation becomes even worse, since there are no distinguishing symptoms to identify the 'disease'. This means a diagnosis of SARS or COVID-19 becomes dependent on the testing process, or on the belief that contact with a current patient has taken place. This is why the practical unreliability of the tests is such a problem. The disease can only be determined to exist at all on the basis of a test result. This was why once the testing for SARS ceased, because it was believed all the contacts of those infected had been traced, then the disease also disappeared (see David Crowe's 'The Infectious Myth' here). It went away because we stopped looking for it.
Likewise, the SARS II virus appeared because we started looking for it.
Leaving the politics aside for now (later post), the authorities in Wuhan went searching for a new virus because they had 20 cases of pneumonia and they could not find an old one. The laboratory duly obliged with a suitable strand of RNA, the mystery was solved. This was convenient, it fitted the mentality of Modern-minded medical professionals, here was a problem that could be dealt with through well-established practices, quarantines, drugs, and mechanical ventilation.
What is the issue here ? It is this - the lingering suspicion remains that the whole thing is simply an invention, that just as the 'virus' is the end product of an artificial laboratory procedure, the pandemic is also a man-made creation. Its function is to make sense of something otherwise inexplicable in our terms, lots of people developing pneumonia for no obvious reason, and by doing so to make it CONTROLLABLE. We reduce the problem to a viral infection, because we UNDERSTAND the Germ Theory of Disease, and we do so because this theory is OUR's, it is US, it is our civilisation expressed in medical terms.
Its not working, its not helping
This is when the real problems begin. The truth is, our civilisation, Modernity, is long past its prime. Earlier successes are no longer being repeated, our health is not improving, it is deteriorating. We may live longer, but only in a more decrepit manner, sick, weak, fat, and miserable. Our medical interventions prove to be LESS effective than doing nothing, Italy being the classic case in point. This is the nation that reacted first and with the firmest possible response to this outbreak, and it is the one with the HIGHEST mortality rate, precisely BECAUSE of this response (see here). Germany simply ignored it, and so long as they did they were fine. Now, on the other hand, as they ramp up their response, the bodies are beginning to pile up.
People are getting sick. The numbers are not huge compared to a 'normal' year of influenza, they might well turn out to not be any different at all when the dust settles. But even if more do die this year, the question still remains - did they die from the virus, or from the response ? Both the immediate treatment protocols, but also the wider government led reaction ? This issue will be debated for years to come, because it is a GENUINE question. Did Italy's immediate declaration of a health emergency CAUSE the outbreak, or did it avoid an even worse disaster ? An indication of the answer will come when the final statistics emerge from everywhere else, from those nations that responded differently, if at all. If they fare better than Italy, as seems highly likely, then this suspicion will not be easy to dispel.
Why is this so, what is going wrong ? The problem is the Germ Theory of Disease, why, because it IS NOT HELPING. The courses of action that arise out of this theory only make things WORSE. In Wuhan they quarantined all positive cases, in the rest of China they did not, the result - double the fatality rate in the former. In Italy they hospitalise 50% of cases, 20% of whom do not survive this decision.
The argument, of course, boils down to one of cause and effect. Does the virus outbreak cause the illness, or is the illness causing the outbreak ? The first seems far more plausible, not only because of the constant media barrage on this theme, but because it MAKES SENSE to us Moderns, it fits our world view, it sits in harmony with how we view the world and ourselves.
But it is not working. Nor does it help us to understand what is going on.
The reality is, whenever you look into what is actually going on right now, and has been since the start of this in January, NONE OF IT ADDS UP, it does not stand up to scrutiny. The connection between the strand of RNA tested and full blown pneumonia is simply not demonstrated, it is just presumed. The pattern of actual infection does NOT LOOK like that of actual epidemics, which have been known and studied for hundreds if not thousands of years. There are too many outliers, Taiwan for example, Japan, even Iran, that do not fit the narrative. The US and UK are also in this position. There are too many anomalies in the case histories of individuals affected by the illness, or their family members, or others who end up testing positive for no clear reason.
As we follow this day by day, the picture is becoming more and more confused, not less. For anyone science minded, this is a clear indication that the PARADIGM is mistaken. It is not assisting us in understanding what is going on, why some people and not others are getting sick, why some of those end up with a life threatening condition and even dying. The 'virus hypothesis' does not provide any useful answers, because those that are consistent with it do not stand up under investigation, they melt away in much the same way as nutrition science does, or climate science for that matter. What appears to be a strong edifice from a distance, one that resonates with us, turns out on closer inspection to either make no sense, or just not match the facts.
The SARS II virus may or may not exist, it may or may not be the 'cause' of this outbreak. Personally I am not convinced, but I could be wrong, I fully accept that. I do not need, however, to be right in my suspicion that we are barking up the wrong tree here, that what is actually happening is something quite different than what we think is going on. My point is, that the germ theory is not helpful, EVEN IF IT IS CORRECT in this case. This is because it CANNOT ANSWER the real questions that need to be addressed. These include -
Why was the fatality rate double in Wuhan than the rest of China ? Was it the decision to quarantine ? If so why was this the crucial difference ?
Why did some family members in close contact for weeks on end with others who tested positive not get the virus ?
Why do people get the symptoms and then test negative ?
Why do people test positive and have no symptoms ?
Why do some get over the first, mild phase of the disease while others deteriorate rapidly on average around 6-7 days after hospitalisation ?
What triggers the immune response that causes the pneumonia ?
Why does this happen when the viral load is decreasing ?
Why are children not affected ?
Why is obesity so closely related with the serious form of the illness ?
How does this illness interact with co-morbidities to cause a life-threatening condition ? What is the mechanism ? (its not a compromised immunity)
Why were there so few positive test results in Taiwan, compared to South Korea ? Both had regular flights in from Wuhan.
Why has Japan not been affected up to now ? Vietnam ?
How to explain the spread of cases in the UK and the USA when the health emergency was declared ? If the virus had been spreading for months to achieve that wide distribution among unconnected people, why was no one getting sick during that period ?
Why do people only start getting sick in large numbers after governments declare an emergency ?
What really is going on in Italy ? (This is a complete mystery at this stage)
Why do the drastic social distancing measures in Italy NOT seem to be working, after all these weeks ?
Why does the pattern of disease spread in Iran look like a steady, chronic condition, not an epidemic ?
If Japan, Vietnam, India and others do start to be seriously affected now, what changed ? Why did they get away with it earlier but not now ?
What is the effect of the various treatment protocols such as the use of anti-biotics, steroids, and other drugs ? Are these contributing to the poor outcomes ?
I could go on, there are plenty more unanswered questions at this point. My argument is, the virus theory does not help us find the answers. This is because it is assumed WE ALREADY have the answer, its a viral infection that statistically produces a certain fatality rate. But this is NOT AN ANSWER at all, it tells us nothing about those issues we really need to address.
Our theory is an OBSTACLE to understanding this pandemic.
Do I, on the other hand, understand it ? No, not really, but at least I understand the questions, and why our current approach is failing us. I also have a sense of where this sits within our broader civilisational context, its significance. This pandemic is not about a virus, some random particle that is out to get us for no reason, it is about US, and it is full of meaning. I hope this post has helped to transmit some of that sense.
More to come. Stay well.