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Thread: What's the difference between the living and nonliving?

  1. #1 What's the difference between the living and nonliving? 
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    The way I see it is that a living system generally has more immediate potential reactions and energy transfer systems than something nonliving. So, what is the defining difference?


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    living systems continually have to repair themselves to prevent them from disintegrating into non-living


    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Quote Originally Posted by DREAMER View Post
    The way I see it is that a living system generally has more immediate potential reactions and energy transfer systems than something nonliving. So, what is the defining difference?
    I'm living, my keyboard is not.

    If you want to talk about viruses, then things start to get a little fuzzy.

    Chris
    It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.
    Robert H. Goddard - 1904
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    It's interesting, and i think it depends mostly on your point of view. For instance do you define living as something which can self replicate? Or something with a more innate awareness of its surroundings? There is a distinction for me between what i consider to be "living" and what i consider to be a "life".
    Host of the Sciencism podcast and the Sciencism: Critical Eye podcast.
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    I agree with Spoonman - or rather Einstein: knowledge is easy to come by, and certainly not the basis of intelligence. I prefer to define intelligence as '...the ability to learn by experience.' The eminent Claude Bernard www.claude-bernard.co.uk also claimed intuition and imagination to be far more important. For Francophones, read Bernard's 'Definition de la Vie': he thought long and hard about the subject of the living and the non-living (see bibliography in above reference for his paper on the subject).
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    This is the definition that is given in any Biology text book.

    Living things exhibit:
    Structural Organization - Adherence to an organized structure (atoms, molecules, organelles, cells..)

    Homeostasis - The maintenance of an internal environment.

    Growth - The repair and expansion of structure from external material.

    Metabolism - The production of chemical energy from external material.

    Responsiveness - Interaction with external and internal stimuli.

    Heredity and Reproduction - The production of offspring and the passing on of genetic information.

    Evolution
    - The change of genetic information over successive generations.

    Even if you exhibit some of these characteristics, you are not considered alive unless you exhibit all of them. Yes, this excludes viruses even though they reproduce. But the line must be drawn somewhere even when clear lines don't exist in nature.

    One thing to understand is that the word "life," like most organizational words, is the vestige of pre-biology, pre-chemistry, and even pre-science thought processes. I'm sure if we tossed it out and started fresh, we'd come up with a much more intuitive way of organizing all these clumps of chemicals, but it would still be very difficult.
    Artist for Red Oasis.
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