June 14, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Some Pathogens Are Surprisingly Young

Did pathogens like viruses and bacteria appear recently? Do evolutionists have solid theories of where they came from?

Louis Pasteur, 1822-1895. Click for biography.

Since Pasteur and Lister, we are painfully aware that agents invisible to the naked eye can cause all kinds of sickness. Evolutionists would say that pathogens have been around for millions of years, as long as life itself. Do they know that? Consider these recent articles and papers. First, how old is the bubonic plague germ?

Analysis of 3800-year-old Yersinia pestis genomes suggests Bronze Age origin for bubonic plague (Nature Communications). The curse that struck Justinian’s empire in Constantinople in the 6th century, and the Black Death that wiped out possibly a third or half of Europe in the 14th centur,y is due to a bacterium that lives in a flea carried by rats, Yersinia pestis. In this paper, a large team of investigators can only trace it back to the Bronze Age in Russia about 3,800 years ago. They think it evolved from “the closely related environmental progenitor Y. pseudotuberculosis,” but it is remarkable that such a devastating pathogen arose within recorded history. One should ask, also, why the flea (an insect) and the rat (a mammal) are not affected by the bacterium.

Virologists use ‘genetic trees’ to evaluate intervention strategies for Ebola (Science Daily). Ebola emerged in the public consciousness just a few years ago. It was a ‘new’ deadly disease many of us had never heard of. Now, it’s killing hundreds or thousands of people in occasional outbreaks. Has this pathogen been in existence for all of human history, considering that Homo goes back a million years in the evolutionary timeline? Why, then, have humans not evolved resistance to it? If it jumped from an ape version to a human host, why did that happen so recently, considering that apes and humans have co-existed for millions of years, according to Darwinists?

Scientists watch bacteria ‘harpoon’ DNA to speed their evolution (Phys.org). This article says, “Indiana University scientists have made the first direct observation of a key step in the process that bacteria use to rapidly evolve new traits, including antibiotic resistance.” Has this been going on for billions of years? The article makes a big deal of horizontal gene transfer, which is not Darwinian, but suggests that gene sharing causes the shuffling of existing genetic material.

Peruvian rainforest plants have anti-malarial activity (Medical Xpress). Another data point to keep in mind when considering pathogens is the presence of anti-pathogenic agents in the environment. How much do humans know about these agents, so that they can take advantage of them? “Samples taken from plants identified by people from the Iquitos-Nauta road communities and studied in the lab have been found to contain extracts that are harmful to protozoan parasites responsible for malaria and other infectious conditions common in the tropics.” Are humans out of balance with natural substances that could keep pathogens at bay?

Do Evolutionists Understand the Origin of Viruses?

Biological species in the viral world (PNAS). Because viruses require a host, they are not independently-living organisms. Because of that, they are hard to classify. They defy the “Biological Species Concept” that requires parents. The same problem applies to all asexual microbes. In this paper, Bobay and Ochman try to expand the BSC, but their classification cannot address the origin of viral pathogens. The paper actually suggests that gene transfer, not evolution, is responsible for their taxonomy. We’ll have to see whether their scheme succeeds in convincing other scientists.

The biological species concept (BSC) has served as the basis for defining species for over 75 years. Members of a biological species are defined by their ability to exchange genetic material, and it was originally thought that asexual lineages were not amenable to species-level classification based on the BSC since clonal individuals are reproductively isolated from one another. In this study, we demonstrate that the rates and patterns of gene exchange in acellular organisms (viruses and bacteriophages) allow the assignment of true biological species, an essential step to organizing the tree of life. Our results show that a universal species definition, based on the BSC, can be used to define biological species in all major lifeforms.

Viruses can cause global pandemics, but where did the first virus come from? (The Conversation). In this article, three veterinary biologists tackle the question head on: where did viruses come from? Unfortunately, they can only offer possibilities, not firm answers. “Unlike bacteria, viruses aren’t living organisms — they can’t reproduce on their own,” the scientists acknowledge up front. “Instead, they hijack cells to multiply, spread and cause disease.”

They entertain the possibility that viruses were precursors to the first cells, but that’s hard to defend, because evolution depends on replication, and viruses cannot replicate without a cell. Viruses are also so diverse, they cannot have originated from a single root in an evolutionary tree.

