Cell biology Intelligent Design

Altruism? In viruses?

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TEM micrograph of "Indiana vesiculovirus" particles
vesicular stomatitis virus

Some insist that viruses are not alive. But then, what about this?

In a recent study published in Nature Microbiology, Rafael Sanjuán, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Valencia in Spain, and his colleagues used a combination of theory and experiments to explore viral cooperation and conflict. They found that the spatial structure of a viral infection — the way that different sets of viruses can be isolated in separate compartments of the infected body — matters tremendously. In an evenly mixed system, altruistic viruses fall victim to “cheaters” that take advantage of their sacrifices, but if pockets in the body can isolate and shelter the altruists, they have a shot at survival.Viviane Callier, “Viruses Have a Secret, Altruistic Social Life” at Quanta

A long discussion ensues, re Darwinian competition between altruists and cheaters.

But for now, how can viruses have altruism if they are not alive? Let’s assume that this is not an argument for panpsychism (You are conscious, sure, but so is your coffee mug.) It seems to be an argument that viruses behave as life forms do. But somehow the issue never gets settled.

Before you go: One way viruses get spread “never should have evolved”

Reset! Different segs of virus genome can exist in different cells but work together

Viruses devolve. (PaV)

Virus expert highlights the conflict over whether viruses are alive In short, it is an open question. The question relates to the role viruses can play in evolution, among other things. Are they precursors of life, detritus of life, or something in between? Or all three? Keep the file open. 

Viruses invent their own genes? Then what is left of Darwinism?

Why viruses are not considered to be alive

Another stab at whether viruses are alive

Phil Sci journal: Special section on understanding viruses

Should NASA look for viruses in space? Actually, it’s not clear that RNA came first. Nor is it clear that viruses precede life. A good case can doubtless be made for viruses being part of the scrap heap of existing life. But no matter. If you think you can find viruses in space, boldly go.

Why “evolution” is changing? Consider viruses

The Scientist asks, Should giant viruses be the fourth domain of life? Eukaryotes, prokaryotes, archaea… and viruses?

Viruses are alive.

and

Are viruses nature’s perfect machine? Or alive?

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8 Replies to “Altruism? In viruses?

  1. 1
    EDTA says:

    News,
    Unrelated, but the fire beetle is now believed to be able to sense heat at levels barely above thermal noise:
    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/how-a-half-inch-beetle-finds-fires-80-miles-away/
    How did it get those fancy senses? Ain’t evolution amazin’? 😎

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    I think life has been greatly underestimated.

    And I guess evolutionary biologist can stop saying Altruism evolved from some Ape of some kind, Because guess what viruses definitely get the claim that they were before any primate species

  3. 3
    Brother Brian says:

    AaronS1978, do biologists really say that altruism evolved from some ape? If I remember correctly, it has been demonstrated in all sorts of animals.

  4. 4
    Bob O'H says:

    Brother Brian – I don’t know that any biologist has argued that. The classic story about altruism is in ants.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Morally noble altruistic behavior of any type is simply completely antithetical to Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ theory.

    If evolution by natural selection were actually the truth about how all life came to be on Earth then the only life that should be around should be extremely small organisms with the highest replication rate, and with the most ‘mutational firepower’, since only they, (since they greatly outclass multi-cellular organism in terms of ‘reproductive success’ and ‘mutational firepower’), would be fittest to survive in the dog eat dog world where blind pitiless evolution ruled and only the fittest are allowed to survive. The logic of this is nicely summed up here in this following Richard Dawkins’ video:

    Richard Dawkins interview with a ‘Darwinian’ physician goes off track – video
    Excerpt: “I am amazed, Richard, that what we call metazoans, multi-celled organisms, have actually been able to evolve, and the reason [for amazement] is that bacteria and viruses replicate so quickly — a few hours sometimes, they can reproduce themselves — that they can evolve very, very quickly. And we’re stuck with twenty years at least between generations. How is it that we resist infection when they can evolve so quickly to find ways around our defenses?”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62031.html

