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Author Topic:   Life - an Unequivicol Definition
AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 1 of 374 (772316)
11-12-2015 10:32 AM


It has always amazed me that a science field like Biology is so comfortable with so many definitions which are equivocal. (Life, Evolution, Species...) But that's just the way it is. Biology is the study of life, but biologists can't agree on a definition of life. In every text book that addresses this subject, they are all quite comfortable in stating that there is no unequivocal definition of life and they usually spend a significant effort in "proving" why we can't come up with an unequivocal definition.

I suspect this indoctrination has led most Biologists to give up on the definition. But not me! I believe it is possible to create an unequivocal, simple definition of biological life or for simplicity sake an organism. I have created this definition over a period of years, and it has been tested by a number of personally know scientists.

So here it is:

Life, or a living organism is a self contained entity which uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for metabolism and synthesizes ATP with enzymes which are synthesized from a genetic process requiring the transfer of information from DNA to RNA.

This definition covers all known life. It is short, and unequivocal. It is minimal. And it is easily measured. It does not use abstract terms. It is, however quite different from all previous definitions that I have reviewed.

So, at a minimum, a cell must be self contained, must metabolize, and must be a "protein factory". That's a summary, and it is the minimum requirement of any known living thing. Certainly living things also can do much more that this, and this is why this definition is minimal.

So, there it is, let's see what your thoughts are?


Replies to this message:
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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 4 of 374 (772321)
11-12-2015 12:40 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by 1.61803
11-12-2015 11:45 AM


Do you consider a virus as being alive?
Because they do not produce their own ATP.

I think you have answered your own question. It is not alive by my definition, and this is consistent with the consensus understanding of whether a virus is alive.


-AlphaOmegakid-
I am a child of the creator of the beginning and the end

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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 13 of 374 (772359)
11-12-2015 5:40 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by RAZD
11-12-2015 3:54 PM


Thanks for the welcome back

RAZD writes:

Mine is simpler: anything capable of evolution. (cue definition of evolution ^(1)... ).

This not only includes viruses but self-replicating molecules. The essential difference in my opinion between life and non-life is that one evolves (life) and one doesn't (non-life).

Enjoy

(1) The process of evolution involves changes in the composition of hereditary traits, and changes to the frequency of their distributions within breeding populations from generation to generation, in response to ecological challenges and opportunities for growth, development, survival and reproductive success in changing or different habitats.

Oh I quite enjoyed!

Look at your definition. You of all people should know better than this! Populations evolve, not individual organisms. So by you definition, only populations are alive, because only populations are capable of evolving. Individual entities cannot be alive, because individuals do not evolve. I guess you just died. I don't think you will get too far with that one in the science community. But then again maybe you will!

However, with my definition, individual entities can be alive, viruses are not living, and all individual molecules including self replicating ones are not living. This is also in compliance with cell theory which your definition violates if you think evolution includes things like viruses and self-replicating molecules. Unless you can show evidence why cell theory is wrong then you have no logical warrant to include these entities under the definition of evolution. It just doesn't follow from your own definition of evolution.


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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 14 of 374 (772360)
11-12-2015 5:47 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Blue Jay
11-12-2015 12:48 PM


BlueJay writes:

It's been awhile, but it's good to see you again!


Ditto’s! Does that make me a ditto head?
BlueJay writes:

One of the lines I like to use in my talks and discussions with colleagues is that modern ecologists are pretty well-trained to avoid giving clear answers to anything.


Yes, I understand, that’s your training. That’s what I meant by indoctrination.
BlueJay writes:

This is mainly because the systems we try to study are inherently more complex than we can replicate with experiments or models


Yet some can model climate change with authority! Hmmmmm?
BlueJay writes:

, and there's a history of extended, high-profile disagreements lasting a decade or more, only to end with the realization that both sides are right under certain circumstances.


Why would there be disagreements if there were no definitive discussions about the experiments or models? It seems as though you are contradicting yourself. And how could there be two sides to a discussion if those sides were not defined unequivocally. And how could both sides be right if the circumstances were not identified and defined? It seems, you have made my point. After the decades of discussion and argument from both definitive sides, then both sides have some things right. This is the falsification process within science. It happens through clear unequivocal definitions. Sure definitions are wrong sometimes, partially right sometimes, and not wrong sometimes. It is the “not wrong” ones that “science” strives for.
BlueJay writes:

It's a valid enough definition, I suppose. I feel like it's needlessly specific, though.


Needlessly specific?? I guess that’s more training?
BlueJay writes:

For example, it's entirely conceivable that an organism could function just as well using GTP (guanosine triphosphate) instead of ATP, and it isn't outside the realm of possibility that such an organism could be discovered on Earth. It would be better to avoid committing ourselves to a specific definition that turns out to be based on rather arbitrary decisions like this.


