Is the discussion a question of belief in whether or not life was "divine creation" or is this a discussion on potential chemical mechanisms that led to the chemical composition of matter we call life?
I guess a question would be "how difficult is it to understand that over billions of years of time matter has continually increased in structural complexity, an easily understood illustration of this being seen in the transformations matter undergoes within a star through its lifetime, that this same trend will lead to the structures we call life?"
Is the concept of entropy an exception when it comes to the matter we call life or is the origin of life simply the next step in the planet's stride towards maximum entropy? I guess a good question would be whether or not there is a fundamental nature to matter that gave rise to life - like along the lines of entropy for example....
" The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological hypothesis that proposes that living and nonliving parts of the earth are a complex interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism. Named after the Greek earth goddess, this hypothesis postulates that all living things have a regulatory effect on the Earth's environment that promotes life overall. "
Do you think it would be a reasonable statement to say that the earth itself was born into life at the time its mass coalesced and direct interaction of its matter began (prior to the existence of the "life" stuff we are talking about - the point in time where there existed the conditions that could lead to the "life" stuff we are talking about)? OR perhaps the planet came to life some time down the road from there. Look at the conditions on the planet around the time of its formation and through its existence as an entity within the solar system up to the point just before "life" came into the picture - there were huge changes that occurred to all of the matter is is composed of. For all intents and purposes, this could be considered evolution - evolution is simply a word that means change, but in contemporary context infers the change of living things. Would it be fair to say that the planet evolved through time prior to the existence of "life".
Matter changes over time by the exact process of natural selection - forces such as gravitation, electromagnetics, electrostatics, nuclear forces, etc, all interact with each other and with matter in many different ways,and vice-versa. Back in the day before "life", the "rules" the cosmos operated by was a shorter list as is lacked in diversity. Hydrogen was simple and so through the process of fusion which is quite simple in function to understand, matter changed. No mystical forces at work, although highly energetic! :) That was the birth of diversity. (I know it can be argued that there was increasing diversity in the structure of the cosmos prior to stars fusing matter - but you get my point, and even this bit of knowledge further adds to my direction).
Through time, more stars formed, producing more diverse matter, going nova/supernova and spreading that material out into space. As that matter cooled a little more it coalesced and some matter began bonding together to form more diversity through processes that are simple to understand. This was the birth of the molecule, fusion's little brother - once again, another step towards diversity.
And this goes so on and so forth to present day - I'm skipping ahead over many additional examples of events producing increased diversity as I think you follow where I've been going.
So the question is, how can it be refuted that the existence of the matter we observe around us has come about by those very same processes and additional thereafter? I can't tell you exactly what the mechanisms were that led to the incredible diversity in matter today, but each step along the way to add more diversity does become more and more complex to understand. These processes that create increased diversity also decrease in the release of energy in each interationsuccessive interation. Those two initial steps listed earlier showing the affinity of the cosmos towards producing more diversity, adding to that the simple observation of what exists today, there is a pretty solid trend that emerges as well as a connect-the-dots image.
Perhaps others feel the need to refrain from planting both feet into an idea until there is data to absolutely prove that the idea is correct. I respect that. I know the perspective I babbled on above could be picked to pieces in more ways than I can imagine - I know I am amongst some very finely honed cutlery. :) For myself, I've come to realize that there is no such thing as an absolute truth - even on matters far less theoretical/subjective as these but it is just the best idea I can come up with at the moment. Defining "life" is just far too impossible to really accurately define 101%. Taken from Developmental Systems Theory:
" each such structure is ultimately irreducible to any lower (or higher) level of structure, and can be described and explained only on its own terms. "
Let the picking apart begin! ;-)
(For what it is worth I only believe in one thing and one thing only. I do believe there is a conscious entity that put all of this here for a reasons I wont entertain here. But, He spoke, and it went BANG. Everything else like these topics are just ideas, which I love to entertain. :)
Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Removed "table" HTML, which was mucking up the format of the message.
I humbly reiterate the fact I lack the ability to hold conversation regarding molecular biology, biophysics, etc. I can only hope that this weakness, per-se, can benefit the converstaion by way of an alternate perspective.
