The article Darwin’s Surprise sheds light on a possibly beneficial characteristic to some viruses. It reveals that endogenous retroviruses have played a large role in molding the way we live today. The striking statement that “It is quite possible that, without [Viruses], human beings would still be laying eggs”(Specter,67) highlights the importance of these retroviruses.
Darwin’s main surprise would come from the idea that an abiotic, non-environmental factor could have such a great impact on the human genome. Darwin would also have been surprised that the endogenous retroviruses support his idea of common ancestry and descent with modification. Although he did not know about viruses or DNA, Darwin’s idea has been supported by new evidence.
What I thought was the most surprising about the article was the possibility to revive viruses from human DNA. As demonstrated in the article, reviving viruses has great potential for studying evolution and the way today’s viruses behave. But there is also a potentially harmful aspect to reviving viruses. These revived retroviruses have also demonstrated their lethal potential, and with the ability to piece together viruses, another bioterrorism threat has appeared. This discovery, like many scientific discoveries in the past, grants a great power that can help or hinder the human race.
I believe that viruses should continue to be revived from our genome, but only at a highly controlled rate. The potential for important information hidden in our own genomes is so great, that this resource must be used to help fight off harmful viruses. Science fiction has given us many examples of overextending our knowledge, and that threat
This article has greatly changed my view of viruses from an absolutely destructive force, to something that, in moderation, can help perpetuate life on Earth.