The worst part of witch hunts in science is that they so often involve controversies over words without precise definitions,
Villarreal and Mazur introduce a term that will be new to many— and relevant to viruses like COVID-19: quasispecies
Presumably, viruses don’t need to follow rules of heredity.
The bad news, as you will learn, among other things, when you read the non-panic news, is that precisely because COVID-19 is much less lethal than SARS, it is apt to be around longer.
Behe: … most viruses do not affect humans and may well have a positive, necessary role to play in nature of which we are currently unaware. (I would bet on it.) From time to time a storm arises in the virosphere and affects humans. But that’s no reason to think either that viruses weren’t designed or that the designer of viruses isn’t good.
“Not a random boo-boo on evolution’s part”? If the field of biology had not organized itself around Darwinian evolution (insert preferred terminology for the same sort of thing here) in the mid-twentieth century, would anyone think that up just now to account for all this?
From what they’re saying, viruses don’t necessarily share any characteristics of common descent. Let alone universal common descent. Jury’s still out but this is big.
So giant viruses often boost host metabolism instead of destroying it and “the team was still unable to link 20,000 major capsid proteins of large and giant viruses to any known virus lineage”? Creation ex nihilo? Hey, don’t laugh.. Look, these days, they can’t even get mouse or human sperm to buy into Darwinism. Why would giant viruses care?
Well, this is interesting, for sure: “The findings show that this broad class of single-stranded DNA viruses, which infect all three cellular domains of life, have acquired their genetic components through complex evolutionary processes not traceable to a single ancestral event.” Maybe there wasn’t a “single ancestral event” for cells either. Also: The hope is to “resolve the question of how cell-based life came to co-exist with the planet’s staggering array of viruses (dubbed the virome).” One commonly heard hypothesis is that viruses are degraded cells. It will be interesting to hear alternative theses.
Viruses seem to be everywhere, doing a lot of things, with apparent “ingenuity.” Maybe a discovery down the road will be that they cause many changes currently interpreted according to some Darwinian theory (kin selection, costly fitness, what have you … )
Do viruses think? Not in the human sense. As with plants, these communications are signals, not abstractions. But the signals raise an important question: If viruses seek to remain in an organized state, why are they not “alive”? If they are not “alive,” what are they?
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.
As described, the authors’ explanation doesn’t follow. The Medusavirus substituting its own DNA for that of the host is no different from the cuckoo substituting its own offspring for another bird’s in a nest. The fact that the strategy works does not necessarily demonstrate a hereditary relationship between the two species.
Giant viruses have only been known from the past few decades. There is still debate about whether viruses are actually life forms. Surely, there will be many game changers to come. Anyone attempting to compile an evolutionary history of giant viruses would be like the person who writes the history of a major league playoff series after the first game. Without the crystal ball.
Maybe in some fields, we need more “stupid” ideas that don’t depend on what “should have” evolved.