The origin of life digs deeper into my psychic, rotting away my time like a disease, a compulsion like alcoholism. To feed my habit, I bought several books and enrolled in a course on the “Origins of Life”. Note, we have already come to a philosophical schism in the community of experts: the difference between “origins” and “origin”. I sense that this issue, as others in the field, may be fueled by the political dispositions of the experts.
[NOTE: Check it out with two simple twitter searches: #originoflife and #originsoflife ]
More telling is a commonly accepted definition of life:
“Life is a self-sustained chemical system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution.”
Experts are happy with it, but it wouldn’t be the first time expert opinion went off mark. For instance, the first biologist, Aristotle, painstakingly defined man as “the featherless biped”. The next morning a student dumped a plucked chicken at his feet and said, “There is your man.”
It the same fashion, I find the above definition of life to be faulty in all of its proposals. The three underlying proposals, along with commentary, are:
1. All life forms must be chemical systems.
Plasma aside, all matter in the universe is chemical; therefore, this premise doesn’t do much to separate life from non-life. Maybe its intent is religious rather than scientific, an atheistic denial of “Invisible God made the visible universe”. Its implication being: God is invisible, therefore He has no matter. Without matter, He can’t live. Not living, He cannot create anything; therefore, there is no God. It’s as good a religious statement as any, but it doesn’t have much scientific value.
2. All living entities must be capable of Darwinian evolution.
Surely mules are living, but since all mules are sterile they are not capable of Darwinian evolution. I guess they have just been defined dead, along with post-menopausal women and some other groups of people. Maybe this proposal is a political statement disguised as scientific one. Using it, the collectivists: communists, socialists, nazis, and fascists—those who put their vision of the collective above individual rights, can euthanize women past menopause, old men (their sperm no longer viable), the sick, those with chronic disease—all that cannot reproduce, because according to science, their science, these people are already non-living.
And I’m not done yet: Who is to say that the human race is still evolving? Survival of the fittest is based on organisms changing, through beneficial mutations, to cope more successfully with the demands of the environment. It could be argued that humans no longer adapt to the environment but rather adapt the environment to their needs, hence the human race is no longer subject to Darwinian evolution. I guess we’re all game for being defined dead.
3. Life grows and sustains itself through metabolism.
Finally we have a kernel of truth, an imperfect measuring stick for life. I’m not sure how seeds and cysts, which lay dormant for years then spring into life, fit with this proposal, but at least it works for most living things.
Having read and analyzed the definition of life, my understanding of life is no better than before, but I have become acutely aware that, today, political and religious undercurrents can push science off course just as it once did under the nazis and communists. I move forward, scrutinizing as I read.
Probable, Possible, and Ugh
- Alternative History
- America Unearthed
- ancient aliens
- Christmas in Basel
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- Fantasy Fiction
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- multi-city flights
- Oak Island
- origins of life
- Science Commentary
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2013 Global Ebook Silver Medal for A Far Traveler
2015 Global Ebook Award Nominee for The Robot’s Daughter
So I Wrote: