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what causes something to be living

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by ametist, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. ametist

    ametist Active Member

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    What causes something to be a living thing? Any news or recent articles that you know? Any ideas,thoughts?
     
  2. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    Because I'm a bit lazy at the moment I went straight to Wikipedia's piece on Life.


    "Since there is no unequivocal definition of life, the current understanding is descriptive. Life is considered a characteristic of organisms that exhibit all or most of the following characteristics or traits:
    1) Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, electrolyte concentration or sweating to reduce temperature.

    2) Organization: Being structurally composed of one or more cells — the basic units of life.

    3) Metabolism: Transformation of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.

    4) Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of anabolism than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.

    5) Adaptation: The ability to change over time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism's heredity, diet, and external factors.

    6) Response to stimuli: A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism to external chemicals, to complex reactions involving all the senses of multicellular organisms. A response is often expressed by motion; for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun (phototropism), and chemotaxis.

    7) Reproduction: The ability to produce new individual organisms, either asexually from a single parent organism, or sexually from two parent organisms.
    These complex processes, called physiological functions, have underlying physical and chemical bases, as well as signaling and control mechanisms that are essential to maintaining life."

    Source: Wikipedia

    Of course this is what life is, not what "causes something to be living." What causes something to be living now days is the reproductive factor (#7 above).
     
  3. ametist

    ametist Active Member

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    Others are definition and # 7 is only cause as you say. since it is the only cause, Is there need to be #7( i.e reproduction ) for livelihood to go on at each instance of the living?
     
  4. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    At present, yes. I don't believe the primordial conditions that gave rise to first life still exist.
     
  5. Runewolf1973

    Runewolf1973 Materialism/Animism

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    As we can see, life forms developed many interesting characteristics, but those characteristics in and of themselves do not give something life, they simply make certain forms appear more lifelike. There is something even deeper that causes what we consider life to exist or to emerge. It is the fundamental forces within matter which cause anything to have an animated or lifelike appearance. It is those forces in nature that caused those initial interactions. Given enough time and the right conditions, those fundamental interactions within matter increased in activity and complexity eventually leading to the formation and emergence of simple lifelike forms. Really, there is no life, only those forms of matter which under the right conditions appear more animated and more lifelike due to their ability to sustain those complex interactions. Those interactions within matter were the fundamental ingredient that lead to the emergence of those lifelike forms and their ensuing characteristics.

    That is my own interpretation/theory of where lifelike, animate forms came from.

    I don't believe in life, only those forms of matter which are more lifelike or animate than others. I don't believe there is truly such thing as inanimate, only that which is animate...animated by a fundamental force or forces of nature.


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    #5 Runewolf1973, Feb 1, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  6. psychoslice

    psychoslice Veteran Member

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    For me the planet itself is a living organism, so we and every other creature grew from the planet when the time and conditions were right.
     
  7. Runewolf1973

    Runewolf1973 Materialism/Animism

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    I can agree with this. I do however take this a step further by defining what specifically causes things to be lifelike or develop those characteristics of living things. What is the CAUSE of those animate or lifelike interactions....The answer to that quite simply and in my opinion, is to allow enough time and just the right conditions to sustain those complex interactions within matter we call Life. Those fundamental forces in nature are what caused those interactions to take place. We can not leave physics out of the equation. As Max Planck would say..."All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force..." This MUST include those highly animated, highly evolved, and highly interactive forms of matter we call Life.

    The reason why humans experience problems with artificially creating life is because they are leaving out the first primary condition or element....and that is time. No amount of chemistry can replace that.


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    #7 Runewolf1973, Feb 1, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  8. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Misanthropic Humanist

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    It seems that the most basic answer of what "causes" life is the inherent qualities of elements and how they interact and combine over time through emergent processes rooted in the processes of physics which ultimately govern their attributes and reactions. Nothing mystical, supernatural, or magical necessary to explain it. It's only human's propensity to unnecessarily categorize life as something separate from naturally emergent processes that makes them unable to see that life is nothing more than an extension of the interaction of elements and energy defined by the fundamental laws of physics. Does that clear it up for you?
     
  9. ametist

    ametist Active Member

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    I dont try to clear things up. It requires to much desire. I just want to look at the thoughts and opinions. It is always kind of you to share.
     
  10. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Misanthropic Humanist

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    If one has enough desire to ask a question, it seems that it would follow that they have the same desire to understand the answer.
     
  11. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    Recent articles? Not so much. Recent in the sciences means "most likely to be wrong". However, living systems continue to present a challenge in ways that no others sciences do. This is relatively recent news and old news- Old, because it was standard amongst human populations for most of humanities existence; new, because after Laplacian determinism failed so completely and unexpectedly at the beginning of the 20th century and the question was considered again. An early work "new" work on this question after the dawn of modern physics was by a founding member of modern physics: Schrödinger. From the conclusion of his What is Life?:
    "What I wish to make clear in this last chapter is, in short, that from all we have learnt about the structure of living matter, we must be prepared to find it working in a manner that cannot be reduced to the ordinary laws of physics. And that not on the ground that there is any 'new force' or what not, directing the behaviour of the single atoms within a living organism, but because the construction is different from anything we have yet tested in the physical laboratory...The unfolding of events in the life cycle of an organism exhibits an admirable regularity and orderliness, unrivalled by anything we meet with in inanimate matter. We find it controlled by a supremely well-ordered group of atoms, which represent only a very small fraction of the sum total in every cell."

    Years later, a series of essays by Rosen were published posthumously under the title Essays on Life Itself. The first chapter is "The Schrödinger Question, What Is Life? Fifty-Five Years Later". Of Schrödinger's "new physics" Rosen remarks:

    "The new physics involves going from special to general, rather than the other way around. At the very least, it means going from closed systems to open ones, discarding specializing hypotheses such as closure conditions and conservation laws. There is still no real physics of such open systems, largely because the formalisms inherited from the old physics are still much too special to accommodate it.
    Most significant, I feel, will be the shifting of attention from exclusively inertial (or structural) concepts to gravitational aspects. This can be expressed as a shift from concerns with material causations of behavior, manifested in state sets, to formal and efficient causations."

    As to What is life? Rosen's section in that chapter contains the following:

    "Such a system must be complex. In particular, it must have nonsimulable models; it cannot be described as software to a finite-state machine. Therefore, it itself is not such a machine. There is a great deal of new physics involved in this assertion as well.
    To be sure, what I have been describing are necessary conditions, not sufficient ones, for a material system to be an organism. That is, they really pertain to what is not an organism, to what life is not. Sufficient conditions are harder; indeed, perhaps there are none. If so, biology itself is more comprehensive than we presently know."

    As is only fitting, given that it was Rosen who paved the way for systems biology, that we find the following in the first paper in an academic volume on systems biology written by the editors of the volume:
    "systems biology is concerned with the relationship between molecules and cells; it treats cells as organized, or organizing, molecular systems having both molecular and cellular properties. It is concerned with how life or the functional properties thereof that are not yet in the molecules, emerge from the particular organization of and interactions between its molecular processes. It uses models to describe particular cells and generalizes over various cell types and organisms to arrive at new theories of cells as molecular systems. It is concerned with explaining and predicting cellular behaviour on the basis of molecular behaviour. It refers to function in ways that would not be permitted in physics. It addresses an essential minimum complexity exceeding that of any physical chemical system understood until now. It shies away from reduction of the system under study to a collection of elementary particles. Indeed, it seems to violate many of the philosophical foundations of physics, often in ways unprecedented even by modern physics.

    The premise of systems biology is that there is something to be discovered, i.e. living systems do have functional properties that cannot be discovered and understood by molecular biology alone; functional properties that are not in the molecules themselves. Because living systems are composed of nothing but molecules, this is at least a paradox, and indeed a contradiction to some molecular biologists. Scientific developments have, however, shown that there was and is something to be discovered. Systems biology has led to many new scientific insights, some of which will be reviewed below."
    from the introductory paper of
    Boogerd, F., Bruggeman, F. J., Hofmeyr, J. H. S., & Westerhoff, H. V. (Eds.). (2007). Systems biology. Elsevier.
     
