Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Malevolent Design - Covid-19 Mutating

A colorized scanning electron micrograph of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Photo credit: NIAID
Mutations in SARS-CoV-2 offer insights into virus evolution

As I've remarked before, if you've fallen for the intelligent [sic] design hoax, you need to be able to explain why evolution is the only explanation for the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) that doesn't leave your putative creator looking like a malevolent, anthropophobic, genocidal psychopath.

That problem just got worse with publication by the University College, London (UCL) Genetics Institute that they have discovered close to 200 recurrent genetic mutations in the virus. They found these by examining the genomes of the virus recovered from 7,500 patients. Covid-19 looks for all the world like it's evolving, or, in ID hoax believers terms, being intelligent redesigned.

Normally, ID advocates carefully avoid the fact that these adaptive mutations in pathogenic parasites look like their putative designer is having an arms race with itself, and having to redesign its creations to get around the problems its other designs - the human immune systems and medical science - have created for it, so this is just one more aspect of the same old ID problem for them to ignore.

All viruses naturally mutate. Mutations in themselves are not a bad thing and there is nothing to suggest SARS-CoV-2 is mutating faster or slower than expected. So far we cannot say whether SARS-CoV-2 is becoming more or less lethal and contagious.

Professor Francois Balloux, Co-lead author
(UCL Genetics Institute)
From the scientific point of view, the most significant finding was not that this virus, just like all the others, mutates and evolves due to environmental pressures and differential selection, but that a large proportion of global genetic diversity is found in most countries. This argues again the idea of a single 'seed' source and for the idea of extensive multiple transmissions early on in the development of the pandemic.

The normal course of the evolution of these sorts of viruses is for them to attenuate as it is in their long-term 'interests' to not render their hosts severely debilitated or dead, but alive and relatively well, the better to spread to new hosts. Similarly, there is evolutionary pressure on the hosts to develop immunity. A case in point was that of myxomatosis and rabbits.

A major challenge to defeating viruses is that a vaccine or drug might no longer be effective if the virus has mutated. If we focus our efforts on parts of the virus that are less likely to mutate, we have a better chance of developing drugs that will be effective in the long run... We need to develop drugs and vaccines that cannot be easily evaded by the virus.

Professor Balloux
The study also shows that the virus only emerged recently, in late 2019, before spreading quickly worldwide. The good news is that the mutations are not spread evenly across the genome, because that would make it much more difficult to create a vaccine which didn't need to be recreated every year, like the one against common influenza. It means the search for a vaccine can concentrate on the parts of the genome that appear to be relatively stable.

According to the UCL press release:

The results add to a growing body of evidence that SARS-CoV-2 viruses share a common ancestor from late 2019, suggesting that this was when the virus jumped from a previous animal host, into people. This means it is most unlikely the virus causing Covid-19 was in human circulation for long before it was first detected.

In many countries including the UK, the diversity of viruses sampled was almost as much as that seen across the whole world, meaning the virus entered the UK numerous times independently, rather than via any one index case.

Perhaps intelligent [sic] design advocates could explain this finding in terms which don't make it look like their assumed designer is not attempting to get around the problem it created earlier - the human immune system and the widely trumpeted notion of human intelligence, and with it our ability to do medical science - in order to carry out whatever mendacious plan it has with this nasty little 'creation'.

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