-SO- in response to your post:
An organism is defined as:
1. a form of life composed of mutually interdependent parts that maintain various vital processes. 2. a form of life considered as an entity; an animal, plant, fungus, protistan, or moneran. 3. any organized body or system conceived of as analogous to a living being: the governmental organism. 4. any complex thing or system having properties and functions determined not only by the properties and relations of its individual parts, but by the character of the whole that they compose and by the relations of the parts to the whole.
The "idea" of an organism isn't ambiguous. It is analogous to the word "life". I wouldn't go so far as to demand any requirements - we all pretty much all have an idea of what an organism is - if not, just read the definitions above.
The theory of Gaia doesn't explicitly limit the existence of such a structure to the planet earth. It just states an idea which tries to explain why things are the way they are on this planet. I wouldn't discount the possibility that a similar structure exists elsewhere within the universe. The concept this theory illustrates may very well be a fundamental condition necessary for living structures anywhere in the universe but I also wouldn't confine the existence of living structures to such conditions - neither does Gaia.
Dont get me wrong here - I'm not a Gaia fanatic. That theory presents a perspective that in many ways produces that "warm, fuzzy feeling". I personally would rather feel that than drown within the fact we dont "know it all". I know I am out of my league on this topic - I tend to think that my only reason for publically entertaining it was an attempt to provide a source of clarity for those who appeared to be confounded.
Maybe the reason we lack the ability to piece it all together is due to the rejection in the scientific community to embrace the idea that there is a "God" that made these things happen, LOL.. :) Is it a necessary condition that all events occur in an understandable, logical, predictable manner? I may have to pull out the Heisenberg cannon and fire away if one thinks so.
A virus could be argued as an example of the simplest forms of life. It is a construct of matter which reproduces itself and also experiences diversity within itself (mutations). On that same token, viruses can be argued to be a vital component of life as a whole on the planet as its presence also leads to chemical change and diversity within its hosts by process of immunological system adaptations. These adaptations, or lack thereof, will also contribute to the mechanism of natural selection who's effect plays a major role in genetic outcomes within said species as well as indirect roles upon genetic outcomes within species of life this particular species is tied to within its respective food chain. This "cyclic" characteristic of the relationship between organisms and viruses is an easily observable mechanism that drives change and diversity... an end result that could be considered one definition of the word "life" itself.
"Life" doesn't exist as a single organism within the context it is being looked at by most - therefore it cannot be defined by single metric. The concept that "life" is actually a single organism, that which is contained within the closed system upon this planet, is a far easier perspective to define the word "life" within. That is probably the only way you will get the simple word to actually fit what it is trying to define. For everything else, we will have to look at them for their specifics; i.e. is it a single-cell organism, multi-cellular organism, virus, or simply chemical element such as oxygen, iron, manganese, etc etc.... FWIW, look at the diversity of interaction an oxygen atom can experience on this planet - it could be argued that even the simple atom itself is alive - it certainly behaves in predictable as well as unpredictable ways dependent on circumstance, so, wouldn't it be just as alive as anything else?
The whole conundrum people seem to have about the idea of "life" coming from non-living matter is humorous. It clearly shows that some people lack the ability to understand that the stuff we call life is built from the very same materials that the things they call non-life are also built of. On top of that, you can take any living organism and break it down into its constituent atomic elements that it is made of - those who are burdened by this "conundrum" wouldn't have a leg to stand on when trying to say whether or not the remains of this individual are alive or not, LOL. So, this begs the question, can living matter turn into non-living matter? I think we all can agree on the answer to that - the real pudding lay in whether or not you can see that as a two way street.
Is there a way to categorize what is considered just matter vs. what is something that is living? It is difficult to do because the things that could be considered as living are constructed from matter. Where is the line between matter and life? Is there really some line of demarcation that can be concisely identified or does the definition of "life" get lost within our lack of the ability to entirely define matter?
These exchanges I've entertained on this forum have been quite challenging - I have repeatedly spent questionably "sane" amounts of time working through the thoughts in my mind and composing them into words everyone here is reading. Each iteration I find myself continually coming back around to identifying a "common denominator" for "life", quite the same as you have done in your last paragraph. I can only agree in totality with your statement. :)
There is a group of objects which possess incredibly similar molecular structures. This "double-helix" molecular structure varies amongst these objects only in small ways. However, these objects vary in structure in many big ways but these variations are in accord with the specific small variations within this single molecule. This molecule is the fundamental component these objects all have in common. This perspective is looking at things in a "snap-shot" moment of time.
