Notices

View Poll Results: is this a good definition?

Voters
3. You may not vote on this poll
  • no

    3 100.00%
  • yes

    0 0%
Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: proposed deffinition for life

  1. #1 proposed deffinition for life 
    Forum Bachelors Degree
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    416
    now this is rather ambitious for me to attempt however i think that our(the human race's) beating around the bush on a clear deffinition of what is life and what is not life needs to end soon.

    the definition i propose is that a living organism is an aqueous solution with the property of selectively exchanging solvent and solutes with its environment, chemically reacting with ingested chemicals, decreasing the entropy within its borders, and creating aqueous solutions with similar properties.

    if i'm missing anything that's generally considered an aspect of all living things then please state so.

    one will notice that many viruses do not meet my definition of life as many are not themselves aqueous solutions, but are only found in them. however some viruses enclosed in envelopes derived from the host cell might be considered living under this definition, depending on their properties.


    physics: accurate, objective, boring
    chemistry: accurate if physics is accurate, slightly subjective, you can blow stuff up
    biology: accurate if chemistry is accurate, somewhat subjective, fascinating
    religion: accurate if people are always right, highly subjective, bewildering
    Reply With Quote  
     

  2.  
     

  3. #2  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    14,168
    I am largely in disagreement with everything you have written. Some specific points:
    1. the human race has not been beating around the bush about a definition of life: the bulk of the human race either have a practical folk definition or couldn't give a damn.
    2. Those who have a scientific interest in the definition of life have not been backward in coming forward. At an exobiology conference about six years ago the participants came up with over eighty definitions.
    3. Your definition is the least adequate of any I have seen.
    4. Until we have life that evolved with a different common ancestor we are comparing an apple with nothing: pointless exercise.


    Reply With Quote  
     

  4. #3  
    Geo
    Geo is offline
    Forum Junior
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    273
    Dissolve me in a solvent please.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  5. #4  
    Forum Bachelors Degree 15uliane's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    depends...
    Posts
    425
    ok. Wheres the acid?
    Reply With Quote  
     

  6. #5 self-organizing complexity & "life" 
    Forum Freshman starlarvae's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    L-5
    Posts
    83
    Maybe a more interesting way to come at the issue is from complexity theory.

    The notion of self-organizing complex systems in nature continues to gain traction among scientists. Sometimes called dissipative systems (I think this term came from Ilya Prigogine), self-organizing complex systems are defined generally to include, but not be limited to, biological organisms.

    So, it begs the question: When is a self-organizing complex system alive and when isn't it?

    Complexity theorists, where are you on this?
    Reply With Quote  
     

  7. #6 Re: self-organizing complexity & "life" 
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    14,168
    Quote Originally Posted by starlarvae
    Complexity theorists, where are you on this?
    That's not a simple question.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  8. #7  
    Comet Dust Collector Moderator
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    New Jersey, USA
    Posts
    2,848
    Quite complex
    Reply With Quote  
     

  9. #8 Re: proposed deffinition for life 
    Forum Bachelors Degree
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    416
    Quote Originally Posted by starlarvae
    The notion of self-organizing complex systems in nature continues to gain traction among scientists. Sometimes called dissipative systems (I think this term came from Ilya Prigogine), self-organizing complex systems are defined generally to include, but not be limited to, biological organisms.
    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    the definition i propose is that a living organism is an aqueous solution with the property of (...) decreasing the entropy within its borders
    decreasing the entropy within a system is a synonym for increasing the complexity/organization of the system. so i define life with the requirement of complexity however that is by no means the extent of my requirements.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Until we have life that evolved with a different common ancestor we are comparing an apple with nothing: pointless exercise.
    and untill we know the difference between apples and oranges we could be comparing our apple to a rock and think it's the same thing. we need a clear definition of life before we encounter exobiology or else we won't know if what we're looking at is life, unless of course it resembles our own biology with very few differences(a disappointing possibility, in my eyes).
    physics: accurate, objective, boring
    chemistry: accurate if physics is accurate, slightly subjective, you can blow stuff up
    biology: accurate if chemistry is accurate, somewhat subjective, fascinating
    religion: accurate if people are always right, highly subjective, bewildering
    Reply With Quote  
     

  10. #9  
    Forum Bachelors Degree
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    420
    Dissolve me in a solvent please.

