What constitutes life ?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by mista geechee, Aug 19, 2008.

  1. mista geechee

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    So I was enjoying the devil's plant (ya know) and I started thinking - what actually constitutes life ?

    Let's go ahead and pass the definition of something that grows and "consciousness" or animate and inanimate.

    All we are is an assembly of elements and compounds. Right? No element that makes our bodies are exclusive to entities that are considered to be alive.

    So, what makes us different from the wooden desk my computer is sitting on? What makes us any different from the breeze blowing through my window or the box my cat shits in? Because, after all, we're just a bunch of atoms at most. Just atoms that disperse and meet around the same entity.

    So is it this concept of consciousness that seperates us? Then what is consciousness? Simply being aware and/or being a part of some type of cause/effect event? If so, then something doesn't have to fit our definition of being alive to be conscious does it? By the definition of consciousness, isn't the simple act of action and reaction consciousness? Cell replication? The rain cycle?

    Is it the ability to analyze and/or manipulate our surroundings? Again, that could be anything? And in such a respect, couldn't the sun be alive? It manipulates everything in teh solar system that it is the impetus of.

    How are we able to confidently say what is conscious or aware and what is not? Maybe there are forms of communication and existence that humans cannot understand. Kind of like how a dog can hear a whistle that humans can't. Who are we to say that this thing thinks this way or taht thinks that way? We don't know. We're not in their heads. Now, we can say that we're so advanced and that's how, but the time between the dawn of modern humans and Tuesday August 19th, 2008 12:36 AM est is nothing but the blink of an eye. Not nearly enough "time" to become the omnipotent omniscient beings that we fancy ourselves to be.

    Maybe there are "conscious" entities that occupy the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that light doesn't occupy and we just can't see (or hear) them.

    So, again I ask, what exactly qualifies something as life? This has been bothering me for a while.

    Am I just being pretentious or is this a valid question.

    Definately looking forward to what Jason_els', Phil Ayesho's and JustAsking's and Stapledshut's thoughts.......
     
  2. psidom

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    Pulse.

    there are numerous rythms going on in our bodies,
    whether we are trees circulating nitrogen from water through
    our veins...or oxygen as a human for our brains.

    the pulse of our cerebral spinal fluid.
    the pulse of our heartbeat.
    the pulse of our breath.
    the pulse of our libido.

    without the pulse we cease to be alive.
    we become dust,or a desk,or if we are a horse we become glue.
    so i call "the pulse" as life...atoms have a pulse as well,
    even quartz crystals carry an energy frequency that can run
    a wristwatch.

    even in atoms,once the electrons stop,and the magnetism dies,
    we lose pulse...or life as "we know it" stops.
     
  3. mista geechee

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    So then the Earth is "alive" because of all the systems functioning inside of it. The same can be said for the universe.

    But then, everything is alive is it not? Everything in existence. Since they are all made of atoms.
     
  4. psidom

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    as long as there is a pulse...yes.

    i would suggest you read some of Rupert Sheldrakes stuff or Wilhelm Riech.

    they were both completely shunned by the scientific community
    because of their theories about life and the process of living.
     
  5. JustAsking

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    GC,
    You should hit the magic vegetables more often. This might be one of the most interesting topics to come around in a long time.

    I think the question first must be reduced to it's simplest form, which is where is the boundary between those things we characterize as having life and those that don't have life? I say this because when faced with a difficult definition like this, it is most instructive to go to investigate the boundaries.

    So let me submit to the discussion what might be the two most difficult boundaries, which are viruses and artificial intelligence.

    Viruses might be characterized as the simplest life forms we know. And some are so simple that they are almost indistinguishable from an organic molecule. The one thing that distinguishes viruses from mere molecules is their ability to reproduce themselves. So are viruses alive or are they simply chemistry?

    On the other end of the spectrum, since you introduced consciousness into the question, where would one classify an artificial intelligence? Would a sentient piece of software be considered alive? I know we don't really have an AI, yet, but this is just a matter of time.

    And, by the way, there is no scientific controversy about the rate and time scale of hominid evolution.
     
    #5 JustAsking, Aug 19, 2008
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2008
  6. JustAsking

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    Oh yeah, and also because they were nuttier than fruitcakes.
     
  7. JustAsking

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    That's it? That's all we got on the subject of life?
     
  8. Penis Aficionado

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    I think I remember from biology class that the "scientific" definition of life comes down to the ability to reproduce.

    But could some computer programs be said to have this ability? (I'm seriously asking -- I'm not a programmer.)
     
  9. Axcess

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    That's shows that definining life isnt easy as it seems .
     
