Swine Flu Is Evolution?

on May 2, 2009
Featured in News to Know

LiveScience: “Swine Flu Is Evolution in Action” Swine flu—both the virus itself and the associated paranoia—seems to be sweeping the world. Is it evolution in action?

“Anyone who thinks evolution is for the birds should not be afraid of swine flu,” writes Robert Roy Britt, attempting to poke fun at creationists. “[I]f there's no such thing as evolution,” he continues, “then there’s no such thing as a new strain of swine flu infecting people.”

“[I]f there's no such thing as evolution,” he continues, “then there’s no such thing as a new strain of swine flu infecting people.”

While he intends satire, Britt is actually showing his ignorance of what creationists believe. It’s not just Britt, of course; even a BBC News article states that the influenza virus “must continually evolve” in order to survive.

So what about it—does influenza evolve? If so, does that prove Darwinism? And why all the hubbub about evolution when discussing a public health issue?

The simple answer is that it all comes down to what one means by “evolve,” “evolution,” and the like. After all, “evolve” meant “to change” or “to develop” before Darwin ever pioneered the evolutionary biological model. Furthermore, the core, scientific meaning of evolution—changes in gene frequencies and expression in a population over time—is often confused with the popular idea of “molecules to man” evolution over millions of years. Evolutionists routinely point to examples of the former definition and say it proves the truth of the latter definition.

That’s where the creation model comes in. While viruses, like other organisms, can mutate, these mutations result in either “horizontal” change—where the organism changes in some way, but retains the same amount of genetic information as before—or destructive change, where the organism actually has less genetic information than before. Either way, the “evolution” that results doesn’t show how one kind of organism could evolve into another kind.

Additionally, viruses such as influenza swap their genetic code with other influenza viruses, leading to new forms that no one has immunity to. But again, no new genetic information is created in these situations.

Britt quotes (among others) the “Understanding Evolution” website, which says, “To evolve by natural selection, all an entity needs is genetic variation, inheritance, selection, and time, all of which viruses have in spades.” That is true—but only if (again) “to evolve” merely means that the population is changing. Thus, the flu virus “evolving” has nothing to do molecules “evolving” into man.

For our full analysis of swine flu (updated regularly), see Swine Flu—Cause for Concern?

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