I think that the article is titled “Darwin’s Surprise” because it includes concepts that would surprise/puzzle Darwin had he heard them during his lifetime. Some of the specific concepts that would startle Darwin include the idea of human beings having been descended from viruses as well as apes, along with the discovery of the degree to which viruses have been an evolutionary force. When Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” viruses had yet to be discovered, let alone understood as to how they replicate and cause disease. This would all be new information to him. Hearing how extinct deadly viruses are able to be brought back to life and most likely did contribute to making us human would’ve been unfathomable during the 19th century.
Most of the information presented was surprising to me because I had never heard of such theories and experiments regarding viruses prior to reading the article. However, what I found to be most surprising is that scientists, such as Villarreal, believe “viruses may well be the unseen creator that mostly likely did contribute to making us human.” I had always heard of the potential harm a virus could cause, rather than on any possible benefit. As
stated in the article, viruses have been associated with many cancers and “in most cases the cells would be better off without them.” Nonetheless, studies have shown that there is one exception: the mammalian placenta. Retroviruses were found to be a part of what makes up the placenta in baboons, mice, cats, guinea pigs, and humans. To me this suggests that placentas could not exist without retroviruses, and therefore, mammals would not be able to provide nourishment to their embryos. This is shocking because as stated earlier, I would have never guessed that what is often seen as harmful could be so helpful as to give life as we know it, a life.
As stated in previous questions, the article suggests that viruses have played a baffling role in evolution-causing both harm and good. They possess “the evolutionary power to influence humans as a species-to alter our genetic structure.” Viruses change so rapidly that after a while, “a drug designed to stop it can lose its effectiveness completely.” Essentially, viruses “drive each infected cell to acquire new and increasingly complex molecular identities.” The article changed my outlook on viruses because I was always taught to fear, not celebrate them. Now, viruses are not something to be feared, but rather to be learned from. Understanding more about viruses and how they evolve would allow scientists to provide us with more answers to our questions.
Personally, I do believe scientists should “revive” dead viruses. Like most everything, research has its benefits and downsides. Although it is possible that “broken parts of viruses could once again be made infectious,” in good hands, viruses seem to be able to provide vital clues as to how AIDS, cancer, and like function. Heidmann and others would even argue that resurrected extinct viruses have “much to tell about the origins and evolution of humanity.” If this is true, then I am for it.