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Thread: Of survival and reproduction

  1. #1 Of survival and reproduction 
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    Jul 2014
    Why? That's my basic question. As a non-scientist, I can understand the idea of combinations of molecules eventually forming life, but I'm still hazy on why such a molecule should want to survive and to reproduce, any more than a helium atom "wants" to. I get the idea of an evolved survival and reproduction instinct, but I'm interested in how it evolved in life in the first place. I guess it had to be inherent in the first complex molecules that we call "life", otherwise said life wouldn't have got off the ground.

    Even more basic question: is the answer going to be one of those that makes a non-scientist like me go all glazy-eyed?

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  3. #2  
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    Apr 2007
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    The "want to survive and to reproduce" is just a useful metaphor to help us imagine what characteristics are retained that help the organism thrive. Most likely behaviors we'd common call instincts came along quite late in the game--perhaps only in the past half a billion years.

    And "first life" is rather fuzzy to define and not necessarily very complex at all. You might like this film which illustrates how gray that line might be.

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  4. #3  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    May 2005
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    If you notice that when physicists use the particle accelerators there's always new things that are "created" when the tests are run. These things could be the same thing that happened when the big bang happened creating many more new particles with the immense power that it created when it happened. So perhaps new particles are not wanting to survive as much as they might be joining together as they bond together to form even newer particles.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anselm View Post
    Why? That's my basic question. As a non-scientist, I can understand the idea of combinations of molecules eventually forming life, but I'm still hazy on why such a molecule should want to survive and to reproduce
    It doesn't; there is no "want" involved.

    However, everything you see living today had the characteristic that it DID reproduce. So it's not that wanting to live was promoted, it's simply that everything else is dead.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Junior TridentBlue's Avatar
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    Jan 2013
    I like this topic. As far as "want", you can think of the reproduction as a sort of entropy... Just as closed physical systems tend to increase in entropy, you could also say that systems "want" to increase in entropy. Then you can think of life in the same way... In the beginning, there were structures that tend to reproduce, and structures that tend not to reproduce. Needless to say, the structures that tend to reproduce stuck around, because they were making copies of themselves while the others were not, but all of this was in accordance with physical laws. Their tendendency to reproduce can be described as "wanting" to reproduce.

    The trippy thing to think about is: You have evolved to have this brain, which does not directly experience the world, but rather builds models of the world "out there" beyond the senses, which you will never know. However, your desire to reproduce is a direct experience of the same forces of physics that cause all life to reproduce. So in some ways, our more primal instinctual feelings, are more direct experiences of the physical universe than our dry scientific abstractions about it...
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  7. #6  
    Time Lord
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    Feb 2009
    I think I am right to say that ,although it is reasonable to assume that the inanimate matter in the universe somehow combined to make something that we would recognize as "living" a precise and specific mechanism has not yet been identified.

    I was wondering what might be the consequences of such a discovery and was a little surprised as I listened to the opening section of the Ted Talk which Lynx posted the link to that such a discovery would ,according to the speaker actually have very few real life consequences.
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