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Why can’t viruses read?

The quote below of Andrew Neil on the GMB show, said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, claims that a virus ‘can’t read’. Most people would agree with that I think.

Andrew Neil
well as you say
the only reason for not making this advice public
would be if the virus could read it
and then act accordingly
er now I'm not an expert
but my understanding is
that the virus can't read

External link to video

But why can’t a virus read? Did it never go to school? Did the teachers not focus on literacy or use the phonics method?

Of course viruses can’t read because they do not have minds like we do (unless you believe in panpsychism in which the whole universe is conscious). And that immediately changes our relationship with viruses. They cannot read because they do not have a mind like we do and they do not have language. So they cannot show intentionality.

Imagine some aliens who come to our world from a different part of the universe. If these aliens come without language and a mind then we take an interest in them purely because of their physical characteristics. What are they made of, how do they breathe?

But if these aliens come with language and a mind, then that changes the situation completely. Suddenly we want to talk to them. We want to know who they are, their history and raison d’etre. Do they believe in God, what morals do they hold, what is there intention towards us?

With language and a mind comes intentionality. The idea that actions can be ‘actions under a description’ as Ian Hacking says. A mindful being that acts, acts in a way that can be described through language. Without language we are just physical stuff.

Most are familiar with the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind but a close encounter of the fifth kind is defined as direct communication with an alien species through ‘conscious, voluntary and proactive human-initiated or cooperative contacts’ with extra-terrestrial intelligence (CSETI). For that we need language.

#itslanguagestupid #languageisourDNA


2 replies to “Why can’t viruses read?

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