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Evolving Diseases - Object Lessons

Monday, January 02, 2006
Current events can teach us about very complex topics, ones that may be difficult to grasp immediately but which, if discussed, will become understandable with time.

One example is the Avian flu pandemic topic. If one is paying attention they would also realize this story has, at its core, a powerful object lesson for understanding Evolution (any even cursory study of viruses will help the thinking person to understand Evolution but many people need it thrust in their face before they wish to consider alternatives to their dogmatic framework.)

Unless you ascribe to a worldview that is pre-modern era wherein there was no understanding of the lifecycle and progression of mutations in virus, you will accept that we have occasional pandemics that arise from pivitol mutation events in viruses in an advantageous context. In other words, viruses are CONSTANTLY mutating (as are many and perhaps most organisms here on Earth), "testing" their environment (as a population), "experimenting" on new permutations of changes in coat proteins, DNA and other nucleic acid specific enzymes, and other functional or heritable genomic characteristics, and the population settles (momentarily and within a particular host/context) on a seccessful matrix of mutations.

Remember that when we scientists use words like "they test" or "they experiment" with mutations to become more fit, it is a quirk of our colloquial language that makes anthropomorphism desirable. Viruses and other organisms no more "want" to "test" or "experiment" than a volume of liquid or gas "wants" to fill the container it is in. These activities are artifacts of basic physical and genetic properties. None of this language is EVER meant to imply genomic intelligence alike to what we perceive to be our own intelligence. True, there is a resultant "genomic intelligence" but that is jargony language that really confuses, not useful.

It seems that, indeed, even as Bush tries to capitalize off the fear of the potential avian flu pandemic (just as he capitalizes off of fear of 9/11, boogy monsters, and perhaps the Loch Ness Monster), he has really helped alot of people OPEN THEIR EYES to the concept of evolution.

In polls that judge American "acceptance" of the concept of Evolution, before and after the avian flu pandemic rukus (there has been NO pandemic, yet), we see that people get the object lesson.

Here are some further resources for understanding evolution:

Evolution Outreach Projects - stuff you need!

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