Q&A: How Did Human Disease Originate?
From Robert in Acworth, GA
I know many believe that diseases came about as a result of the fall. I do not believe this is RTB’s position, but I could not articulate exactly what RTB’s position is on this. If diseases did not originate with the fall, then when? With the creation of man? Is this why man needed access to the Tree of Life, so that it would “override” diseases? Thanks again.
Thank you for your question, Robert. The RTB model posits that bacteria have existed since the beginning of creation day one, which we believe marks the origin of life. Based on scientific data, the best date for life’s origin on Earth is 3.8 billion years ago.
Most bacteria that reside in and on the human body play a symbiotic role (see this article for a discussion on how viruses could be part of God’s good design); others play a purely parasitic role. Fortunately, the Creator outfitted our bodies with amazing immune response systems. These systems normally prevent parasitic bacteria and viruses from doing any significant damage. However, disease can override our immune response systems—sometimes through our own choices. We might fail to live a healthy life style or fail to maintain environmental health standards. Sometimes sinful activities (such as bestiality) result in benign bacteria and viruses micro-evolving into pernicious bacteria and viruses. There’s also the reality of the breakdown of our bodies as a consequence of thermodynamics (the law of decay) and old age.
It’s important to note how often sin factors into the origin and spread of disease. Before Adam and Eve sinned, disease (at least for humans) would not have been as big of a problem. (For example, avoiding bestiality would have limited pathogen transmission to humans from other species.) However, even if Adam and Eve had never sinned, humans would still have required access to the Tree of Life due to the toll of decay and aging. According to Genesis 3:22, even after they had sinned Adam and Eve had the potential to live forever by eating of the Tree of Life—hence why God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and prevented humans from perpetuating their wickedness longer.
For more on RTB’s perspective of the origin of human disease, see this article written by my colleague Fazale Rana.