  10. Smartalk

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    Everything is basically a mass of vibrating molecules held together by Universal Energy Ch'i, Prana and many other names given to this energy. In truth we do not exist from our own side, the body is just a name we imput on a collection parts, ultimately we could continue this down to the molecular level. Buddhists know this to be the Emptiness of I. If we were to point to someones arm, is this the body.... no it is not similarly if we point an eye, is this the body.....no it is not and so it goes. We cannot point to any part of what we refer to as the body and call it the body or my body, simply because it does not exsit from its own side. It is a collection of parts we have imputed the name body. Our mind has to cognatise an object and imput a name upon it, before we are able to recognise it again. It is like looking at a cloud and seeing a recognisable shape, say a cow, but we obviously know that it is not a cow, but a cloud, which looks like that object we have imputed the name cow. We obviously know and understand that a cloud is a collection of water droplets, water is a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen molecules and so it goes on. As you can appreciate this is a conplex subject to try and explain, in a short passage, but for those who have an interest it is well worth looking deeper into it. Some of the Buddhist amongst you will understand what I have tried to explain very briefly and may be able to explain it from a different angle, prospective or point of view.
     
  11. JustAsking

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    Yes, computer programs can reproduce themselves. A good example is computer viruses. There are also experimental programs that make imperfect copies of themselves when they reproduce in order to evolve.

    This is why it is hard to define life, because at the boundaries of the definition, you find things that are hard to characterize by whatever definition you have created.
     
  12. JustAsking

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    Smarttalk,
    I have a lot of respect for Buddhism, but I don't find this notion to be particularly profound. I don't mean to be argumentative but It is mostly an excercise in categorization. If I define a bucket of water as a metal container full of water molecules I don't see the problem in that definition.

    I can create a definition from set theory that defines the contained water as a set of water molecules that is so precise I can do set mathematics on it.

    I can define a Toyota Corolla by its standard parts list assembled according to all the work procedures at the Toyota factory, which is a very precise definition. There is no ambiguity about that definition that causes me trouble when I want to drive it. When I go out to my garage, I have no trouble distinguishing the Corolla from the other car in my family or from the tools I have strewn around the garage.

    I can point to the right front tire and say that this is the right front tire of the Corolla, and not confuse it with the definition of the entire Corolla. The tire is a member of the set of Corolla parts that comprise the standard Corolla parts list.

    I don't see the problem with these kinds of definitions.
     
  13. D_Marazion Analdouche

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    What constitutes life?

    Either being a tax deduction, paying taxes or at somepoint having paid taxes.
     
  14. Irish

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    "You’re not a person ’till you’re in my phone book." -Bill Hicks

    Doesn't quite cover everything, but it's a good start. :p

    Yeah, we're just a collection of molecules (I wouldn't apply the term 'atoms' to people as we aren't made of a single type of atom), just like your desk and the cat's box. What I would say makes us alive has nothing to do with consciousness (or a conscience) or our ability to think, it's just the fact that we actively grow and convert energies. Machines that build themselves would fall into this category, so let's add organic to the mix.

    If you can classify something as an organism, that's enough for me to say it's alive - but not that it has rights, whole different issue I don't want to derail this thread with.

    An organism that requires input to sustain itself by converting said input to energy I would consider "alive." I would probably take issue with anything that doesn't fit that schema.

    The bigger problem, for me, isn't defining life, but assigning importance to it. Relatively speaking, we're pretty drastically outnumbered by the non-living entities of our universe. I don't feel this makes us special, just anomalous. An amusing little blip on the record books, but only because we're the ones keeping records, and only because we're self important enough to find ourselves amusing. :\

    Don't get me wrong, I still think I'm the greatest thing since the EM Spectrum, but... life just doesn't seem like anything all that important in the grand scheme of things.

    And people wonder how Nihilism and atheism gain so much popularity. :p
     
  15. Domisoldo

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    Is this an attempt at reviving the infamous Terri Schiavo case?
     
  16. Domisoldo

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    Your post was not the most flattering for mankind (mankind needs flattery input and converts it into hubris energy).

    However, I fail to connect atheism and negation of life. What is the connection?
     
  17. Irish

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    Brilliant!

    Didn't want to get into religious debate, just a passing thought. But long argument(?) short: If God created everything, why all the "wasted" space? Why make just one tiny insignificant piece of our tiny insignificant solar system hold your beloved followers and then leave the rest of the vastness of the cosmos just sitting around?

    That's the basic connection (for me) to atheism and Nihilism.
     
  18. D_Bob_Crotchitch

    D_Bob_Crotchitch New Member

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    Life is the garden you plant, tend it and it will grow.

    So, shut the hell up about the bs of it. Plant veggies and roses.
     
  19. Domisoldo

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    Intriguing perspective...and quite "brilliant" too.

    I would have thought that because the atheist's "afterlife" is devoid of the proverbial 70 (female of course :frown1:) virgins and fountains of milk and honey (I am mildly lactose-intolerant anyway), the said atheist would make the most out of his / her earthly life...

    What amount of flattery or of free Irish beer would convince you?
     
  20. D_Bob_Crotchitch

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    Who told you that Christians don't believe in life on other planets? I was flipping channels and TBN had space alien characters talking to kids. It's a regular Saturday morning program. Also, nothing in the Bible says there isn't life on another planet or solar system.

    Where do peeps get some of this stuff?
     
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