Intelligent Design Philosophy Science

Another stab at Are Viruses Alive?

Spread the love

All the more interesting in light of the pandemic:

The truth is, we don’t fully understand viruses, and we’re still trying to understand life. Some properties of living things are absent from viruses, such as cellular structure, metabolism (the chemical reactions that take place in cells) and homeostasis (keeping a stable internal environment).

This sets viruses apart from life as we currently define it. But there are also properties that viruses share with life. They evolve, for instance, and by infecting a host cell they multiply using the same cellular machinery.

Many viruses can cut the DNA of infected cells and intertwine their own genetic material so that they are copied along with the DNA of their host whenever the cell divides. This process is called lysogeny and it can be contrasted with the more destructive lytic strategy of viruses where they multiply in great numbers within a cell, only to burst the cell open and spread out to infect other cells.

Hugh Harris, “Are viruses alive? Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question” at The Conversation

What do readers think? Are viruses alive?

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.


Are viruses nature’s perfect machine? Or alive?

9 Replies to “Another stab at Are Viruses Alive?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    If viruses are neither alive nor dead then they must be microscopic zombies.

  2. 2
    martin_r says:

    Viruses – most abundant organism on Earth, yet, the Darwinian theory of evolution can’t explain where the most abundant organism on Earth come from.


    Darwinian common descent idea DOES NOT WORK with viruses, there is no common ancestor for viruses and the rest of the life on Earth.

    Cellular life and viruses are two completely different systems

    Few quotes from a mainstream virology website (

    “Viruses don’t have a structure derived from a common ancestor
    Cells obtain membranes from other cells during cell division. According to this concept of ‘membrane heredity’, today’s cells have inherited membranes from the first cells that evolved, and provides evidence that cells are derived from a common ancestor. Viruses have no such inherited structure”

    “In a phylogenetic tree, the characteristics of members of taxa are inherited from previous ancestors. Viruses cannot be included in the tree of life because they do not share characteristics with cells, and no single gene is shared by all viruses or viral lineages. While cellular life has a single, common origin, viruses are polyphyletic – they have many evolutionary origins.”

    “There are no ancestral viral lineages
    No single gene has been identified that is shared by all viruses. There are common protein motifs in viral capsids, but these have likely come about through convergent evolution or horizontal gene transfer.”


  3. 3
    ET says:

    Viruses cannot reproduce so they don’t fit the definition of “life”. Viruses do not have metabolism, so they don’t fit the definition of “life”.

  4. 4
    PaV says:

    So, viruses aren’t alive, and yet they ‘evolve.’

    [I skimmed at article on mitochondria today and the way they translate proteins. I searched for the word “evolve.” Wasn’t there. Didn’t need it. Eliminate evolution and science would get along just fine.
    Let’s drop ‘evolution’; why don’t we use ‘transmorphism’ instead?]

    Viruses are like the punchcards we used to run the IBM mainframes years ago. Three cards, and you can get a printout!! That is, “life.” Now how did the information on those punchcards get there?

    I’ll tell you how in case you can’t stumble onto the answer by yourself.

  5. 5
    awstar says:

    PaV @ 4

    Viruses are like the punchcards we used to run the IBM mainframes years ago. Three cards, and you can get a printout!! That is, “life.” Now how did the information on those punchcards get there?

    The difference is even more stark than that. Viruses are like a book. Life is a cell that includes a library, xerox machine and manufacturing plant. A virus can only become functional if it can break into the living cell. The fact that a virus evolves (assuming it even does) proves it isn’t life because living cells don’t evolve, they devolve. Its library is infected with more and more typos, its xerox machines break down, and its manufacturing plant runs out of needed supplies and materials, etc. etc. etc.

  6. 6
    Bob O'H says:

    What do readers think? Are viruses alive?

