I'm not saying that at all. There's definitely a difference between me and a rock. What I'm saying is the difference between me and a rock is essentially the same as the difference between a rock and a sheet of metal. In other words, there's nothing "special" or "godly" about me anymore than a rock, a sheet of metal, a diamond, etc...The Laminator
For goodness's sake, please vote Democrat this November!
Well, not really. Physically, yes. However, I have a consciousness that makes me a person. I have a survival instinct that tells me I'm going to sacrifice that rock if I have to to survive.
By the way, don't even try to move the goal post by starting to argue that we're special because we have a consciousness and all of that. The original topic was the borderline difference between life and non-life. In other words, it would be more fair if we are comparing a single celled bacterium and piece of rock.
For goodness's sake, please vote Democrat this November!
If you look at the sun as an big nuclear reactor then you are looking at a machine. In that case the radiation is simply a product.
I think the difference here is between an object and a process.
If you look at many chemical reactions thaere will be a series of changes. During those changes, there will be inputs and outputs. Radioactive decay is one example where there will be outputs, energy in or out, and a change in the composition of what remains.
So how do you tell the difference between such non-living processes and living processes?
You are right, waste may not be a defining characteristic.
Let me try one other tack. What about uniformity and predictability?
Is a defining difference between living and non-livings things predictability?
When snow flakes form they can take on an infinite variety of shapes. But they are always recognizable as snowflakes. Living creatures though can reproduce to create something totally different and unique. We see this in the variety of life around us. At the smallest, simplest level, bacteria can mutate to build some new immunity.
All life involves the same chemical building blocks, yet those blocks can be changed to produce something totally new and totally unpredictable.
Is that a difference? If we combined hydrogen and oxygen and got water, that would be expected. But suppose when we took that water and reduced its temperature to 32 degrees F and it boiled, that would be surprising. If certain water molecules developed the ability to not freeze, or contract when frozen instead or expanding, would that be an indication of life?
quote:So you feel there is a difference in sort of what their made up of or whatever...but you feel that humans and rocks basicially have the same status in the universe
I am not speaking for Lam, but I would like to comment. You need to relate "status" to something. To humans, life in general is more important and deserves special consideration. To gravity, the rock and the human are the same, they both are required to act the same. The same goes with every physical, chemical, astrophysical, and natural law. Humans are subject to the same laws that govern the rock, and can not escape any of those laws with their intelligence. The only "status" that humans have is bestowed by humans themselves, not by any external entity or natural law(unless you are religious ). However, this doesn't mean that humans are not "special", only that when considering our self endowed importance it is important to remember that our basic chemical makeup is tied to inanimate objects such as rocks.
From a reductionist view, this doesn't work either. Every chemical process in your body is uniform and predictable. For instance, enzymatic processes are steady, and the kinetics of the reaction are linear. The processes also obey the laws of thermodynamics, the same laws that the rest of the non-life world has to obey.
quote:When snow flakes form they can take on an infinite variety of shapes.
So snow flakes are unpredictable and non-uniform?
quote: But they are always recognizable as snowflakes.
And life is always recognizable as well, yet within the definition of life there is unpredictability and non-uniformity. I think your snowflake analogy fails your test.
quote:At the smallest, simplest level, bacteria can mutate to build some new immunity.
But, they are always recognizable as bacteria.
quote:All life involves the same chemical building blocks, yet those blocks can be changed to produce something totally new and totally unpredictable.
And those same building blocks can be thrown together in random order with non-life mechanisms. Miller illustrated this well, showing the random production of amino acids from inorganic molecules. The same thing can be seen in complex hydrocarbons in oil wells (although oil is from an organic source). However, given the right conditions (eg heat and pressure) carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen will combine into totally new and unpredictable compounds. Life has worked out a way to make this process MORE predictable, in that life creates predictable and uniform proteins, biomolecules, and organic polymers such as DNA and cellulose. I would argue that life is best defined as something predictable and uniform from generation to generation, from cell to cell, and from chemical reaction to chemical reaction.
I would put forth that the uniformity and predictability of the reactions that make up the Kreb's Cycle are a perfect example of the predictability and uniformity that life requires. If these reactions were random, then life would not be possible. If the byproducts were not uniform, then life would be impossible. It is the process of copying uniform and predictable chemical reactions through heretible material that makes life possible.
I think jar nearly has it. At least, its very close to my own formulation.
I started from the observation that due to entropic decay, water always flows downhill by the fastes available route. And yet, our hearts pump water up, against gravity. This can only be resolved against the laws of thermodynamics by recognising that the total energy that the organism uses to pump blood against gravity must be less than the total energy lost by the system overall.
An organism, them, is a kinda standing entropic wave. It is an interface, like waterfall, between high and low entropic states. A waterfall both does and does not exist in certain sense, but it certainly persists.
Our existance is more complex than the waterfall, but is essentially a whirlpool in a continual flow of energy in a multitude of forms. Because this system is, overall, entropically efficient and hastening the heat-death of the universe, the universe tends to produce highly organised structures if they can produce an overall increase in entropy as a result. Life is a long term investment by the universe in its own demise.
Edit: this reoslves the 'waste' issue. Waste is not a meaningfully ctaegory, but the output of entropically decayed matter is. It doesn't matter if this stuff is then used by something else; entropy always wins. As they say about thermodynamics: you can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game.
This message has been edited by contracycle, 08-05-2004 08:25 AM
quote:An organism, them, is a kinda standing entropic wave. It is an interface, like waterfall, between high and low entropic states. A waterfall both does and does not exist in certain sense, but it certainly persists.
I could also argue the same with the water cycle here on earth. Water does move downhill, but how did that water get to the top of the hill in the first place? By moving water vapor against the grade and dropping it on top of the hill. This is caused by an input of energy, namely the sun. The same thing happens in our bodies. We use sunlight indirectly by using the glucose originally produced through photosynthesis. We then use this energy to drive thermodynamically unfavorable reactions. In this way, creating water vapor that moves uphill is no different than using ATP to create muscle contractions that then move blood.
Although this is a reductionist's view, I think it still applies. However, I think "life" is about inheritance and propagation of these pathways into separate pools. That is, my example of rain production happens world wide and is not cordoned off at a certain point. Life is the opposite. With organisms we see the separation of these reactions from the outside environment, and the production of new "thermodynamic islands" through reproduction.