    In other words, since successful reproduction is all that really matters on a neo-Darwinian view of things, how can anything but successful, and highly efficient reproduction, be realistically ‘selected’ for? Darwin himself stated, “every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers;”

    “every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers;”
    – Charles Darwin – Origin of Species – pg. 66

    The logic of natural selection is nicely and simply illustrated on the following graph:

    The Logic of Natural Selection – graph
    http://recticulatedgiraffe.wee.....35.jpg?308

    As you can see, any other function besides successful reproduction, such as much slower sexual reproduction, sight, hearing, abstract thinking, and especially self sacrificial altruistic behavior of any sort, would be highly superfluous to the primary criteria of successful reproduction, and should, on a Darwinian view, be discarded, and/or ‘eaten’, by bacteria, as so much excess baggage since it obviously would slow down successful reproduction.

    Yet, contrary to this central ‘survival of the fittest’ assumption of Darwinian evolution, instead of eating us, time after time we find micro-organisms helping each other, and us, in ways that have nothing to with their own ‘survival of the fittest’’ concerns.

    The following researchers said they were ‘banging our heads against the wall’ by the contradictory findings to Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ thinking that they had found. And even stated, “,,, Maybe Darwin’s presumption that the world may be dominated by competition is wrong.”

    Doubting Darwin: Algae Findings Surprise Scientists – April 28, 2014
    Excerpt: One of Charles Darwin’s hypotheses posits that closely related species will compete for food and other resources more strongly with one another than with distant relatives, because they occupy similar ecological niches. Most biologists long have accepted this to be true.
    Thus, three researchers were more than a little shaken to find that their experiments on fresh water green algae failed to support Darwin’s theory — at least in one case.
    “It was completely unexpected,” says Bradley Cardinale, associate professor in the University of Michigan’s school of natural resources & environment. “When we saw the results, we said ‘this can’t be.”‘ We sat there banging our heads against the wall. Darwin’s hypothesis has been with us for so long, how can it not be right?”
    The researchers ,,,— were so uncomfortable with their results that they spent the next several months trying to disprove their own work. But the research held up.,,,
    The scientists did not set out to disprove Darwin, but, in fact, to learn more about the genetic and ecological uniqueness of fresh water green algae so they could provide conservationists with useful data for decision-making. “We went into it assuming Darwin to be right, and expecting to come up with some real numbers for conservationists,” Cardinale says. “When we started coming up with numbers that showed he wasn’t right, we were completely baffled.”,,,
    Darwin “was obsessed with competition,” Cardinale says. “He assumed the whole world was composed of species competing with each other, but we found that one-third of the species of algae we studied actually like each other. They don’t grow as well unless you put them with another species. It may be that nature has a heck of a lot more mutualisms than we ever expected.
    “,,, Maybe Darwin’s presumption that the world may be dominated by competition is wrong.”
    http://www.livescience.com/452.....f-bts.html

    And again, directly contrary to the central ‘survival of the fittest’ assumption of Darwinian evolution, we find that bacteria are also directly helping us in essential ways that have nothing to do with their own survival of the fittest concerns:

    NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body – June 13, 2012
    Excerpt: Microbes inhabit just about every part of the human body, living on the skin, in the gut, and up the nose. Sometimes they cause sickness, but most of the time, microorganisms live in harmony with their human hosts, providing vital functions essential for human survival.
    http://www.nih.gov/news/health.....gri-13.htm

    We are living in a bacterial world, and it’s impacting us more than previously thought – February 15, 2013
    Excerpt: We often associate bacteria with disease-causing “germs” or pathogens, and bacteria are responsible for many diseases, such as tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and MRSA infections. But bacteria do many good things, too, and the recent research underlines the fact that animal life would not be the same without them.,,,
    I am,, convinced that the number of beneficial microbes, even very necessary microbes, is much, much greater than the number of pathogens.”
    http://phys.org/news/2013-02-b.....tml#ajTabs

    In fact, Darwin himself offered this following ‘anti-altruism’ standard as a falsification criteria for his theory, “Natural selection cannot possibly produce any modification in any one species exclusively for the good of another species”… and even stated that “If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection.”