    Honestly, I don’t care whether we label them Alive or Dead. They are what they are, and I think it’s more important to try to understand them.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Martin_r notes, via this link, that viruses do not support Darwin’s hypothetical tree of life:

    Viruses and the tree of life
    Excerpt: Viruses cannot be included in the tree of life because they do not share characteristics with cells, and no single gene is shared by all viruses or viral lineages.,,,
    No single gene has been identified that is shared by all viruses.,,,
    It cannot be proven that early viruses appeared along with the first cells.,,,
    Viral genomes encode many genes that have no homologues in cells.,,,

    As well, it is worth noting that neither do bacteria support Darwin’s hypothetical tree of life:

    ,,,”Typical bacterial species. The smallest part of the pie are the genes that all bacteria share. 8% roughly. This second and largest slice (of the pie, 64%) are the genes that are specialized to some particular environment. They call them character genes. By far the biggest number of genes are the ones that are unique. This big green ball here (on the right of the illustration). These are genes found only in one species or its near relatives. Those are the ORFans (i.e. Genes with no ancestry). They said, on the basis of our analysis the genetic diversity of bacteria is of infinite size.”
    Paul Nelson – quoted from 103:48 minute mark of the following video
    Whatever Happened To Darwin’s Tree Of Life? – Paul Nelson – 2013 – video
    You can see the pie chart that Dr. Nelson used in his talk here on page 108 (figure 2) of this following article:
    Estimating the size of the bacterial pan-genome
    Excerpt Figure 2 pg. 108: At the genomic level, a typical bacterial genome is composed of _8% of core genes, 64% of character genes and 28% of accessory genes,,,

    As well, neither do yeast support Darwin’s hypothetical tree of life:

    Here Are Those Incongruent Trees From the Yeast Genome – Case Study – Cornelius Hunter – June 2013
    Excerpt: We recently reported on a study of 1,070 genes and how they contradicted each other in a couple dozen yeast species. Specifically, evolutionists computed the evolutionary tree, using all 1,070 genes, showing how the different yeast species are related. This tree that uses all 1,070 genes is called the concatenation tree. They then repeated the computation 1,070 times, for each gene taken individually. Not only did none of the 1,070 trees match the concatenation tree, they also failed to show even a single match between themselves. In other words, out of the 1,071 trees, there were zero matches. Yet one of the fundamental predictions of evolution is that different features should generally agree. It was “a bit shocking” for evolutionists, as one explained: “We are trying to figure out the phylogenetic relationships of 1.8 million species and can’t even sort out 20 yeast.”
    In fact, as the figure above shows, the individual gene trees did not converge toward the concatenation tree. Evolutionary theory does not expect all the trees to be identical, but it does expect them to be consistently similar. They should mostly be identical or close to the concatenation tree, with a few at farther distances from the concatenation tree. Evolutionists have clearly and consistently claimed this consilience as an essential prediction.
    But instead, on a normalized scale from zero to one (where zero means the trees are identical), the gene trees were mostly around 0.4 from the concatenation tree with a huge gap in between. There were no trees anywhere close to the concatenation tree. This figure is a statistically significant, stark falsification of a highly acclaimed evolutionary prediction.

    As well, neither do multicellular organisms support Darwin’s hypothetical tree of life:

    New Paper by Winston Ewert Demonstrates Superiority of Design Model – Cornelius Hunter – July 20, 2018
    Excerpt: Ewert’s three types of data are: (i) sample computer software, (ii) simulated species data generated from evolutionary/common descent computer algorithms, and (iii) actual, real species data.
    Ewert’s three models are: (i) a null model which entails no relationships between any species, (ii) an evolutionary/common descent model, and (iii) a dependency graph model.
    Ewert’s results are a Copernican Revolution moment. First, for the sample computer software data, not surprisingly the null model performed poorly. Computer software is highly organized, and there are relationships between different computer programs, and how they draw from foundational software libraries. But comparing the common descent and dependency graph models, the latter performs far better at modeling the software “species.” In other words, the design and development of computer software is far better described and modeled by a dependency graph than by a common descent tree.
    Second, for the simulated species data generated with a common descent algorithm, it is not surprising that the common descent model was far superior to the dependency graph. That would be true by definition, and serves to validate Ewert’s approach. Common descent is the best model for the data generated by a common descent process.
    Third, for the actual, real species data, the dependency graph model is astronomically superior compared to the common descent model.
    Where It Counts
    Let me repeat that in case the point did not sink in. Where it counted, common descent failed compared to the dependency graph model. The other data types served as useful checks, but for the data that mattered — the actual, real, biological species data — the results were unambiguous.
    Ewert amassed a total of nine massive genetic databases. In every single one, without exception, the dependency graph model surpassed common descent.
    Darwin could never have even dreamt of a test on such a massive scale. Darwin also could never have dreamt of the sheer magnitude of the failure of his theory. Because you see, Ewert’s results do not reveal two competitive models with one model edging out the other.
    We are not talking about a few decimal points difference. For one of the data sets (HomoloGene), the dependency graph model was superior to common descent by a factor of 10,064. The comparison of the two models yielded a preference for the dependency graph model of greater than ten thousand.,,,
    But It Gets Worse
    The problem with all of this is that the Bayes factor of 10,064 bits for the HomoloGene data set is the very best case for common descent. For the other eight data sets, the Bayes factors range from 40,967 to 515,450.
    In other words, while 6.6 bits would be considered to provide “decisive” evidence for the dependency graph model, the actual, real, biological data provide Bayes factors of 10,064 on up to 515,450.
    We have known for a long time that common descent has failed hard. In Ewert’s new paper, we now have detailed, quantitative results demonstrating this. And Ewert provides a new model, with a far superior fit to the data.