These studies have shown us that viruses do not have a single origin; that is, they did not all arise from one single virus that changed and evolved into all the viruses we know today. Viruses probably have a number of independent origins, almost certainly at different times.

And yet the structure of viral capsids, and the efficiency with which they can overcome cellular defenses and co-opt a cell’s machinery to make copies of themselves, makes it hard to believe they emerged by chance. Did they evolve from cells? Did cells evolve from viruses? Did they come from Mars? They have no firm answers.

For the time being, these are only theories. The technology and resources we have today cannot confidently test these theories and identify the most plausible explanation for the origin of viruses.

Perhaps time would be better spent defeating pathogens than speculating about where they came from.

Update 6/14/18: Giant Viruses Invent Genes Shared by No Life on Earth (Live Science). Another consideration to take into account when explaining the origin of viruses is why their genes are often unique. This article says that some “giant viruses” have been found with “orphan genes” that do not match any other life forms. One investigator says that 90% of some Pandoraviruses “do not share any significant similarity with proteins of other viruses, outside of their own family, or cellular microbes.” This does not mean that “new genes and proteins are generated regularly in Pandoraviruses,” by random chance, as the article claims.


Bacterial flagellum (Illustra Media), an amazing machine present in some pathogenic bacteria.

Creationist answers typically involve the Curse on earth after the fall into sin. Some pathogens, though, look amazingly well designed. It’s within the Creator’s right power as Judge of the universe to design agents of harm to judge a world of sinners. We read in Revelation 9 about beings (or machines) sent to inflict pain on the hardened rebels in the last battle. It is unthinkable and irrational to question the Creator, because we owe are very existence and rationality to Him. Such a questioner places himself above God as the judge of what is true and right. Shall the clay say to the Potter, ‘what are you doing?’ (see Jeremiah 18 and Isaiah 29).

Creationists could ascribe pathogens as secondary acts of God, with Satan as the primary cause who twists God’s creation to cause pain. We see in the Book of Job how Satan took natural things, like wind and fire, and wreaked havoc, within God’s permissive will. After a book of complaints and philosophical reflections by Job and his unhelpful friends, God’s answer was a creation science exam, in which he demonstrated to Job that his wisdom and power are sufficient to justify our trust in Him. At the end of the story, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).

Another possibility is that God, in His permissive will after the Fall of man, withdrew his protective hands from biological machinery and let it mutate. Dr. Joe Francis at The Master’s University has given examples. The pathogen that causes cholera has a useful function in the ecosystem of marine estuaries, but its machinery to puncture cells causes harm when turned loose in the human gut. Dr Francis sees nature filled with examples of regulation: pushes and pulls that keep systems from flying out of control. What happens when those regulatory controls are relaxed? Think of out-of-control robots on a rampage. (For more on cholera and new interventions geared to help the immune system turn the tables against it, see this news item on Medical Xpress.)

No matter what answer satisfies the creationist reader, we can take comfort that God is also the Great Physician. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139), and though cursed with pain and eventual death in this present age on a sin-cursed world, we have a loving Father who cares for us and answers prayer. Consider how Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry healed all manner of diseases and disabilities—even raising the dead—and the compassion He demonstrated on each one. He also taught them to have faith in God, and tdhen He showed the ultimate care by taking away the sins of mankind on the cross. So let us come to Him in faith, being  thankful for this life and this world, even though racked by sin, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7). In eternity, there will no longer be disease, tears, suffering, or death, but health and vitality forever with our Maker (Revelation 21-22). The sufferings of the present time cannot compare to the joy in heaven.

Evolutionists will mock at these suggestions and the Bible promises, but let them mock. They have NO answers. Pathogens are not evil; they just happened by chance. Why fight germs? It’s survival of the fittest, and they prove to be more fit than humans. Let all the humans die. Nobody cares. Nothing is right or wrong. If you get sick and die, tough luck. All the life you lived was for nothing.

If this is what you choose to believe, you have taken a path of no hope and no ultimate justice. But you also embrace a scientific worldview that has no answers—just speculations. The apostle John said,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Embrace the light. Receive a loving Savior to whom you can pray, and have good rational reasons to know He hears and cares. See our Site Map for details.

 

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