Sunday, March 07, 2004

Evolution in action: why Theocons need to teach natural selection in the schools

Wapo: Dueling Viruses Are Latest Computer Pest (
The programmers behind the ongoing wave of computer worms and viruses hitting the Internet are starting to take aim at each other, and consumers and businesses around the world are getting caught in the crossfire, security experts said yesterday.

In the space of about three hours early Wednesday morning, five new variants of widespread bugs MyDoom, Bagle and Netsky were spotted roaming the Web...

... Ken Dunham, director of malicious code at Reston-based iDefense, said the authors of Bagle and MyDoom appear, in essence, to be wrestling for remote control over compromised computers, while the Netsky worm attempts to deactivate the other two.

... "We are seeing just variation after variation after variation," said Steven Sundermeier, vice president of products and services at Central Command Inc., a Medina, Ohio-based antivirus company.

If the theocons are able to remove natural selection from our science curriculum, how will students understand the evolution of their spam?

Viruses and worms have one of four agendas:

1. economic and military disruption (allegedly used by US forces prior to GW I and possibley GW II).
2. terrorism (no clear examples known)
3. an unusually ineffective form of display competition between teenage boys
4. seizing control of computing resources (increasingly important).

Natural selection has only a limited role in understanding #1 and #2. In #3, and especially #4, it has a strong role. Theory predicts that computer worm/viruses should increasingly protect the host computer by limiting harm to it while simultaneously fighting off rival code. In time worm/viruses should emerge that are effective antiviral agents while simultaneously causing minimal harm to the host, indeed in time they should theoretically improve performance of the host. (example: more efficient code for particular functions inserted by the virus).

On wonders if this is partly how early multicellular immune systems developed. Were the first immune systems in bacteria constructed by competing viruses?

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