Moustique Mystique

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

We’re now heading into Europe’s summer doldrums, when everyone seems to be away on vacation, to return only sometime in August. That’s certainly the case for France, which notoriously closes down every year for that entire month. Just enough time, then, to address a remaining philosophical question before packing up the family plus luggage in the car hitting the road. Audrey Dufour of the newspaper La Croix poses a piercing question: Is the mosquito [FR: le moustique] actually good for anything?

La Croix [Fr: The Cross] is well-known in France as the national paper of the Roman Catholic Church, so it is rather interesting that Ms. Dufour should take up this particular question. After all, the mosquito has long served as a key piece of evidence for those secular types ready to dispute the doctrine that the World/Universe is so wonderful and intricate that it must have been created by a divine intelligence. An argument that has spanned millenia and currently goes under the labels of “creationism” or “intelligent design,” it is often first attacked by bringing up the lowly mosquito: What sort of world-designer in His right divine mind would have thought to include that?

Human-mosquito interactions are inevitably unpleasant for the former across-the-board, whether looking down on a summer’s day to see an irksome insect drawing your blood, to hearing that bothersome whine around your head at night while trying to get to sleep. But that is ultimately small potatoes: what is truly serious about mosquitos is the ~400,000 people they kill each year by transmitting malaria, making them truly the world’s most deadly animal.

Right … Anything Good to Say?

That’s a pretty heavy weight on the debit side of the ledger. But Ms. Dufour gamely makes a good effort towards trying to find something positive to say. One word: Biodiversity, something Pope Francis has explicitly lauded in his speeches on ecology, and which here expresses the idea that the mosquito, no matter how odious, is an irreplaceable link in the great natural chain of being.

And it’s true, fish and amphibians eat mosquito larvae wholesale, while birds and other sorts of animals feast on the grown-up versions. Now, it’s not as if any of these rely solely on mosquitos for their nutrition; indeed, the article points out how it would be hard to prove that any would particularly be affected should mosquitos go extinct entirely.


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