    Ha ha
    Reply With Quote  
     

  11. #10 Re: proposed deffinition for life 
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    14,168
    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    we need a clear definition of life before we encounter exobiology or else we won't know if what we're looking at is life, unless of course it resembles our own biology with very few differences(a disappointing possibility, in my eyes).
    No we don't, because a clear and meaningful definition is currently not possible. We need what we already have: a diverse range of definitions of varying degrees of inclusivity and exclusivity. That minimises the risk of missing out on exotic life forms when we encounter them and provides a rich resource as a foundation for developing life detection methods.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  12. #11  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    We do not currently need a definition that encompasses exotic life forms. By which I assume most people are thinking of exobiology.

    If and when humanity encounters an exotic life form, under the ice at Europa or wherever, then we can reform our definitions. Until then, the whole damn exercise is totally pointless. A definition that encompasses Earth life is 100% sufficient until something else is found.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  13. #12  
    Forum Bachelors Degree
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    416
    skeptic i agree that currently our definition of life cannot be custom fit to encompass "exotic life" as we do not know what form that life will come in.

    however, some definition of earth life must still exist. the reason i believe it is important is because of pseudo-life forms such as viruses composed entirely of proteins and nucleic acids. these pseudo-life are the subject of much debate as to whether or not they are alive (http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife...viruslive.html) and without our knowing what it is that constitutes life, these debates can not reach a conclusion.

    additionally, if we are unable to determine whether or not a collective of organic molecules such as a virus is alive, what hope have we of identifying truely exotic life forms when we encounter them?
    physics: accurate, objective, boring
    chemistry: accurate if physics is accurate, slightly subjective, you can blow stuff up
    biology: accurate if chemistry is accurate, somewhat subjective, fascinating
    religion: accurate if people are always right, highly subjective, bewildering
    Reply With Quote  
     

  14. #13  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    without our knowing what it is that constitutes life, these debates can not reach a conclusion.
    Small problem there.
    Biologists who try to come up with definitions of life just modify the wording to include or exclude viruses according to their prejudices.

    The best definition of life I saw goes something like ...

    "Life is a complex system of organic molecules which undergo both reproduction and evolution."

    The biologist who wrote this used the word 'complex' deliberately to exclude viruses. I think, myself, that the definition would be better without the word 'complex', and include viruses. But that is just my opinion.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  15. #14  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    14,168
    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    however, some definition of earth life must still exist. the reason i believe it is important is because of pseudo-life forms such as viruses composed entirely of proteins and nucleic acids. these pseudo-life are the subject of much debate as to whether or not they are alive (http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife...viruslive.html) and without our knowing what it is that constitutes life, these debates can not reach a conclusion.
    Humans have a great weakness and a great strength. Their great strength is their ability to perceive patterns and create classification systems. Their great weakness is their ability to perceive patterns and create classification systems.

    Life versus non-life is a false dichotomy. There is a spectrum of increasing complexity and where we put the dividing line on that spectrum is wholly arbitrary and, to my mind, pretty damn irrelevant. If we get hung up on trying to place it we fail to see the continuity that exists.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  16. #15  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    2,564
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    however, some definition of earth life must still exist. the reason i believe it is important is because of pseudo-life forms such as viruses composed entirely of proteins and nucleic acids. these pseudo-life are the subject of much debate as to whether or not they are alive (http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife...viruslive.html) and without our knowing what it is that constitutes life, these debates can not reach a conclusion.
    Humans have a great weakness and a great strength. Their great strength is their ability to perceive patterns and create classification systems. Their great weakness is their ability to perceive patterns and create classification systems.

    Life versus non-life is a false dichotomy. There is a spectrum of increasing complexity and where we put the dividing line on that spectrum is wholly arbitrary and, to my mind, pretty damn irrelevant. If we get hung up on trying to place it we fail to see the continuity that exists.
    This, basically, is all there really is to be said on the matter.

    We can draw boundaries around things for convenience or as a shorthand, but we have to be so very careful about thinking they mean more than they really do.
    Reply With Quote  
     

Bookmarks
Bookmarks
Posting Permissions
  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •