A virus has no aim, no agency but just a chemical propagation(DNAs, RNAs). Still, it accounts for millions of deaths and horrible nature.

Rabies, for example, is a very deadly disease with a fatality rate of 90%. One of the terrible symptoms of this disease is Hydrophobia(fear of water). I can surely understand the fact that the victim cannot drink or fear water because virus controls it to as water reduces the chances of transmission.

But why transmit in the first place. If a virus is still aimless like a rock on the ground with the couple of DNAs, how it evolved to replicate and reproduce.

If a virus being inanimate did it, why can't a rock or any other aimless non-living thing do it?

  • $\begingroup$ I would consider fungi or plants as pretty unintelligent and aimless as well (although they are living!), but still they are reproducing and growing and have amazing biochemical pathways. It doesn't need an aim to reproduce, but the capability. And while viruses have the capability, rocks don't have it. $\endgroup$
    – Arsak
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 9:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why does a fire spread? Or to get a little closer to viruses, why do prion diseases spread? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


You're confusing semantics with reality. People referring to viruses as "inanimate" or "non-living" are simply playing silly word games. The terms that people use for viruses tell us about the history of the word "life" or "animate", but do not tell us anything about the virus; in fact, trying to apply these words to viruses is simply misleading, as this question shows.

Viruses have replication machinery, whether it be RNA or DNA, that allows inheritance with variation. These are the requirements for natural selection and therefore viruses evolve and, on a population basis, adapt to their environment (their environment mainly meaning the host they infect).

It should not be surprising that an agent that has co-evolved for 200 million years along with its host is well adapted to that host.

If your question is mechanistically how viruses are capable of doing this, the question is too broad (there are millions of different viruses with different approaches), and asking a more specific question would be helpful.


Lets use a metaphor to say that a virus is like a cursed book. The book has milions of copies all around the world in random places. If a person finds the book, and opens it, he will immediately be cursed and will start to make copies of that book, over and over, until it dies. Then the copies of the book will be able to infect new people and this way there will always be copies of the cursed book around. The virus, just like book, can't copy itself on its own. It needs a person with tools (pen and paper) who can read and write to make copies and distribute them.

In this metahpor the book is the virus RNA (or DNA), the person who read the book is just a random cell (human cell, bacteria, mice cell ...). In the metaphor the 'pen and paper', or the 'tools' to make copies of the virus are ribosomes and enzymes.

why can't a rock or any other aimless non-living thing do it

I'm sorry but this doesn't make sense. A rock does not have DNA. What do rocks have to do with viruses?

how it evolved to replicate and reproduce.

Tricky question. How did YOU evolve to reproduce? It's just a matter of trial and error. In the course of bilions of years nature produced countless viral DNA (RNA) strands, and 99,9999% of them couldn't replicate. The ones who could, did, and we are now able to see them.

Please clarify your answer, especially the rabies part that I didn0t quite understand.

  • $\begingroup$ Rocks do not have DNA, what are you talking about ? $\endgroup$
    – Zafta
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know, you mentioned rocks and you suggested rocks have something to do with viruses. Your question not only is very confusing and unspecific but you didn't even reply to our answers and comments. $\endgroup$
    – user11230
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 17:42

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