Applebaum's Bird Flu Argument Batty - Evolution News & Views

Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views

Applebaum's Bird Flu Argument Batty

In this column in the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum writes:

Americans and their leaders will have to get over their love affair with intelligent design. Polls show that most don't believe in evolution. But it is actually impossible to talk logically about bird flu, or any other rapidly evolving and constantly changing virus, without using the language of evolution -- specific words such as "mutant," "recombination," "genome" and "selection." Without that language, a sensible popular or political discussion, let alone a scientific discussion, is impossible: We're stuck talking about the virus "jumping" from birds to humans, as if it were a magic bug with a mind of its own. We're stuck thinking that a virus is a hex that can be lifted with a single lucky charm, not something that will change over time.

We're also stuck with magic solutions: silver bullets, protective amulets, Tamiflu prescriptions.

Applebaum mischaracterizes intelligent design and begs a key question.

First the mischaracterization. "Evolution" is a very broad term meaning change over time. No design theorist questions microevolution, the sort of change that produces new flu viruses.

Now the question begging. There is a difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution, and even mainstream biologists debate whether microevolution provides convincing support for macroevolution. Microevolution says a virus can change over time; macroevolution says a virus can change into a cow. Sounds to me like the proponents of macroevolution are the ones likely to talk about magic bugs. [Update: to be precise, most Darwinists would say a bacterium evolved into a cow.]

For a detailed look at the issue of bird flu, evolution and ID, go here.