Author Topic: Inferno by Dan Brown, a thriller with a serious point  (Read 1043 times)


  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 406
  • Age: 72
  • Location: South east Australia, in country
  • Retired, and loving it.
Inferno by Dan Brown, a thriller with a serious point
« on: September 21, 2017, 06:40:51 AM »

A popular thriller, but a serious point to it. Is the baddie a baddie at all? The baddie is about to release a virus which will spread rapidly through the world’s population, infecting people with a stretch of DNA which will make most people sterile, thus solving the world’s population problem. The baddie will get nothing out of it.

Brown has only a shaky understanding of the biological terminology, but the idea is technically possible. Before I retired, I worked at an Australian research organization, and about the early nineties I heard of a project to control our wild fox problem by infecting foxes with a virus (I think) which would make them sterile. This was seen as a humane way of controlling thee wild fox problem, compared with trapping or shooting them.

When I heard about the project, I wondered whether a version of this idea would work in India or China, on people. Brown uses the term ‘vector virus’ when he should have used ‘retro virus’.  A retro virus enters cells of the host’s body and hijacks the cell machinery to make copies of itself. Retro viruses often do not copy themselves, but insert their DNA into the cell’s DNA

He also overestimates the ability of polymerase chain reaction to identify the virus in the book.

If you are interested, google ‘foxes immuno sterilization’ to get more information.


  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 715
Re: Inferno by Dan Brown, a thriller with a serious point
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2017, 07:07:52 AM »
Interesting idea for a book, except for the baddie's motivations. The problem with Malthusian theory is that human population isn't really a problem. There are far more than enough resources for every human on the planet -- plus many billions -- without any significant environmental impact.

The real problem is wealth inequality. There is way more than enough food for every person on the planet. Instead, we have billions of starving people, simply because they don't have the money to buy food. When the Bible says that "money is the root of evil", this is what it's referring to. We have massive warehouses of rotting food while people go hungry.

I personally think that a lot of Malthusian theory comes from a place of privilege where people with extremely easy lives -- such as most Americans and other Westerners -- look away from themselves for the reasons poverty exists. It's hard to be self-critical because it hurts. Instead, we point at the poor themselves and ascribe their poverty to moral failings.

We tell them that they are starving not because we purposefully exploit them, but because it's wrong of them to want to fall in love and have children. That's shameful.


  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
  • Location: Ontario
Re: Inferno by Dan Brown, a thriller with a serious point
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2017, 10:19:16 AM »
I hate to hijack a quite serious and interesting discussion with this, but whenever I see the words "Dan Brown" I black out and can only think about this parody article. I re-read it regularly just for fun.

To weigh in more seriously, I agree that wealth inequality is a major factor, but I don't think human population gets off scot free. An averaging out of living conditions worldwide would be a huge (if fair) upheaval, and could only be caused by something cataclysmic (in my mind, like nuclear war). Food distribution is clearly uneven, but the same applies to energy and water. If the standards of living were raised significantly worldwide, the next issue would be fossil fuel consumption and the effects of climate change, which again disproportionately affect poorer countries.

It is certainly easy to blame moral failings as a reason for poverty, and you see this everywhere. If you've been successful in live it's easy to assume you live in a meritocracy. But access to reproductive health services and education is key as well. I think having sex (whether you're in love or not) is most definitely not a moral failing, but having children doesn't have to be a compulsory part of that. The difference between wanting kids and having them accidentally has major economic impacts.