Very good viruses

Its taken me a while to get back to this but I’m going to talk about viruses today. Unfortunately for those of you who like computers, I’m not talking about how to clean your hard drive. Rather, the discussion will center around the organic viruses, from which computer viruses got their name.  This discussion will include information about viruses but will not be centered on being informative.  Instead, this article will attempt to determine the original purpose for viruses and how they fit into God’s creation.

I have written previously about viruses. For a basic background to viruses, you can check out this article here. However, this article has a different focus.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:31 “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” God’s view of very good is no sin, no corruption, no death, and no pain. Viruses cause pain and death in today’s world so something had to have changed. What exactly is subject to some debate. Either viruses were created as a result of the curse in Genesis 3, or their functions were modified as a result of the curse.

The first option, viruses were created as part of the curse, holds some weight. After all, there were things that came into existence because of the curse.  Thorns and thistles growing from the ground are mentioned as a direct result of the curse in Genesis 3.  However, as I discussed in my article on thorns, which may be found here, there is no way to tell whether the information required to produce thorns was already present but masked in the genome, or if God added it in.  However God was prepared to send His Son to die before He even made the universe, as Revelation 13:8 makes clear. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Jesus Christ, the Lamb, was slain before the world began, not physically yet but it was already planned.  God is a God that has everything planned out in advance. Thus it seems likely that the DNA for thorns was already present and masked in the genome. This applies to viruses as well. If God had Christ’s sacrifice planned in advance, it would not have been hard for Him to simply edit viral function, rather than create something entirely new for the sole purpose of the curse.

Based on the above we can assume that viruses were created prior to the curse and thus had some purpose God considered to be very good.  Most viruses only infect bacteria. These are referred to as bacteriophages. Bacteriophages reproduce by hijacking a bacteria cell, causing it to replicate millions of new viruses and then causing it to explode and send these new viruses back out into the environment.  The most common place to find bacteriophages is also the most common home for bacteria: the open ocean surface.  Bacteriophages help keep oceanic bacteria populations from exploding and removing food sources for other creatures such as plankton and corals.

The above gives us a glimpse, even in this sin cursed world, of the mastery of God’s design.  Even in a sin free world, bacteria, which are not alive according to the Biblical definition discussed here, would have proliferated. Without some form of population control, the bacteria would have increased on a ridiculous exponential curve. Enter bacteriophages. By keeping the bacteria population under some level of control, these viruses ensure that nutrients needed for plankton, corals, and other marine life remain available for organisms that need them.

Bacteriophages are not the only useful viruses. Human intestines are loaded with viruses. These function in the same way bacteriophages do in the ocean. They attack and destroy bacteria, creating new viruses at the same time. However, this is extremely beneficial to their human hosts because they are attacking disease causing bacteria such as E. coli among others.  While this would not have been necessary in the very good creation of the Garden of Eden, it shows once again God’s design for viruses. He knew man would sin and diseases would wrack their bodies. Thus He put a system to slow or stop some of the invaders in place before the need for it ever arose.

Viruses still have much to offer humanity. Our knowledge of their function is extremely limited. However, the two examples above demonstrate how beneficial they can be and also point to a very good original creation.  By destroying harmful, fast growing bacteria, viruses helped create the perfect, Edenic balance that God saw when He called His creation “very good”.

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