It’s hard not to think of viruses as our enemies in some fashion. Whether it’s fictional pathogens like the one in Contagion or real ones like ebola, most of us only encounter or think about viruses when they are making us sick. And viruses do make lots of people sick, sometimes fatally, so that impression is not entirely unjustified. As a result, a finding like this one about a virus making a constructive contribution to human embryonic development may be difficult to accept. Admittedly, the “puppet master” language in the news item doesn’t help matters either.
I’ve previously discussed on Facebook (and here) the microbiome, the bacteria of assorted species that call each and every one of us home, and the possible ways it influences us. Having personally come to terms with a role for bacteria in my life, making room for a virus isn’t much of an additional leap. But I can imagine that not everyone would find it so easy to embrace their inner virus. So I’m curious how everyone else reacts to news like this.
How comfortable are you with viruses, ancient ones that infected your ancestors many generations ago, forming a crucial, active part of your genome? What about the suggestion that some of these viruses may play a role in distinguishing us from chimpanzees and other apes, a distinction often associated with concepts of the imago dei?
About the author:
Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two teenagers, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. His book Faith across the Multiverse is available from Hendrickson.