The Theory of Evolution and COVID-19

10/07/2020 09:09 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.
By :
Dr Reezal Ishak

So COVID-19 came and nobody was prepared for it. What we’ve seen happening since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is almost similar to the scene in the movie World War Z, but minus the zombies and biting. The widespread infection and how fast it infects the whole world ultimately brings everything to a stop.

Until now, scientists, medical doctors and experts are looking at how to fight this unseen enemy. But for now, we humans have to face the facts that COVID-19 is here to stay. Whether we like it or not!

Evolution in progress

To put it in a biological perspective, this is simply nature working at its best. Or perhaps more specifically evolution in progress. There have been discussions among scientists whether humans have stopped evolving. This is part of the theory that has long been mentioned in scientific manuscripts except that the subject of evolution is not widely discussed among Malaysian scientists.

Maybe because of religious belief or other reasons, whenever a Muslim discusses the origin of species as theorised by the great Charles Darwin, it will always raise a few eyebrows. The contradictions of belief as proposed by Darwin never sits well with Islamic manuscripts. However, casting perception aside, any good knowledge should be explored for the good of it rather than shun it.

The arrival of COVID-19 on the world scene has definitely brought changes to how we live. The new norm, as everybody is calling it. Governments, people living in the cities, folks in villages and those living high and low are adapting to this new norm.

But the question remains, can we survive in this new COVID-19 “infested” surrounding? The simple answer is yes we definitely can. And do we have a choice? Of course not. However, this is a matter of adaptability.

Surely most of us have read or come across the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ and the quote that, ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change’. This is a quote that has been widely cited by many scientists and biologists and used by many motivational speakers as well. It is also not quite surprising that most of them attribute the phrase and clause to Darwin probably because he wrote the book titled ‘On the Origin of Species’.

Except that Darwin never said it or even mentioned it in the book. The quote itself is a manifestation of evolution that happened over the years based on the theory of natural selection written by many biologists, naturalists and scientists. So where did the quote originate from? We shall leave that to the quote investigators to make their conclusions.

However, the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ has every truth in it. We are already living in an ever-changing world whether it is in the technological or biological aspect. Humans have been adapting to changes in their surroundings for the past many years even if they did not notice it.

Whole world forced to adapt

Often those who are most adaptable to these changes prevail. The strong ones will become tired and overpowered when their energy runs out. The intelligent ones will become mentally exhausted and dejected, which subsequently leads to misery.

And this scenario was evident in many instances even before the arrival of COVID-19. Now with COVID-19 making its entrance into our lives, we are once again forced to adapt. Only this time, the whole world is forced to adapt.

This is evolution in motion. From the biological point of view, humans will eventually adapt to the fact that we must co-exist with the COVID-19 virus surrounding us. Subtly, evolution is already working its mechanisms except that it won’t create humans with superpower like characters from the movie X-Men. So, should we be afraid of the COVID-19 virus? Afraid no, but cautious yes.

For many years, scientists have been wondering whether the world has stopped evolving. And now the world becomes the centre stage to answer that question or any lingering doubts. As we all know, COVID-19 is a virus which cannot be seen with the naked eyes, thus any evolutionary process that is currently making progress will most likely happen at the cellular level.

This COVID-19 episode is also a demonstration of a higher power beyond science and shows that God has never left humans to their own elements. Now the onus is on us. It is up to us to look after each other and appreciate the world that we live in. Although the whole world has seen the devastating effect of COVID-19, we should continue to enjoy life without fear.


Dr Reezal Ishak is with the Institute of Medical Science Technology at Universiti Kuala Lumpur.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)