How Viruses Are Misunderstood

Viruses are great
6 min readJun 20, 2020


Humans only see viruses when they hurt us, like an ant only notices the foot. But they are much more than that.

Right now, you have 380 trillion viruses all over your body and they’re not hurting you at all. Across all humanity, we carry more viruses than there are stars in the known universe. If we include my son, who still licks tables, it would be a multiverse.

Viruses are the oldest biological entity on the planet and they exist in balance with everything else. We’re the ones messing that up.

Right now you don’t notice the universe of viral activity in your very own body because they are perfectly balanced with 38 trillion bacteria. Every year you shit out your entire weight in bacteria, and viruses help keep that all in balance. Get rid of viruses and bacteria and you’ve gotten rid of life. In a very real sense, humans are just the latest handbags for higher beings.

We view viruses as invading us, but in reality, we are invading them. We torture cows, or steal habitat from bats, or crowd human beings together. Viruses create a necessary balancing of those conditions and, frankly, they’re not doing enough. We view viruses as some abstract threat without seeing the whole ecosystem. This is a wrong view of them, and of us.

God is a programmer

To have any understanding of viruses we have to first get down from our pedestal — the idea that we are created in God’s image — and look at God’s actual creation.

If God was a programmer, 90% of her code would be viruses, 10% bacteria, and human beings would be one random Docker (a virtual server) she’d spun up and forgotten about. We’re about as relevant as the server rack you’re reading this webpage from. Which is to say, we’re not important at all.

God really hasn’t thought of us that much. We’re named human_final_final_final.exe, and buried in some subfolder that gets automatically wiped every 100 million years.

In a very real sense, God is using us to backup viral code more than to create anything new. A full 8% of your genome is of viral origin, compared to less than 2% that codes for anything even vertebrate. An even smaller fraction is uniquely human.



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at