Older people will remember the accusation, when they were young, against the existence of God – Why did God create viruses? It was intended to be a rhetorical question. Viruses are bad, full stop, so there is no good God. These shrill voices have been mute for some time, but why? Viruses are not as bad as had been assumed – after all, humans and viruses have managed to co-exist for a long time.
The development of gene therapy may have quietened this line of atheistic questioning, along with other atheistic lines of reasoning, that have gradually withered on the vine. It is no longer a rhetorical question because viruses are being used to treat genetic diseases by counteracting abnormal genes.
The latest example is the possible cure of some forms of haemophilia, the bleeding disease that disables those who have it. This treatment uses viruses. Just as antibiotics target an invading bacteria, so these viruses target an abnormal gene.
Gene therapy uses various techniques. One method is to ‘silence’ the offending defective gene, which has had encouraging success with Huntington’s disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disease compared to a mixture of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease rolled into one, and fatal in middle age.
Viruses infect living cells without necessarily killing them and this facility is being used to ‘find and replace’ a faulty gene. The virus can carry and insert a normal gene where one is needed or cut out, deactivate or ‘silence’ a faulty gene. This technology is one of the biggest breakthroughs in recent decades, carrying enormous potential for future medical treatment of many intractable diseases.
Intuition and logical thought
A moment of serious thought should long ago have silenced these critics of God’s creation. There are countless viruses around us. Some people estimate that there are more viruses in the world than stars in the Universe. If they were all bad for us they would have killed us and the biosphere long ago. Rather, there must be a symbiotic relationship between them, but the relatively few deleterious infections is enough for ungodly critics to manifest their prejudices against God our Creator. It permeates much of their thinking, speech and behaviour.
I have believed for many years that there are many infectious diseases yet to be diagnosed, simply because there are so many viruses and bacteria. My late father was the senior pathologist in infectious diseases in the West of Scotland and in his retirement completed a massive three volume textbook on The Pathology of Human Viral Infections and Associated Conditions of over 2300 pages summarising more than 30 years of medical knowledge in a specialised field. With such personal proximity to infectious diseases, I was therefore among the first children to have childhood vaccinations administered to them, and two decades later I was among the last group of UK medical students to be given smallpox vaccination, because smallpox was diminishing at that time and it is now eradicated from the world. The treatment of childhood infectious diseases has been a success story of the 20th century, but there is much more to be done. With so much biography in one paragraph, possibly I should wish my father’s namesake, my own son James, a happy birthday in far away Dubai airport on his way back from a week in Bali where the Agung volcano is threatening to burst into life. My own grandfather had his own volcano to face in 1917.
Along similar lines of lateral thinking, it is now standard evolutionary theory that the mitochondria in every human cell are actually bacteria which invaded and then embedded themselves in human cells. Similarly chloroplasts in plant cells are thought by evolutionists to have been free-living organisms in the distant past.
Not many people will publicise the anomalous fact that this hypothesis is Lamarckian rather than Mendelian and therefore it does not fit in with the standard evolutionary hypothesis, which is now called neo-Darwinism to accommodate the evolution of the hypothesis itself, which prevents an exact defintion. This does not stop the popularising zeal of such propagandists as Richard Dawkins and Steve Jones peddling this hypothesis as if it was truth.
The increasing knowledge about genetic diseases is being matched with increasing knowledge of how to treat them, which is a welcome ‘God-send‘, and who can say how far this will go in alleviating so many more undiagnosed diseases afflicting human beings?
Technology is marching ahead, while secular social experimentation is increasing the tensions in society. Evolutionary hypothesis does not stand the close examination of the facts, and it is time to listen to our Creator.
God challenges us: ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?’ Job 38:4.
The shortest poem on microbes is Fleas by American poet Strickland Gillilan in the early 20th century:
“AdamLines on the Antiquity of Microbes
31 May 2018 Dr Jennifer Doudna, the biochemist who pioneered Crispr/Cas9 was interviewed on BBC HARDtalk today. Crispr/Cas9 is a gene editing tool that could be used to cure genetic diseases, especially inherited ones like Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anaemia, as well as cancer and a host of other diseases. It is the greatest biological breakthrough in decades and will lead to a genetic revolution. It will no doubt be abused, but the abuse of something does not detract from its beneficial use. We should be thankful to God for such discoveries and learn from Him how to restrain evil in the world. 25 May 2023: being conferred with an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Harvard University.
15 Aug 2018: the role of viruses in the biblical Millennium.
19 Sep 2018: only a few of the 7000 species of wasps interfere with human happiness; the vast majority of wasps are beneficial for our environment. This should have been intuitively obvious, rather similar to the argument above about viruses. In other words, the global ecosystem has a natural built-in balance and when it goes out of kilter it leads to another equilibrium until something else comes along to upset it and form another equilibrium.
It should remind us of the faulty thinking in those who use ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ arguments to try to disprove the goodness of God and thus the existence of God. Rather, without the current ecosystem we could not enjoy life at all. The food chain is a fact of life and does not prove the non-existence of God.