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  12. Runewolf1973

    Runewolf1973 Materialism/Animism

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    Thanks for posting those essays LegionOnomaMoi, very interesting.

    As I was trying to say, that which we call Life is the result of complex interactions within matter given enough time and just the right conditions. It is not something necessarily inherent in all matter or single atoms or particles as those essays would indicate, rather that which we call life is a product of unparalelled complexity and order. Underlying all that complexity and order however, is the "fuel" which got that train rolling to begin with. It is to be found somewhere deep within those interactions. Life is not merely the product of a single defining "force", it is the product of a whole series of complex interactions within matter that occured over time and under specific conditions. All those interactions and changes ultimately governed and fueled by the same physical laws and fundamental forces within nature as everything else in existence.
     
  13. ScottySatan

    ScottySatan Well-Known Member

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    I believe that even scientifically, the answer is that it's a greyscale, not black and white. And we identify stuff as being more alive the more similar it is to ourselves.

    Your mother is more alive than a stranger.
    Your countryman is more alive than a foreigner.
    A human is more alive than a dog.
    A dog is more alive than a fish.
    A fish is more alive than a plant.
    A plant is more alive than a bacterium.
    A bacterium is more alive than a virus.
    A virus is more alive than an isolated protein.
    A protein is more alive than a rock.

    The level of humanity you deliver to each of those objects varies according to that scale.

    Not to say that this is the scientific definition, but scientists who are expert on the subject would not blame you for saying the definition isn't nailed down, nor would they say it's not worth debating whether a virus is alive or not.

    edited to add: And if your mother was a rock, then you get the circle of life.
     
    #13 ScottySatan, Feb 3, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2014
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  14. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    I used to be able to recite the four items....had to stop and recall....
    Consumption, absorption, elimination and reproduction.
    (I think that's right)

    This keeps items as 'fire' off the list.
    As well as acid and other chemistry.

    Life in this world is a chemical reaction.
    But we should not error to say all things that consume are alive.
    Likewise, absorption and elimination are not definitive.
    Reproduction seems to require the first three and won't happen without.

    But I suspect the topic is intended for a deeper meaning?
     
  15. Runewolf1973

    Runewolf1973 Materialism/Animism

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    I agree with you and in fact I wrote a post quite similar to yours a while back. It is my opinion that what we call consciousness or Life evolves out of the simple actions/reactions or interactions found within all matter.
     
  16. Runewolf1973

    Runewolf1973 Materialism/Animism

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    You are correct. Life is the result of complex chemical interactions, therefore there is no such thing as Life, only those forms of matter which are more lifelike or animate than others based on the complexity and order of those chemical interactions. Those characteristics by which we define living things...reproduction, metabolism, etc...are merely different structured or more complex forms of those same chemical interactions. All matter is in some way animated or lifelike due to those fundamental forces or interactions. The more complex those interactions become, the more animate or lifelike things appear, but they are never truly living.
     
  17. ScottySatan

    ScottySatan Well-Known Member

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    Sorry if I parroted you. You should consider emulation to be highest form of flattery.
     
  18. Runewolf1973

    Runewolf1973 Materialism/Animism

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    Lol :D





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  19. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    Can't go that far with you.
    Animation (movement) might appear to be the line drawn.

    But we humans are much more than our chemistry.
     
    #19 Thief, Feb 3, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2014
  20. Parsimony

    Parsimony Well-Known Member

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    If one considered a conscious entity to be alive, and some day we are able to produce conscious AI programs, then one could consider that to be alive despite the fact that it does not grow or reproduce. It would certainly be different from the organic life we know of.

    Alternatively, you could say that everything is alive to some degree and that nothing is completely dead. I don't take it that far myself, though.
     
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