Prof. Peter Ward has been active in the fields of paleontology, biology, and astrobiology for more than 40 years. In the first half, he discussed the progression of viruses in nature and how and why they mutate. Regarding the claims that COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab, "the code does not show any indication that humans have put in genes to make it a weapon," he said. The genetic code looks very much like it came out of a bat, and it was a mutation that allowed it to jump into humans, he added. As the coronavirus interacts with the human population, it continues to mutate, and generally that makes it worse for the organism's survival, he cited. Another theory proposes that the virus could have come in from a meteor or comet from outer space. There's a chance that a microbe could arrive from there, he noted, but it's not probable.
One of the controversies around viruses is whether they are defined as a life form, as outside of a host, they are functionally dead. Ward considers them to be alive, as when they are inside a host such as a human body, they start replicating. They act like a parasite, he explained, "taking over the machinery of our bodies to do one thing-- make more viruses." He compared the activity of viruses to that of cancer, and said they can be even more insidious, producing millions of virus cells. The accompanying fevers we get stem from the immune system trying to kill off the virus. Ward defended the lab studies in China looking into coronavirus in bats, as the science helps us understand how to defeat such organisms when they crossover into our population.
Author and philosopher Matthew Alper argued that our belief in God, spirituality, and the paranormal are the result of our built-in neurology. In other words, human brains are wired to believe in these phenomena in spite of what science can prove as real in the physical world, he stated. Alper said he arrived at his theory by observing that every culture has some belief in spiritual reality, which suggests that this is part of our nature. Experiments scanning the human brain when subjects are praying and meditating find similar results, he reported, regardless of varying religious or spiritual beliefs. They experience a sense of tranquility, he continued, and this is because their amygdala has decreased blood flow (the amygdala is an area of the brain associated with anxiety and fear).
When it comes to atheists, he explained, there is a bell curve, where a minority of people will have different cognitive traits because of genetic variance. Thus, smaller groups will have little or no sense of spirituality, and those on other end of the spectrum will experience hyper religiosity or transcendentalism. Alper also cited studies of identical twins who were separated at birth, which found that they were more likely to share the same levels of spirituality regardless of their upbringing. Many types of "magical thinking" including beliefs in UFOs and conspiracies help people feel more connected, he remarked, yet these are borne out of the "god part of the brain."