By Dr Jonathan Sarfati
For the last year or so, a deadly epidemic has ravaged West Africa. The culprit is the Ebola virus, named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This causes a high-grade fever accompanied by abnormal bleeding, both internal and external—hence the term 'viral haemorrhagic fever'—plus other nasty things like diarrhoea and vomiting. Ebola disease is especially dangerous because it turns the body's own immune system against it.
What is Ebola virus?
Ebola virus is classified as a filovirus (family Filoviridae), or thread-shaped virus. Unlike bacteria, viruses are non-living entities, because they can't reproduce on their own, but need the copying machinery of more complex cells. Viruses are so tiny that they can be seen only by electron microscopes.
Why would God make viruses?
Many viruses have amazing hallmarks of design, such as a powerful electric motor to wind up their DNA, for the 'normal' viruses that use DNA. This points to a Master Designer. However, since God's finished creation was 'very good' (Genesis 1:31), why would He create disease germs?
The basic answer is that they were not disease-causing before Adam's Fall (Genesis 3), but had beneficial functions. Also, our immune system has suffered the effects of the Curse, so no longer works as well. Note that the immune system would have played an important role even before the Fall in distinguishing 'self' from 'non-self'.
Many parasites are genetically depleted compared to free-living equivalents that can exist without being parasites. The leprosy germ is a good example. The form that causes disease, Mycobacterium leprae, has lost more than 2000 genes, about a quarter of its total genome.
The same principle applies to viruses: the most harmful viruses seem to have devolved, e.g. the most pathogenic HIV strains are also the least fit (they don't survive as well as less virulent strains).
But what use could viruses have in a perfect world, since they must hijack a living creature's reproductive machinery? Some clues to possible benign pre-Fall roles for viruses can be gleaned from functions they have even today. Viruses have a number of useful functions even now, including transporting genes among plants and animals, keeping soil fertile, keeping water clean and regulating gases in the atmosphere.
Viruses also have a role in killing cancer cells. In particular, Ebola virus seems to have a symbiotic relationship with fruit bats. They seem to stimulate genes that code for DNA repair machinery, including correcting damaged genes that would cause tumours. So bats almost never develop malignant cancer. Unfortunately, the virus has escaped its natural habitat. Similarly, the often-underestimated influenza seems to have been a benign virus in ducks.
Treating Ebola: why and who?
One important biblical principle is: it's a blessing to alleviate aspects of the Curse. That's why Jesus healed sicknesses and disabilities, raised the dead, and praised the Good Samaritan for taking care of a badly beaten traveller. Similarly, biblically-based compassion for those afflicted by effects of the Curse has motivated the founding of orphanages and hospitals, and the abolition of slavery. It's no wonder that even some atheists acknowledge the beneficial effects of Christianity, e.g. English atheistic politician Michael Parris even declaring, "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God" (Times, 27 December 2008).
Indeed, at the forefront at treating Ebola in Africa is missionary doctor Dr Kent Brantly of Samaritan's Purse. One atheist, Brian Palmer, writing in a far-left publication (Slate, October 2014), admits that Christians are at the forefront at providing care for sick Africans, including Ebola victims:
"Like it or not, though, we are deeply reliant on missionary doctors and nurses. The 2008 ARHAP report found that in some sub-Saharan African countries 30 percent of health care facilities are run by religious entities."
He previously had to admit that they are hardly doing this for personal gain:
"There's one other big difference between missionaries and Western merchants: The missionaries don't profit personally from their work. They are compensated very poorly, if at all. Many risk their lives. How many people would risk death to spread the gospel of Western consumer goods gratis?"
Then Palmer had to admit grudgingly that medical care in Africa was crumbling possibly because of bigotry against missionary medicine. So he concluded:
"So until we're finally ready to invest heavily in secular medicine for Africa, I suggest we stand aside and let God do His work."
In contrast, consistent evolutionists must believe that Ebola is just as much a result of evolution as man. Also, they have no basis for believing in the sanctity of innocent human life, made in God's image and likeness (Genesis 1:26–28)—which was not lost at the Fall but just marred (Genesis 9:6, James 3:9). •
Adapted article is courtesy of Creation Ministries International from www.creation.com/ebola