    As the following researcher commented, “We’ve just annihilated the tree of life. It’s not a tree any more, it’s a different topology entirely. What would Darwin have made of that?”

    Perhaps the most candid discussion of the problem came in a 2009 review article in New Scientist titled “Why Darwin Was Wrong about the Tree of Life.”9 The author quoted researcher Eric Bapteste explaining that “the holy grail was to build a tree of life,” but “today that project lies in tatters, torn to pieces by an onslaught of negative evidence.” According to the article, “many biologists now argue that the tree concept is obsolete and needs to be discarded.”,,,
    Syvanen succinctly summarized the problem: “We’ve just annihilated the tree of life. It’s not a tree any more, it’s a different topology entirely. What would Darwin have made of that?” ,,,

    For any other theory in science, this level of falsification would simply be completely devastating to the theory, but alas Darwinian evolution gets a free pass when it comes to falsifying evidence no matter how badly it falsifies the theory.

    To repeat what I’ve stated many times before, Darwinian evolution is not a testable science, but a unfalsifiable pseudoscience, even a religion, for atheists.

    1 Thessalonians 5:21
    but test everything; hold fast what is good.

  8. 8
    polistra says:

    It’s not really a useful question.

    Maybe a less emotion-loaded analogy is computer “viruses”, which were designed by Deepstate to function just like DNA viruses. A computer virus is a packet of information, nothing more. It reproduces by getting into a computer and using the computer’s “life” to create and propagate more viruses. Some computer viruses alter the computer’s behavior to create “symptoms”, some don’t. The “symptoms” can be manipulated by the virus’s creator to gain money and power for the creator.

    All the elements are parallel. We never ask if a piece of code malware is a computer, so we don’t need to ask whether a piece of DNA malware is an animal.

  9. 9
    Tom Robbins says:

    I don’t think we have the correct vocabulary to decide if a virus is “alive” or not. I think it is safe to say it is not some intermediary between living and non-living. With what we are learning about viruses contributions to transferring typically beneficial horizontal gene transfer (if indeed this is the main mechanism for HGT). So perhaps they are part of the “system of life”.

    So much emphasis gets put on the incredible workings of the single cell (and rightly so), things like how cells communicate with each other for a greater purpose are just now coming to light, and are equally designed and amazing. Perhaps we get fixated on looking at life with demarcations as our minds can’t figure anything else out (in large part due to the brainwashing of Neo-darwinism’s assumptions of common decent and it’s ridiculous reliance on random errors in code creating something novel.

    I am a believer, and this believer recons that the brain is only a filter and sensory processor for consciousness, which like the information in DNA is immaterial, and supersedes matter, spacetime etc. As a great quantum physicist pointed out, there must be a force beyond our understanding, that actively holds electrons in their orbit, and brings it to just the right vibrational state to become something. So my point is really pretty simple – viruses don’t make sense in a materialistic world. But if God “spoke” everything into existence, and holds it all together, then its easy to see that viruses serve a purpose in the greater grand design. I am not saying we can’t study them, observe how they operate, etc. I am just saying perhaps (like many bacteria both beneficial and deadly to some) are part of a greater whole. Maybe that single cell bacteria makes no sense either if you think of it as “life” without other bacteria, (beneficial and destructive) .

    I think it is a matter of conceptual limitations, and the idea that one cell started everything off, after randomly assembling, complete with the ability to replicate and divide (ridiculous of course).

Leave a Reply