First, RNA viruses show all the signs of design. Their genes carry the codes for precisely planned proteins. Their molecular machines recruit required apparatuses from within their host body cells. Other proteins form a can-like capsule built to travel outside the cell. Still other machines pack RNA for transport, like spooling fishing line into a can. All these tasks require exacting micro-design. This, of course, fits Genesis creation, which describes an ingenious Creator who can make anything out of nothing.
Second, RNA viruses show no disease symptoms (i.e., asymptomatic) in their original hosts. This points to their origin within the genome of their host. Oxford University zoologist Edward Holmes wrote an insightful 2002 review of RNA viruses. In it, he noted that influenza A virus “persistently replicates in the intestinal tract and is asymptomatic” in certain birds.1
Similarly, the infamous RNA viruses HIV-1 and HIV-2 play a normal role in the lives of several African monkey species—all of which have healthy immune systems while carrying this virus. But when the viruses transferred to humans, they attacked human immune systems. Infected individuals more easily succumb to other diseases.
In other words, it looks like God made viruses as part of very good original creations when He crafted the plants and animals that hold harmless viruses within their tissues.
Holmes speculated as to how natural, not supernatural, processes could have generated this apparently harmonious partnership between RNA viruses and their healthy hosts. He wrote,
At face value, it would appear that these viruses have been associated with their host species for millions of years. Not only are they asymptomatic in their natural hosts, which when compared to the high virulence of HIV suggests that they have evolved stable associations over an extended time period, but the phylogenies [charts of evolutionary ancestors] of the viruses and the hosts often match, which implies that the viruses and the hosts have undergone cospeciation.
Three phrases in those two sentences serve as magic terms that mask an actual, step-by-step explanation of virus origins. “Millions of years” substitutes time for a designer. “Evolved…over an extended time” tries to swap natural processes and more deep time for the real Creator.
And “cospeciation” begs the question. What evidence, other than the a priori assumption of evolution, distinguishes a biological feature that may have coevolved from a feature that God may have made? Perhaps the reason why virus lines of descent exactly match their host’s lines of descent just as reasonably arose from a common designer as from a common ancestor.
In contrast to vacuous magic terms that imbue natural processes with god-like powers, the Bible’s account of supernatural origins names the one-step process of creation as it happened, saying, “He commanded, and it stood fast.”2
Since RNA virus genomes come integrated into their host genomes where they cause no harm, and since they integrate precisely with specific plant and animal cells, it stands to reason that God created these ingenious mobile genetic tools for some originally good purpose.
1. Holmes, E. C. 2003. Molecular Clocks and the Puzzle of RNA Virus Origins. Journal of Virology. 77(7): 3893–3897.
2. Psalm 33:9.
*Dr. Brian Thomas is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool.