The ravaging epidemic of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome has shocked the world. It is still not comprehended widely that it is a natural, almost predictable, phenomenon. We will face similar catastrophes again, and will be ever more confounded in dealing with them, if we do not come to grips with the realities of the place of our species in nature. A large measure of humanistic progress is dedicated to the subordination of human nature to our ideals of individual perfectability and autonomy. Human intelligence, culture, and technology have left all other plant and animal species out of the competition. We also may legislate human behavior. But we have too many illusions that we can, by writ, govern the remaining vital kingdoms, the microbes, that remain our competitors of last resort for dominion of the planet. The bacteria and viruses know nothing of national sovereignties. In that natural evolutionary competition, there is
Lederberg J. Medical Science, Infectious Disease, and the Unity of Humankind. JAMA. 1988;260(5):684–685. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410050104039
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