Fighting COVID-19 with science and faith
With nearly 100 million infections and over two million deaths, COVID-19 remains the greatest threat to public health and overall well-being all over the world. The well advertised vaccines produced in record time have not quite done the magic of significantly altering the equation. The administration of the vaccines began only a few weeks ago and it will take quite some time to achieve 100 per cent coverage – if ever- in the early bird nations like the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Israel. It will take much longer for the other parts of the world, particularly Africa, to access and deploy the vaccines on any significant scale.
It therefore makes a lot of sense to insist on the non-pharmaceutical protocols of stemming the spread of the disease. Wearing of face masks, washing of hands, use of alcohol-based sanitizers, social distancing and some form of segregation (quarantine) may thus continue through much of 2021 and probably beyond. Like the proverbial hunter intent on hitting his target, the Coronavirus has remained resilient with its mutations and fresh waves of attack. Partial lockdowns and insistence on Covid-free certifications for international travels rank high among the renewed strategies to check the pandemic. But these measures offer little comfort in the face of high fatalities.
Medical scientists’ advocacy of non-pharmaceutical protocols as the most effective means of preventing COVID-19 infections (prior to the emergence of the vaccines) is not a failure of science. Rather, it should be seen as a reasonable concession in the determined effort to fight the dreaded killer. In very much the same way as orthodox medicine and homeopathy – a pseudoscientific system of alternative medicine – should collaborate against common threats to personal and public health. Homeopathy involves the use of small amounts of natural substances like plants and minerals which its practitioners believe stimulate the healing process.
In the fight against COVID-19, the non-pharmaceutical protocols have been complemented with inhalation of steam, consumption of ginger, garlic, lemon grass and some other herbs. The resultant concoction from boiling them together is inhaled as hot steam or drank like similar native anti-malaria preparations. Immunity-enhancing diets and food supplements have also been on the list. All of these belong more to the province of homeopathy than scientific orthodoxy.
But while orthodox medicine seems to have embraced homeopathy or some of its elements in the anti-COVID war, it seems to regard faith – another vital weapon – with suspicion and distrust. In the simplest terms, “science is the study of the nature and behavior of the physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement.” The same Collins English Dictionary gives one of the definitions of faith as “complete confidence or trust, such as in a person or remedy.” From a religious perspective, the person referred to in this definition is God.
Science and faith are not necessarily mutually exclusive. While they have their obvious differences, their points of convergence are often ignored. One of the major contentions, for example, pitches the Biblical account of creation as outlined in the Book of Genesis against the scientists’ Theory of Evolution. The very first verse of the Bible declares categorically that “in the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Evolution as proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace and expounded in Darwin’s book: “On the Origin of Species” (1859), is captured as “the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical and behavioral traits.” It presupposes that there was a pre-existing organism.
Science has not been able to adequately address the origin of this organism but Bible believers hold that the primary creation originated from God who also directed all the processes leading to the emergence of the earth thereafter.
Scientists and Bible believers agree that the universe is governed by rational laws. Neither the structure of the earth nor its intricate governance is a product of accident. But in man’s preoccupation with rationalization, whatever he cannot see or adequately explain has no place in science. The Biblical claims on the bodies of water and the rising and falling of mountains are not much different from scientific postulations. The Book of Job written thousands of years ago put it succinctly thus: “For He (God) maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: which the clouds do drop and distill upon man abundantly.” Job 36:27,28.
On mountains, the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 104:6,8; “Thou (God) coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.” Many other scenarios of weak or strong convergences between scientific claims and Biblical accounts of natural phenomena abound.
Some of the strategies for combating the COVID-19 pandemic are well rooted in the Bible. The principle of quarantining the sick was outlined by Moses – the writer of the first five books of the Bible – nearly 4,000 years ago. In the Old Testament times, those who were found to be leprous, then the most dreaded disease, after rigorous screening by the Priest, were isolated. As the Book of Leviticus put it: “All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the (outside) the camp shall his habitation be.” (Lev13:46). This final pronouncement was preceded by weekly periods of quarantine during which the Priest who doubled as the community’s Chief Medical Officer thoroughly examined the patient. Other requisite public health conditions were prescribed by Moses. Numbers 19:1-13, for example, outlined procedures for the purification of the unclean while Deuteronomy 23:13-14 prohibited open defacation.
Also, according to the Biblical account of creation, man’s diet was to comprise mostly, if not exclusively, vegetables (and fruits) – not too different from the preferences of the increasingly health-conscious segments of today’s population. Genesis 2:8-9 put it thus: “And the Lord planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to sight, and good for food.” A healthy diet rich in vegetables is a potent weapon of defence against Covid infections. It is well known that nutritionists play a key role in the combat against the ravaging pandemic.
Bible believers also insist that miraculous healings still take place despite the claims of anti-miracle groups that miracles never happened or that the age is past. Christians back up their claims with the post World War 2 miraculous healing experiences that sprouted in the Ilesha axis of today’s Osun State of Nigeria.
An influenza-like disease had broken out shortly after the Second World War without any known medical cure resulting in many deaths. Some emergent Bible-believing prayer groups prayed for the patients who recovered in large numbers. Some of these maiden prayer groups metamorphosed into the early Pentecostal churches, some of which still teach and practise divine healing with or without drugs. A growing population of orthodox practitioners also affirm that they merely cure while God remains the ultimate healer. One of such affirmations came from Dr. Guillermo Perez, the recently retired head of surgery at a 700-bed hospital in South Africa. He explained in a personal testimony that “… the way our body repairs itself was carefully designed (by God). Wound healing, for instance, involves four overlapping phases, all of which reminded me that as a surgeon, I merely worked with the body’s built-in repair system.”
Medical science alone cannot conquer Covid 19. If it could, then the more medically advanced nations in the Western Hemisphere would not be as devastated as they have been with daily deaths in the thousands. Every weapon – medical science, homeopathy, nutritional science and faith ought to be in the anti-Covid matrix. The neglect of the faith component on the grounds that its impact cannot be measured is a costly disservice to humanity.
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