Virus-driven evolution of the human mind?

How Our Minds Went Viral

by Carl Zimmer

Excerpt: “…sometimes viruses can merge into our genomes. Some viruses, for example, hijack our cells by inserting its genes into our own DNA. If they happen to slip into the genome of an egg, they can potentially get a new lease on life. If the egg is fertilized and grows into an embryo, the new cells will also contain the virus’s DNA. And when that embryo becomes an adult, the virus has a chance to move into the next generation.”

My comment: Virus-driven evolution is the plot in two of Greg Bear’s novels: Darwin’s Radio (1999) and Darwin’s Children (2003). The virus moved into the next generation of humans and they communicated with pheromones. See Greg Bear’s comments here:


1) Of particular relevance to my two novels is Lateral DNA Transfer by Frederic Bushman, 2002, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, is an important synopsis of what is currently known about DNA transfer through viruses, transposons, plasmids, etc. I think it is one of the most significant biology books published in the last decade.

2) James V. Kohl’s The Scent of Eros (1995; reprinted in a revised edition, 2002, Continuum) is a rich source of information on pheromones, human communication through smell, and the influence of scent on sexuality.

3) In particular, I was influenced by Villarreal’s The Viruses That Make Us: A Role For Endogenous Retrovirus In The Evolution Of Placental Species

4) Acknowledgments:

Special thanks to Mark Minie, Ph.D., and Rose James, Ph.D.; Deirdre V. Lovecky, Ph.D.; Dr. Joseph Miller; Dominic Esposito of the National Cancer Institute; Dr. Elizabeth Kutter; Cleone Hawkinson; Alison Stenger, Ph.D.; David and Diane Clark; Howard Bloom and the International Paleopsychology Project; Cynthia Robbins-Roth, Ph.D., James V. Kohl, Oliver Morton, Karen Anderson, Lynn Caporale, and Roger Brent, Ph.D.


Note: Greg Bear gives credit to those whose ideas and published works helped him to develop his story line.  If this were true of science journalists, Zimmer’s stories could be fact-checked to determine whether he is accurately portraying information he has somehow acquired in the past, or if he is accurately portraying current concepts based on that information and new information. Instead, Zimmer can claim whatever he likes, and block comments from anyone who disagrees with his fictional representations of what has since moved from Greg Bear’s science fiction to become scientifically supported fact. Clearly, it is nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptations to our sensory environment that makes us human.

“But sometimes mutations can transform viral DNA into something useful.” — Carl Zimmer

My comment: Is there a model for that?” If not, it’s fiction. But it is not science fiction unless there is experimental evidence that supports Zimmer’s claims of mutation-driven evolution.

About James V. Kohl 1308 Articles
James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones. Recently, Kohl integrated scientific evidence that pinpoints the evolved neurophysiological mechanism that links olfactory/pheromonal input to genes in hormone-secreting cells of tissue in a specific area of the brain that is primarily involved in the sensory integration of olfactory and visual input, and in the development of human sexual preferences. His award-winning 2007 article/book chapter on multisensory integration: The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences followed an award winning 2001 publication: Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, which was coauthored by disinguished researchers from Vienna. Rarely do researchers win awards in multiple disciplines, but Kohl’s 2001 award was for neuroscience, and his 2007 “Reiss Theory” award was for social science. Kohl has worked as a medical laboratory scientist since 1974, and he has devoted more than twenty-five years to researching the relationship between the sense of smell and the development of human sexual preferences. Unlike many researchers who work with non-human subjects, medical laboratory scientists use the latest technology from many scientific disciplines to perform a variety of specialized diagnostic medical testing on people. James V. Kohl is certified with: * American Society for Clinical Pathology * American Medical Technologists James V. Kohl is a member of: * Society for Neuroscience * Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology * Association for Chemoreception Sciences * Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality * International Society for Human Ethology * American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science * Mensa, the international high IQ society