Well if you follow the logic on the definition you might see why I chose ATP rather than GTP. ATP as you know is the “main unit of energy currency” within the cell. And all cells use ATP for all metabolic processes. GTP is also used for metabolic processes, but only a couple. So it is as you say “conceivable” that a living cell could have ATP but not GTP, but it is not conceivable that a cell could be considered “alive” if it had no ATP. So it is a minimalist definition. I do not agree that a living cell could “just as well” use GTP rather than ATP. It’s the other way around. You would have to somehow show that GTP can be used instead of ATP in all the metabolic processes within a cell. And according to Cell Theory the smallest living thing is a cell.

Regarding the tautology , yes I know what one is, but I don’t see how you are applying it. Shed some light in this darkness!


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 Message 5 by Blue Jay, posted 11-12-2015 12:48 PM Blue Jay has replied

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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 16 of 374 (772365)
11-12-2015 6:27 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Tanypteryx
11-12-2015 6:02 PM


tany writes:

This is really only the case for sexually reproducing species. Asexually reproducing species like many bacteria and other single celled organisms can and do evolve when mutations occur in individual organisms.

And while populations evolve, the mutation part of evolution occurs in the sex cells of individuals.

Try spending five minutes here: https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=populations+evolve+i...

and maybe what flew over my head should fly out of yours!?!


This message is a reply to:
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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 37 of 374 (772691)
11-17-2015 5:42 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Tanypteryx
11-12-2015 7:36 PM


Tany writes:

If you have an argument to make, make it. We do not debate bare links here.

It just appears to me that you misunderstood part of what RAZD said. I don't think he was saying that individuals are the only unit of evolution.

Individuals are the unit of reproduction. They pass on the mutations that are selected for or against by the environment.

Yes, It wasn't I, but you who misunderstood RAZD or you misunderstand evolution. That was my argument. If you would have taken a quick look at my link you should have easily seen your mistake and RAZD's.

The simple fact is that individual organisms do not evolve period. Populations evolve. This is a fact even though you have stated otherwise. I have already supported this fact in the link I gave you .

Now using RAZD's definition, that means bees are alive, but a bee is not. A colony of bacteria is alive, but any individual bacteria in that colony is not. So, the definition doesn't work for most living things unless , of course, unless you equivocate on the definition of evolution, and then we are back to an illogical definition that isn't very scientific. Equivocation is what we are striving to eliminate even though many scientists like the logical inconsistencies.


This message is a reply to:
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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 38 of 374 (772694)
11-17-2015 6:05 PM
Reply to: Message 18 by Blue Jay
11-12-2015 9:21 PM


Hello BJ,

You have some strong opinions about ecology, genomics, and climate change which I disagree. However this is probably not the right time/forum to drag those out, so I will decline to continue.

BJ writes:

Yes, needlessly specific. You're trying to define life in terms of a specific chemistry, when we don't really know that life couldn't exist on alternative chemistries. I suggested a hypothetical life-form that uses GTP instead of ATP. The two molecules are chemically very similar, and store the same amount of energy --- there's no reason why a metabolism couldn't exist that uses GTP.

If such an organism were discovered, would you entertain the notion that it wasn't alive, just because it doesn't fit your definition?

Well specific, yes. That's the point. What we have now is definitions that are not specific and equivocate regarding life. Needlessly specific? I disagree. GTP is involved in a small portion of some cells metabolic processes, but ATP is involved in all of them. So since a cell is the smallest unit of life, "needlessly" I don't see any reason to be less specific.

Of course, as you asked, if an organism was discovered that used GTP for all cell metabolism, then my definition would be falsified. Correct? So it would be modified or totally defeated. That's the process of the scientific method.


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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 40 of 374 (772696)
11-17-2015 6:23 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by Dr Adequate
11-12-2015 10:15 PM


Equivocation
Maybe you are not understanding the term "equivocate" correctly. What the term means is

dictionary.com writes:

to use ambiguous or unclear expressions, usually to avoid commitment or in order to mislead; prevaricate or hedge:

That's what caused some scientists to say yes, and some to say no. For instance "reproduction" which many books say is a hallmark of "life". And indeed it is. But when it is used to define life (part of the definition) then the definition of "reproduction" must be ironed out, because for many reasons some organisms do not reproduce , but this doesn't make them not alive. The term is equivocal as used in the definition of life. So are many other defining terms currently in our textbooks.

IMO "evolution" would be the most equivocal term as we have already witnessed.


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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 46 of 374 (772717)
11-18-2015 8:47 AM
Reply to: Message 19 by Dr Adequate
11-12-2015 10:15 PM


Dr A writes:

As I said: "Some of them say YES, some of them say NO, some say that they haven't made up their minds yet, but none of them equivocate."

Again, I still think you don't understand, so I will use your example.

Group A says "Yes" to a particular definition.
Group B says "No" to the same definition

Group B must have valid, reason to oppose Group A's definition. Usually, as in this forum, they try to give counter examples where the definition doesn't work. You are seeing this process in this forum. If those counter examples are valid, then that means that there must be an equivocation of defining terms in Group A's definition for it to continue.