    “Natural selection cannot possibly produce any modification in any one species exclusively for the good of another species; though throughout nature one species incessantly takes advantage of, and profits by, the structure of another. But natural selection can and does often produce structures for the direct injury of other species, as we see in the fang of the adder, and in the ovipositor of the ichneumon, by which its eggs are deposited in the living bodies of other insects. If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection.”
    – Charles Darwin – Origin of Species
    http://darwin-online.org.uk/Va.....-1859.html

    And yet, directly contrary to Darwin’s claim that “Natural selection cannot possibly produce any modification in any one species exclusively for the good of another species”, it is now known that “Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides.”

    The Microbial Engines That Drive Earth’s Biogeochemical Cycles – Paul G. Falkowski – 2008
    Excerpt: Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides.
    http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/v.....8;type=pdf
    – Paul G. Falkowski is Professor Geological Sciences at Rutgers

    As well, in the following article Dr. Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig reveals that “in thousands of plant species often entirely new organs have been formed for the exclusive good of more than 132,930 other species.”

    Plant Galls and Evolution
    How More than Twelve Thousand1 Ugly Facts are Slaying a Beautiful Hypothesis: Darwinism2
    Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig – 7 September 2017
    Excerpt: in the case of the galls, in thousands of plant species often entirely new organs have been formed for the exclusive good of more than 132,930 other species, these ‘ugly facts’ have annihilated Darwin’s theory as well as the modern versions of it. The galls are not ‘useful to the possessor’, the plants. There is no space for these phenomena in the world of “the selfish gene” (Dawkins). Moreover, the same conclusion appears to be true for thousands of angiosperm species producing deceptive flowers (in contrast to gall formations, now for the exclusive good of the plant species) – a topic which should be carefully treated in another paper.
    http://www.weloennig.de/PlantGalls.pdf

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, to dive a little bit deeper, the falsification of this ‘survival of the fittest’, i.e. ‘selfish’, thinking occurs at the molecular level too.

    Dawkins’ ‘selfish gene’ concept is more of less directly based on Darwin’s own ‘survival of the fittest’ thinking about competition. Yet genes are now found to be anything but selfish. Instead of being ‘selfish’, genes are now found to be existing in a holistic web of mutual interdependence and cooperation (the antithesis of selfishness).

    What If (Almost) Every Gene Affects (Almost) Everything? – JUN 16, 2017
    Excerpt: If you told a modern geneticist that a complex trait—whether a physical characteristic like height or weight, or the risk of a disease like cancer or schizophrenia—was the work of just 15 genes, they’d probably laugh. It’s now thought that such traits are the work of thousands of genetic variants, working in concert. The vast majority of them have only tiny effects, but together, they can dramatically shape our bodies and our health. They’re weak individually, but powerful en masse.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/its-like-all-connected-man/530532/

    Theory Suggests That All Genes Affect Every Complex Trait – June 20, 2018
    Excerpt: Mutations of a single gene are behind sickle cell anemia, for instance, and mutations in another are behind cystic fibrosis.
    But unfortunately for those who like things simple, these conditions are the exceptions. The roots of many traits, from how tall you are to your susceptibility to schizophrenia, are far more tangled. In fact, they may be so complex that almost the entire genome may be involved in some way,,,
    One very early genetic mapping study in 1999 suggested that “a large number of loci (perhaps > than 15)” might contribute to autism risk, recalled Jonathan Pritchard, now a geneticist at Stanford University. “That’s a lot!” he remembered thinking when the paper came out.
    Over the years, however, what scientists might consider “a lot” in this context has quietly inflated. Last June, Pritchard and his Stanford colleagues Evan Boyle and Yang Li (now at the University of Chicago) published a paper about this in Cell that immediately sparked controversy, although it also had many people nodding in cautious agreement. The authors described what they called the “omnigenic” model of complex traits. Drawing on GWAS analyses of three diseases, they concluded that in the cell types that are relevant to a disease, it appears that not 15, not 100, but essentially all genes contribute to the condition. The authors suggested that for some traits, “multiple” loci could mean more than 100,000.
    https://www.quantamagazine.org/omnigenic-model-suggests-that-all-genes-affect-every-complex-trait-20180620/

