Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Are Viruses Alive?

I found this interesting web page regarding the biological status of viruses. It's part of a series of pages on Microbial Life - Educational Resources.

I recently claimed that whether viruses were alive or not was largely moot, and that "my belief is that living entities are those that evolve via natural selection, and surely viruses should be included in that category".

Ford Denison countered that, "computer viruses could evolve by natural selection." Are there computer viruses out there evolving by natural selection? That's a scary thought!

Photo: The expansive Sunset Lake of the Black Sand Basin is one of the largest thermal bodies of water in Yellowstone National Park.

Originally uploaded in Microbial Life.

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Uploaded: Jan27 05


  1. The replication of computer viruses more than likely has too high fidelity for evolution by natural selection. Natural selection requires variation within a population, and high-fidelity replication doesn't provide the necessary variation.

  2. I'm going with Nobelist Nebraskan George Beadle: "Is such a virus living? The question is unanswerable without a definition of 'life.' And any definition of life must be arbitrary." (1964, quoted in PATOOMB)