Viewpoint: Evolution works – just look at the ‘success’ of the coronavirus


The scope and the devastation of the pandemic reflect bad luck, yes, and a dangerous world, yes, but also catastrophic failures of human foresight, communal will and leadership.

But look past that record of human failures for a moment, and consider this whole event from the point of view of the virus. Measure it by the cold logic of evolution: The career of SARS-CoV-2 so far is, in Darwinian terms, a great success story.

This now-notorious coronavirus was once an inconspicuous creature, lurking quietly in its natural host: some population of animals, possibly bats, in the caves and remnant forests of southern China. The existence of such a living hide-out — also known as a reservoir host — is logically necessary when any new virus appears suddenly as a human infection.

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Why? Because everything comes from somewhere, and viruses come from cellular creatures, such as animals, plants or fungi… A virus can only replicate itself, function as though it were alive and abide over time if it inhabits the cells of a more complex creature, like a sort of genetic parasite.

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Viruses have no malice against us. They have no purposes, no schemes. They follow the same simple Darwinian imperatives as do rats or any other creature driven by a genome: to extend themselves as much as possible in abundance, in geographical space and in time.

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