    Gene Pleiotropy Roadblocks Evolution by Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D. – Dec. 8, 2016
    Excerpt: Before the advent of modern molecular biology, scientists defined a gene as a single unit of inheritance. If a gene was found to influence multiple externally visible traits, it was said to be pleiotropic—a term first used in 1910.2 During this early period of genetic discovery, pleiotropy was considered to be quite rare because scientists assumed most genes only possessed a single function—a simplistic idea that remained popular throughout most of the 20th century. However, as our understanding of genetics grew through DNA science, it became clear that genes operate in complex interconnected networks. Furthermore, individual genes produce multiple variants of end products with different effects through a variety of intricate mechanisms.2,3 Taken together, these discoveries show that pleiotropy is a common feature of nearly every gene.,,,
    The pleiotropy evolution problem is widely known among secular geneticists, but rarely discussed in the popular media. In this new research report, the authors state, “Many studies have provided evidence for the ability of pleiotropy to constrain gene evolution.”,,,
    “Our study provided supportive evidence that pleiotropy constraints the evolution of transcription factors (Tfs).”,,,
    The authors state, “We showed that highly pleiotropic genes are more likely to be associated with a disease phenotype.”,,,
    http://www.icr.org/article/9747

    Such ‘holistic cooperation’ is, needless to say, the exact polar opposite of being ‘selfish’ as Dawkins had envisioned. (And should, if Darwinism were a normal science instead of being basically a religion for atheists, count as a direct falsification of the theory).

    In fact on top of genes being in a holistic web of mutual cooperation, the genetic responses of humans are designed in a very sophisticated way so as to differentiate between hedonic (selfish) and ‘noble’ (altruistic) moral happiness:

    Human Cells Respond in Healthy, Unhealthy Ways to Different Kinds of Happiness – July 29, 2013
    Excerpt: Human bodies recognize at the molecular level that not all happiness is created equal, responding in ways that can help or hinder physical health,,,
    The sense of well-being derived from “a noble purpose” may provide cellular health benefits, whereas “simple self-gratification” may have negative effects, despite an overall perceived sense of happiness, researchers found.,,,
    But if all happiness is created equal, and equally opposite to ill-being, then patterns of gene expression should be the same regardless of hedonic or eudaimonic well-being. Not so, found the researchers.
    Eudaimonic well-being was, indeed, associated with a significant decrease in the stress-related CTRA gene expression profile. In contrast, hedonic well-being was associated with a significant increase in the CTRA profile. Their genomics-based analyses, the authors reported, reveal the hidden costs of purely hedonic well-being.,,
    “We can make ourselves happy through simple pleasures, but those ‘empty calories’ don’t help us broaden our awareness or build our capacity in ways that benefit us physically,” she said. “At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....161952.htm

    Moreover, to claim that one cell transforming into the tens of trillions cells, (of extremely cooperative, even altruistic, cells that make up our ONE human body), is anything less than a ‘altruistic’ miracle is either sheer arrogance or profound ignorance (perhaps both).

    One Body – animation – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDMLq6eqEM4

    Mathematician Alexander Tsiaras on Human Development: “It’s a Mystery, It’s Magic, It’s Divinity” – March 2012
    Excerpt: ‘The magic of the mechanisms inside each genetic structure saying exactly where that nerve cell should go, the complexity of these, the mathematical models on how these things are indeed done, are beyond human comprehension. Even though I am a mathematician, I look at this with the marvel of how do these instruction sets not make these mistakes as they build what is us. It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.’
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....57741.html

    “The mere fact that a firefly comes from a single cell that then develops into a firefly puts it in a completely different league [from an iPhone]. That doesn’t happen with smartphones. Factories make smartphones. Fireflies come from fireflies and come from an initial fertilized cell. It’s absolutely mind-boggling. We have no idea how a single cell produces an adult. These things are marvelous.”
    – Doug Axe PhD. molecular biology – The Problem with Theistic Evolution – video – 1:00 minute mark
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndRBUyW6EbM

    How Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness Correlate (27:15 minute mark – how quantum information theory relates to molecular biology and embryological development)
    https://youtu.be/4f0hL3Nrdas?t=1635

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Thus in conclusion, the claim that Darwinian evolution can produce altruistic morality of any sort, besides being directly contrary to the core ‘survival of the fittest; assumption within Darwin’s theory, is directly contradicted by the empirical evidence at every turn.

    One final note, Objective Morality of any sort can only be realistically grounded within Theism,

    The Moral Argument – Dr. Craig video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxiAikEk2vU

    ,,, and I would further argue that the ‘noblest morality’ of all, to be found within any particular Theistic worldview, is clearly to be found within Christian Theism alone:

    Romans 5:8
    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    John 15:13
    Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

    Of supplemental note. Here is a moral nuance that reflects altruistic behavior within Christians that I found particularly interesting to read about. In short, “Is God worth the sacrifice of you giving up your sins?”

    I Thought Christians Were Stupid Bigots By Rachel Gilson – April 21, 2019
    Excerpt: “Well,” Rachel says slowly, “it would definitely be tragic to give up something that valuable for something that is less valuable. And it would also be tragic to pretend like this real part of my life, my sexuality, is less than it is. But Jesus is more precious than even that very deep part of me, because of his great love. And…” she pauses for a moment with a smile, “that sounds really weird if you’re not a Christian, right? But the Bible talks about a Christian’s relationship with Christ being something we should be able to die for because it’s so precious. And celibacy and singleness are not death,” she says frankly. “Not having sex or not experiencing a romantic relationship is a severe thing, but I’d be willing to give up even more than that. In fact, giving up things is a very normal part of the Christian life. There are lots of people who give up sex, who give up their bodies, who give up their money. And you don’t really do it out of obligation—you do it out of love. You’re captured by Christ’s love, and it drives you to do things that you never thought possible before, because Jesus gives you this sense of security and purpose and an ultimate destination.”
    Rachel concludes, “The reason that most people aren’t Christians is either because they think that Jesus isn’t really real or that he isn’t really worth it. But Jesus is both—really real and really worth it. Yes, I gave up some major things and some significant sexual relationships—but God has heaped upon me beautiful and good things in their place.”
    https://churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/348951-i-thought-stupid-christians-were-stupid-bigots.html

    Verse and biblical background:

    Mark 8:37
    “Is anything worth more than your soul?”

    Lesson 50: Trading Your Soul- For What? (Genesis 25:27 34; Heb. 12:16-17)
    Excerpt: Esau’s life is the story of a man who traded his soul for fleeting pleasure. He sold his birthright, which included not only material benefits and family privileges, but spiritual blessings as well, for a bowl of soup. It says that “he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way” (25:34). He didn’t have a second thought about what he had done. He did it, it felt good, and only much later did he come to regret it.
    https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-50-trading-your-soul-what-genesis-2527-34-heb-1216-17

  8. 8
    AaronS1978 says:

    So you know I wasn’t including all biologist just the ones that make the claim that are altruism evolved in apes or it stems from apes. the evo psych corner (not biologists, some are) are the ones that most often make the claim, But on the same token not all biologist believe that altruism evolved biologically either

    I was being sarcastic though, and so you know my sarcasm does have a hint of truth it is often attributed to Bonobo apes where we get our kindness, sharing and motherly feelings from. Also that we can learn from these apes because they evolved to do it.

    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rspb.2018.1536

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5754315/Midwife-apes-seen-helping-bonobos-birth-changing-idea-assistance-unique-humans.html

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171107122904.htm

    https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/06/140610-bonobos-great-apes-animals-science-evolution/

    Again I was being sarcastic in my original post but there are people a lot of biologist to do a tribute many of our behaviors to our apes cousins, Almost anytime we find a parallel between what we do and what they do, and it’s never that we came up with it first it’s always that everything else did it before we did. Or at least that’s how it comes across to me

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