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?
Are viruses nature’s perfect machine? Or alive?
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