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Are Viruses Living?

wjohnson wjohnson at opal.tufts.edu
Tue Apr 18 18:33:02 EST 1995


benc9 at aol.com (BenC9) wrote:
 What however, is more central to life (all life) than the processes 
of evolution?All life has in common the use nucleic acid encoded 
information, and all life, one would agree, follows the causal chain
 replication-mutation-selection-evolution (M. Eigen ³Steps Towards 
Life² (oxford University Press 1992)).  This, I would argue is the 
primary thing that separates living from nonliving...evolution that
 is.  From the moment the very first ³life² appeared 
(by random chance) evolution has guided every subsequent development.  RNA viruses, by the way, are the premier laboratory organisms for modeling the processes of evolution.   
	Where did viruses come from?  More than likely they arose as bits
 of escaped nucleic acid subsequent to the appearance of cellular
 or protocellular life.  If viruses are not alive, then we must 
accept that life begat something that was not alive and yet has a
 tremendous capacity to direct its own replication according
to all the same rules that guide the evolution of ³living² species.   
																																													-Welkin
								 																																						Tufts Univ.




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