Sunday, April 13, 2008

Endogenous retroviruses

Interesting -- apparently there are thousands upon thousands of sequences in our DNA with the characteristics of retroviruses, and evolutionists use this as an argument for Common Descent.

First some definitions -- a retrovirus is a virus that codes itself into the DNA of the host cell and hijacks the host cell to create copies of the virus.

An endogenous retrovirus, then, is a retrovirus that is permanently in an organism's DNA.

Estimates of the percentage of our DNA that is retroviruses range from 6-10%. A small number of these retroviruses are in almost exactly the same place as they appear in chimps. Evolutionists use this fact to argue for common descent, because, they argue, if these retroviruses are in exactly the same place in both humans and chimps, that retrovirus must have been in place prior to chimps and humans branching, because the chances are too slim that both would be infected in exactly the same place, independently.

This argument rests on a number of key unstated assumptions:

1) That the endogenous retroviruses appear (and appear in exactly the same place) in the genes of all humans. If they weren't, then we have an interesting question: are some humans related to apes and others not? Or, given the 30,000 ERVs in the genome, aren't some bound to turn up in the same location in apes + humans, even if they're not related and were infected independently?

2) These actually are retroviruses. Most of these estimates are just based on segments that have similar coding to viruses. Isn't it possible for DNA to have coding similar to virus coding without actually containing viruses?

3) These viruses weren't intentionally inserted into our DNA. We use retroviruses to perform genetic engineering. Who's to say the Designer didn't use them to genetically engineer us? This is especially interesting, given the fact that some (many) ERVs are indispensible to life.

4) ERVs can actually infect germ lines. In order for an ERV to be passed on to the next generation, it would need to infect the testes or egg of a parent. While we've seen these ERVs in DNA, we've never actually seen them infect a germ line. We assume that what we see are actually old viruses. But we still haven't seen an infection.

5) It also leaves us with an interesting question: if we do all share the same ERVs, how did they come to be set in the entire population? If a single individual is infected with an ERV, that ERV is going to be wiped out by genetic drift over time, unless there is some distinct survival advantage to the ERV. What are the chances, seriously, that viruses that bungle their way into our gene pool are so advantageous to our survival that everybody without them dies? That is, unless the viruses were designed to be good for us ...

What does all this mean? I don't know. But I think it's cool.


sadunkal said...

There are many critics of the claims of "viruses". As far as I know no virus has actually ever been scientifically demonstrated to cause a disease. The "exogenous" ones are even more dubious.

If you're interested in this stuff, I can recommend a few books. Recently this book was published for example:
Fear of The Invisible

Some argue that the "viruses" in science were born unconsciously out of a fear which is the legacy of the medieval ages where people feared from the devil and the evil stuff and all that... It's all very interesting, and also extremely important actually. Alternative views on "viruses" approach them as exosomes, retroids and stuff like that... Proteins used for communication between our cells basically, normally not harmful on their own.

I'm an "HIV/AIDS denialist" by the way. :)

ungtss said...

Interesting ... Aids denialism I can track because of the documented cases of aids w/o HIV and vice versa ... Perhaps HIV is a symptom instead of a cause ... But denial of viruses as a whole? Haven't we physically observed viral infection and its effects at the microscopic level?

sadunkal said...

You would be surprised at the lack of scientific rigor within the field called "virology". Microscopic studies usually take place under pretty unnatural conditions, they use various stimulants to trigger responses from the cells and the particles. The meaning or the significance of any observations made under such conditions is questionable.

And I don't know so much about other viruses but what's called "HIV" is produced through molecular cloning, the gene sequence assumed to be belonging to their "virus" is assembled in the laboratory. They can't really take a virus from a so called "AIDS patient" and examine directly the "viruses" in their natural state and determine it's characteristics. That's because they can't isolate the "virus" from all the other molecular garbage, they can't purify it. Which also raises the question how they know which gene sequence belongs to the "virus" they're after when there are all sorts of molecular entities within their soup. And I don't think they do know, I think it's just sloppy science. But that's just me... and many others. :)

Take a look at the work of the Perth Group. You might also want to read another recent book titled AIDS, Cancer and Arthritis: A New Perspective. But I guess that one is not so easy to find, i.e. I doubt that I'll ever be able to find a copy.

sadunkal said...


Take a look at this new documentary too, it's fresh: House Of Numbers

ungtss said...

very interesting! still looking for a souce that presents hard facts instead of opinions though ... maybe this documentary will have some?

ungtss said...

I take it back -- AIDS, Cancer and Arthritis: A New Perspective is right on point. Now I gotta go get the book. Can't thank you enough for expanding my world on this one -- thanks!

sadunkal said...

Hehe, you're welcome. If you ever get the book, could you scan it and make a digital copy, and send me please..? :)

sadunkal said...

Ok. I have the copy of the book myself now. :)

ungtss said...