Darwin’s Surprise

I think that from this article, Darwin would find it most interesting that we as humans have been impacted by viruses genetically because in his time, he did not have that working understanding of genetics.  Even with his far-sighted research and theory of evolution, I’m not sure he could’ve quite grasped the notion of this quote from the text — “’It is quite possible that, without them, human beings would still be laying eggs.’”  I think he’d also find it fascinating that while retroviruses have had such a profound impact on the way our genome is structured, many remnants are now called “junk DNA” because of their lack of function.

 What I found most surprising about the article was that ptev could’ve engendered a kind of HIV resistance within chimpanzees and gorillas is the most surprising to me.  From the outside, understanding the way in which fear has historically played a role in the way in which the HIV/AIDS crisis has been dealt with, it’s fascinating that a virus — a retrovirus — impacted chimpanzees’ and gorillas’ genomes millions of years ago now dictates the ways in which our species’ populations are affected.  Additionally, the prediction that the entire continent of Africa could eventually perish without an effective AIDS vaccine was shocking and fear-instilling.  When you live on the other side of the world, it’s all too easy to become divorced from global struggles that do not seem as dire in your own backyard.  This knowledge of the way retroviruses behave and its impact on our everyday existence has certainly impacted the way in which I view scientific research surrounding the search to end HIV/AIDS — I have a newfound understanding that will most definitely allow me to be a more active and educated participant in a conversation that affects millions of people everyday.

The article suggests that contrary to the general perception of viruses as those things that get you sick sometimes and can also sometimes be much more deadly, viruses have allowed us to build up a tolerance to modern viruses and illness via alteration of our collective human genome.   To me, this is a fascinating prospect and new understanding of the function of viruses; and it leads me to be more keen on stopping to read more about viruses and the ways in which they can impact our future health.

I believe that science should “revive” dead viruses, but only under certain circumstances. As mentioned in the article, these processes can have unknown and extremely significant contributions to curing and saving in ways we could never predict — such is the usual course of scientific discovery.  To me, this acts as both a positive and negative argument for the use of extinct viruses for future study.  The effects of reviving these viruses could have untold positives and negatives, but if certain precautions like those mentioned in the article are followed faithfully and if the process is fully regulated, i.e. viruses are made in a way that they only may reproduce once, I could never stand in the way of potentially live-saving scientific research.

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