The definition is defeated or falsified. However, we have to put "definitions" in the textbooks, so those "definitions" are equivocal, because it is the best we have currently. They all have been defeated or falsified at some level within the defining terms.


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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 47 of 374 (772718)
11-18-2015 8:54 AM
Reply to: Message 20 by dwise1
11-13-2015 1:02 AM


Word Magik
dwise1? writes:

So then, AOK, just what are you trying to define out of existence through your Word Magick?

I am simply trying to define what is alive and what is not. An important delineation!


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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 49 of 374 (772738)
11-18-2015 11:14 AM
Reply to: Message 48 by Tangle
11-18-2015 9:08 AM


Tangle writes:

But it's been shown to be an exercise in word play that serves little useful purpose.

We have no definitional issues with virtually everything that is living and everything that is not. There are a miniscule number of artefacts to which there is a controversy. That's just the complication of the natural world, somehow we live with it.

One man's word play is another man's scientific and published paper. Right?

We have a whole field of science studying OOL. You cannot ever hope to show OOL unless you define life with agreement/consensus from the scientific community. Today there are multiple competing hypotheses in this field with little evidence. And there are many obstacles to be overcome.


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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 51 of 374 (772749)
11-18-2015 12:10 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by Tangle
11-18-2015 11:32 AM


yeah, so what?

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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 53 of 374 (772768)
11-18-2015 2:31 PM
Reply to: Message 52 by Tangle
11-18-2015 12:13 PM


Great, I'll be happy to ignore your comments in the future.

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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 58 of 374 (772791)
11-18-2015 5:19 PM
Reply to: Message 54 by Dr Adequate
11-18-2015 2:35 PM


Dr A writes:

No it doesn't.

Some theists say that I should be a Christian. Some theists say that I should be a Muslim. I do not conclude that all or any one of them must be equivocating. I conclude that at least one of them must be wrong. But I don't go around saying "Well in that case they are all of them equivocating".

Wow!........What pray tell does your analogy have to do with developing a definition?

I will try one last time explaining, then I will give up, if there is no comprehension.

When anyone, scientist or otherwise, is developing a definition for a word, that definition involves other words. It is words or language that can be equivocal. There in is the disagreement on the definitions. This is not a disagreement in general. It is a disagreement about the words used in the definition and their meaning, and their ambiguity.

When defining life, people do it with different words like "growth", "reproduction", and "evolution". All of these words carry ambiguous definitions themselves, and hence the current definitions of life are ambiguous and equivocal.


This message is a reply to:
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AlphaOmegakid
Member (Idle past 2110 days)
Posts: 564
From: The city of God
Joined: 06-25-2008


Message 64 of 374 (772825)
11-19-2015 10:08 AM
Reply to: Message 60 by RAZD
11-18-2015 5:44 PM


RAZD writes:

... So since a cell is the smallest unit of life ...

Is it?

Yes, Please don't forget Cell Theory which is much more important than evolution theory regarding OOL. Also, Evos have argued for years that evo theory does not apply to OOL. So what ist it? You seem to think evolution does apply to OOL. Hmmmm?

RAZD writes:

By your definition (Message 1):

quote:
Life, or a living organism is a self contained entity which uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for metabolism and synthesizes ATP with enzymes which are synthesized from a genetic process requiring the transfer of information from DNA to RNA.

You could have a prebiotic molecule in the RNA world that synthesizes ATP from ATP and uses that to reproduce the molecule, and according to your definition that would be life even though no cell is involved.

It seems that your impetus (from reading other posts on this thread) for your definition is to find the boundary between life and non-life, to define the point of origin, the transition from chemistry to life. The point at which it is capable of undergoing evolutionary processes, the point at with it is capable of evolving.

Yes, and you could have a God who created all kinds of living things 6000 years ago!.......Sorry, I couldn't resist!

You have an interesting false interpretation of the definition. First at a minimum, my definition requires a self contained entity which means that the metabolic processes and the synthesizing processes occur inside whatever contains the entity. So my definition is not molecular in any sense as no living thing is. It is an assembly of molecules as every cell is. So self replicating molecules, even though quite interesting, are just novelties that are recognizably light years away from the complexities in living things.

And regarding my impetus to find the boundary between chemicals and life, I think is quite well defined. A living organism must be able to synthesize ATP for metabolism and it must produce it's own catalysts for that synthesis. Your faithful blindness to evolution requires it's involvement everywhere, but why cannot living things come into being chemically, and not evolve? The first fossilized life shows no evolution in any measurable sense after 3.5 B years! And we know that bacterial live generation after generation with no evolution in a stable environment. Does that make them not alive? Of course not.

So my definition doesn't require vague terms like "growth", "reproduction", and "evolution", however it is quite reasonable that a self contained entity that could create it's own ATP and synthesize proteins could also grow, reproduce, and evolve, which is exactly what we observe.


This message is a reply to:
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