Viral Genome Junk Is Bunk | The Institute for Creation Research

Viral Genome Junk Is Bunk

One of the great ongoing myths of evolution is that the genomes of animals and humans are littered with vast amounts of genomic viral DNA fossils. These alleged ancient viral sequences are thought to have entered the genome via viral infection, initially served no purpose in the host, and then later during evolution’s long, slow changes were supposedly converted (“exapted”) to various useful purposes—like aiding in the elaborate process of human reproduction. However, like other evolutionary tales, advancing research in the field of genomics utterly contradicts this popular dogma.

According to evolutionary theory, viruses have repeatedly integrated themselves into the DNA of germline cells (those that produce eggs and sperm) over the past 100 million years of mammalian evolution—with their viral-like DNA proliferating across creatures’ genomes.1 These are called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), and 8% of the human genome is populated by these sequences. However, there are least three major problems with this idea.

First, genetic data indicate that these sequences are not millions of years old. Using the comparative tools of evolutionary genetics, secular scientists compared the gene sequences of viruses to their counterparts in animal genomes and found that, at most, the variation in these sequences indicates they can be no more than 50,000 years old.2 So, if these viral-like sequences are not millions of years old, then where did they come from?

Second, the alleged process whereby these ERV sequences were supposedly stably integrated into the germlines of animals has never been documented. The process itself is an exercise in speculation. In studies where their random and uncontrolled integration has occurred in regular body cells (called somatic tissue), cancerous tumors are often the outcome.1 In reality, most modern ERV-like viruses do not readily integrate into a host’s genome; only a few, like the AIDS virus, have been found to do this. And the ones that do perform this integration type of behavior do not target germline cells that would then enable them to be passed on to the next generation.

Third, important functions are now being attributed to ERV sequences in mammalian genomes. In fact, several studies in recent years have highlighted the importance of many ERV gene sequences in placenta development and maintenance—a process crucial to reproduction and life.3,4 Not only are important genes contained in these sequences, but also many different regulatory elements that function as key genetic switches.5

So, where do viruses come from that essentially share the same sequences as those found in their host genomes? Perhaps the evolutionists have placed the cart before the horse on this issue, as proposed by several creationist scientists.4,6 In fact, in an ironic twist, the evidence mentioned above indicates that viruses likely arose from their hosts and not the other way around. As molecular biologist and biochemist Peter Borger notes, “The most parsimonious answer is: the RNA viruses got their genes from their hosts.”6

In other words, mammalian viruses may not have existed at all before the Curse, but after mankind’s sin may have been allowed to develop from DNA sequence already present in the now-fallen people and animals of the earth. Again, cutting-edge genome research confirms the Genesis account of origins.


  1. Magiorkinis, G., D. Blanco-Melo, and R. Belshaw. 2015. The decline of human endogenous retroviruses: extinction and survival. Retrovirology. 12: 8.
  2. Holmes E. C. 2003. Molecular Clocks and the Puzzle of RNA Virus Origins. Journal of Virology. 77 (7): 3893–3897.
  3. Lavialle, C. et al. 2013. Paleovirology of ‘syncytins’, retroviral env genes exapted for a role in placentation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 368 (1626): 20120507.
  4. Liu, Y. and C. Soper. 2009. The Natural History of Retroviruses: Exogenization vs. Endogenization. Answers Research Journal. 2: 97–106.
  5. Chuong, E. B. et al. 2013. Endogenous retroviruses function as species-specific enhancer elements in the placenta. Nature Genetics. 45 (3): 325-329.
  6. Borger, P. 2009. The design of life: part 3—an introduction to variation-inducing genetic elements. Journal of Creation. 23 (1): 99-106.

* Dr. Tomkins is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in genetics from Clemson University.

Cite this article: Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D. 2015. Viral Genome Junk Is Bunk. Acts & Facts. 44 (4).

The Latest
Control Loops in Humans and Nature
Ever had a blood test? Along with a value measured, there are also the normal max/min limits for that value. This implies that the body normally controls...

Creation and Climate Science with Dr. Jake Hebert
ICR physicist Dr. Jake Hebert* recently made a guest appearance on Good Heavens! A Podcast About the Universe with Wayne and Dan. Dr. Hebert presented...

Inside May 2021 Acts & Facts
How should Christians respond when authorities are in conflict with God’s Word? Can we trust scientific measurements and reports about fossil...

Creation Kids: Volcanoes
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

Tributes of Honor and Remembrance
At the end of a long day, a boss I had early in my career would often tell me, “No more today, Henry. My brain is full.” I found his comments...

Guided by Lynx to Appreciate Christ
Not all tour guides in Alaska are human. Amazing animals of Alaska can guide us into learning creation truth. In fact, such animals should direct us—like...

Zion National Park: Evidence of Deep Water Sand Waves
Brian Thomas, Ph.D., and Tim Clarey, Ph.D.* It was like driving into another world when we emerged from Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel right at dawn....

Is the Bible Evidence for Creation?
Have you ever had a skeptic tell you to keep the Bible out of it when discussing origins? Skeptics claim we Christians argue in a circle, that we are...

Vertebrate Origins on the Ropes…Again
In 1859, the Western world was turned upside down by the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or...

The Fossils Still Say No: Enigma of the Carboniferous Explosion
Many creationists and evolutionists alike are familiar with the initial huge explosion of complex marine life buried in the Cambrian rock layers at...