20 Apr 2019: Bill Gates on gene drive in malaria.
8 May 2019: viral phages are a last-line defence when antibiotics fail.
14 Jun 2019: the last UK stocks of rinderpest virus have been destroyed. Smallpox and rinderpest are the only diseases to be eradicated from the world and the viruses are held in various laboratories. This shows the success of vaccination but I am not a supporter of destroying viable genetic material. This defeatist attitude is a secular attitude. Who can say how valuable such viral material may yet prove to be once we know how to use it for its original God-given purpose?
22 Jul 2019: this link is an academic discussion challenging evolution, using arguments long ago expained by Christian theology, such as micro-evolution demonstrated by natural selection contrasted with macro-evolution postulated for speciation, and ‘the Cambrian explosion’ in the fossil record.
30 Jul 2019: I am told that the thousands of mushroom spores under the surface of one’s grassy lawn, occasionally springing up above ground as the fruiting body, are beneficial for the most part, living in symbiotic harmony with the underground environment. Unlike bacteria and viruses, these are fungi. They are so good that the spores are sold even on Amazon. Further discoveries of the wonders of God’s creation will be a prominent benefit of the biblical Millennium. [Update: BBC Tomorrow’s Food – Episode 3: the root system of mushrooms can suck the bitterness out of chocolate so that it needs half the sugar.]
5 Mar 2020: the benefits from coronavirus.
21 Mar 2020: George Galloway asked Dr Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman of the World Health Organisation (WHO), on his Sputnik programme today: “Why do viruses exist? Can you think of a good reason for viruses to exist?” She replied along the lines that some people think that they are involved in evolution. My contribution to the debate online was removed; charity makes me think that there may be a policy against supplying links in comments. I would be disappointed if it was because I mentioned God. The comment had been removed by 30 Mar 2020. It was:
“George asked Dr Harris from WHO: “Why do viruses exist? … can you think of a good reason for viruses to exist?” There are many good reasons. Here are a few links:
3 Apr 2020: numbers cannot be exact but, as a mnemonic, human beings have in the order of 6 trillion cells, 60 trillion bacteria and 380 trillion viruses all living happily together in a symbiotic relationship. [4 Dec 2020 update: the earlier link no longer works probably because the highly-qualified author of the video, a US Republican Party candidate, has been cancelled by the prevailing cancel-culture for supporting US President Donald Trump]. Estimates vary enormously, such as 30 x10^12 (trillion) cells in each human being, but a few extra zeros doesn’t change the overall message when the numbers are this large. To obtain an idea of large numbers, click here for the scale of all matter and the Universe.
15 Apr 2020: National Geographic’s article about the number of viruses and why do only some infect us?
18 Jul 2020: viruses commonly jump from animals to humans. They have done so for a very long time and continue to do so, especially as human are invading wildlife habitats and encountering novel viruses to which we are not immune.
26 Jan 2021: the human cost of viral disease is experienced by individuals but the economic cost can be measured internationally. In 2003, SARS in 37 countries cost $40-54bn; in 2013-2016 Ebola in West Africa cost $53bn; AIDS has cost $563bn; influenza costs $570bn every year; and the coronavirus pandemic will cost even more. Slowly the international community is learning 1. to put ecology before economy; 2. to act together. They have still to learn that this is God’s way of knocking international heads together, who will not usually speak to one another – the same as He is using the panic about climate change.
21 Jul 2022: now Haemophilia B is being cured in nine out of ten haemophiliacs.
1 Feb 2023: the mathematics and complexity of a biological cell such as a virus or a single-cell bacterium.
21 Mar 2023: the marvel of the human body’s ability to resist, contain and eliminate infection from the body.
4 thoughts on “Why did God create viruses?”
I am as disappointed yet again as always to read your evolution denial comments. When are you going to accept that the evidence for evolution is totally overwhelming. Decent with modification acted on by selective processes leads inevitably to evolution. There is no difference between micro and macro evolution except the amount of time involved. The design behind this universe is not so much in the many aspects of the numerous species on earth, as in a universe in which something as stunning as evolution can occur as a natural process. God takes responsibility for the good and the bad products of evolution. This creation is ‘subjected to futility not without purpose but in hope of eventual redemption’. Rather loosely quoted from memory I’m afraid. Evolution is nothing compared to growth. Yet no one denies that growth is a natural process. Yet God takes the credit and where necessary the responsibility for what grows in the same way as he does for what evolves.
I am sorry that it has taken me so long to pick up your comment. During the coronavirus pandemic lockdown I diverted to my YouTube channel and Zoom meetings https://donaldboyd.org/2020/08/22/my-youtube-channel/ and https://donaldboyd.org/2020/10/13/following-my-blog/ and only now am I going through a series of earlier comments.
You write: “When are you going to accept that the evidence for evolution is totally overwhelming.” Rather, the evolutionary hypothesis expects us to fill in the multitudes of gaps in its evidence as well as in its hypothesis. The so-called missing links are extinct species, not transitional links. I prefer to believe the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Have you not read, that He Who made them at the beginning made them male and female?’ Mat 19:4, and He went on to quote Gen 1:27.
You write: “There is no difference between micro and macro evolution except the amount of time involved.” There is a difference between micro and macro evolution – micro-evolution is observable and does not involve speciation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciation; macro-evolution involves speciation and has not been observed in nature.
You write: “Evolution is nothing compared to growth.” What you suggest is easy is in fact so difficult that no-one has ever managed to describe a pathway that fills in the chemistry to biochemistry gap. Fossil gaps, biological gaps and the chemistry-biochemistry gaps are as wide as ever, which the evolutionary imagination fills in.
You might be interested in the testimony of this Messianic Jew https://www.jmtour.com/ Not only is James Tour a triple professor of Chemistry, Computer Science and of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, who builds molecules as one of the foremost synthetic organic chemists in the United States of America, whose vast credentials are in the link I have given, but also he asserts: “Those who think scientists understand the issues of prebiotic chemistry are wholly misinformed. Nobody understands them.” https://inference-review.com/article/animadversions-of-a-synthetic-chemist “Chemists study molecules. Synthetic chemists make them. What nature does is anyone’s guess.” “Biologists seem to think that there are well-understood prebiotic molecular mechanisms for their synthesis. They have been grossly misinformed. And no wonder: few biologists have ever synthesized a complex molecule ab initio.” Here is a four-minute video by Tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y5-VNg-S0s
In a follow-up article describing the complex laboratory synthesis of complex molecules https://inference-review.com/article/two-experiments-in-abiogenesis Tour states: “There is no reason to suppose that nature could have commanded these exquisite laboratory skills.” “This work underscores the difficulties in obtaining even trace amounts of a single desired nucleoside.”
Speaking about academic researchers Tour accuses them: “No overall bookkeeping standards are maintained from one published work to another. The shortcomings of past generations are subsumed in current work without ever being acknowledged. [Quoting one of them he continues] ‘It is assumed,’ Carell and his colleagues remark, ‘that life originated from a simple set of small molecules.’ His [Carell’s] work dispels any such illusions. Reckless general claims are a characteristic of the field. In describing the RNA-world hypothesis, Carrell and his colleagues argue that it would be easy to go from molecules to nucleosides, then to informational polymers, and finally to self-replicating systems. This is to assume, without evidence, that in prebiotic chemistry great oaks follow naturally from small acorns. Views such as this are acceptable in today’s scientific journals.” Tour’s illustration interacts with your assertion about growth and evolution. His Wikpedia entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Tour states: “Tour has written extensively on his viewpoint that all scientific studies to date are wholly inadequate to account for life.”
Here is a short video of Tour’s Christian testimony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNGLZvtRoiU Enjoy!
For readers of this response who want even shorter videos, this one is less than two minutes long https://www.youtube.com/drjamestour
Jesus is the final word on the matter: “Have you not read, that He Who made them at the beginning made them male and female?” “At the beginning”, not after millions of iterations of pre-human forms.
Your comment is a common thought expressed by theistic evolutionists and I am pleased for the opportunity to interact with it.
I read your article with interest. Now I’m not an expert in such matters but you seem to be an intelligent well meaning human being and I think I am also an intelligent well meaning human being. A question that I grapple with more and more as I near the end of my life is: how can 2 intelligent well meaning people have such diametrically opposed views of the world and both believe that they are right?
The nearest that I have come to an answer is that given by the Scottish philosopher David Hume. He said something like: our emotions drive our decisions and beliefs while our logical thinking provides the justification for our irrational emotional beliefs.
If all else fails I resort to the old Yorkshire saying: there’s nowt as queer as folk.
Have a good life and help others.
I am sorry that it has taken till today for me to read your comment.
I am not surprised by intelligent people having different beliefs. I prefer your “Yorkshire saying: there’s nowt as queer as folk” rather than Scottish philosopher David Hume’s bifurcation of emotions and beliefs in your summary. Like Richard Dawkins, his position gives no explanation for people’s changing their beliefs as rational adults.
The relationship between belief and evidence is more complicated than Hume’s assessment. The divide over belief and evidence is in the scientific world as well as the religious world https://www.holoscience.com/wp/an-open-letter-to-closed-minds/
The teachings of Jesus Christ in the four Gospels will explain to you the resistance of human beings to changing their beliefs https://donaldboyd.org/2019/12/24/belief-and-the-truth/ Many Christians are also slow to change their beliefs and behaviour https://donaldboyd.org/2014/10/30/when-did-the-bible-last-change-your-thinking-or-behaviour/ because it is native to the human condition https://donaldboyd.org/2020/01/27/unbelief-the-default-position/. Jesus “marvelled because of their unbelief” Mk 6:6.
You will find my assessment here https://donaldboyd.org/2017/03/02/denial-and-post-truth-the-real-problem-with-faith/#Dawkins
Unbelief is, as you suggest, and as the Bible confirms, native to the heart of man. It is a feature of the MeToo movement to call out the failure to believe victims of abuse https://donaldboyd.org/2018/03/29/unbelief-and-victim-abuse/ However, Christianity has addressed the subject of unbelief for millennia. “What if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” Rom 3:3.
Here is a sample analysis of Jesus’ conversation: https://donaldboyd.org/2020/01/01/jesus-conversational-topics/
Happy reading, and thanks for your comments.