Setting things in motion to observe action of these objects appears to be irrelevant. We dont necessarily need to define these objects by their actions - there are clear enough distinctions between the material composition of these objects and everything else. There aren't any other known objects which possess this double-helix molecular structure, are there? If this assumption holds true then can we all agree to call objects which possess this particular molecular structure as "living?"
The post subject, "Transition from chemistry to biology" leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to asking an effective question. Biology isn't a thing per-se; it is a science, a concept, a thought. On that same token, "chemistry" isn't a thing either; it too is a science, a concept, a thought. To rephrase the topic, would it be acceptable to pose it as: "Transition from non-living matter to living matter"? The topic, either way you want to state it, insinuates that there really is a difference between the two. The question being begged is whether or not there is a difference rather than what "transition" took place. Not trying to be anti-social in this remark - just pointing out the fallacy in the implied question which has fueled a majority of the exchanges in this topic - exchanges which aren't really discussing the essence of the question.
So, would it be fair to conclude that "living" matter, defined as the molecular structure noted above, is really just matter of particular structure - whether it is living or not is irrelevant and the ability to define something as living or not possesses no real value? Wouldn't real value lay within the knowledge of how this molecular structure works?
Eventually we will discover the chemical mechanisms to create the kind of diversity found in the DNA molecule as well as manipulate it in any way we desire - the capacity to do that infers knowledge, obviously. Do we really need to know exactly what steps matter went through eons ago which led to the structures we see today? Not necessarily - if we know how this structure works and how we can manipulate it to produce desired results then we really have valuable knowledge, right?
Are any of us here really questioning whether or not the composition of matter we see today came to be by mechanisms other than those of which everything in the universe works by? Even the suggestion that there was some extra-terrestrial influence on the early earth which led to what we have agreed on is "living" would still conform to the concept of a "universe" - afterall, how can it be called a "universe" if it isn't universal? Better stated, how can an exception be made? We all agree that probability is equally distributed troughout the universe, right?
This whole thread really is begging a much bigger question...
When I wrote that statement you quoted there was a strong desire to clarify what was meant. In actuality, the word "extra-terrestrial" was meant on the broadest of scales - be it panspermia, little green men, "God" himself, or any other idea.... I was really getting at the point that regardless of the exact mechanism(s) responsible for life on this planet, those processes are a function of the universe - it is part of the construct of the universe, right? Thinking of life as coming from something else is kindof like saying you weren't born from your mother, LOL. ;-)
Admittedly, it is intriguing to think of how life started. It is well understood that matter exists as some 100+ unique variations at an atomic level - thousands if you count isotopes, ions, plasmas, bose-einstein condensates, etc etc. Each of which have unique properties of their own. The mosaic of variation in matter, the sheer quantity of matter, the various forces matter exhibits, and the 3-dimensional space matter can interact with other matter - set that into motion with time and try to answer "what couldn't possibly happen?" The increasing diversity of matter the universe has experienced since its dawn is the answer to the question - life coming onto the scene is analogous to the early universe finally cooling enough for the first atoms to condense, or for those first atoms to start combining to form more complex atoms, or for that variety of atoms to begin combining to form molecules. Just seems to me that there has always been this one single behaviour the universe has expressed since its beginning - life was just the next step in that same direction.
It doesn't appear to me that all of this just happened either - for this one particular observation of what the universe has been doing all this time. Am I being short-sighted to say that the universe, through time from the beginning up to now and on into oblivion, is clearly progressing towards ever increasing diversity of material structure? Even in some instances where some diversity is "lost", doesn't it appear that the push towards greater diversity is prevailing?
I Can't speak for if life exists anywhere else in the universe though - it is likely not to be structured with the same DNA construct as here - the universe is just too diverse. :)
Edited by AshsZ, : Needed to throw in the "mom" comment.
I would rather think of it in terms that the universe itself is intelligent - not that there is an intelligent designer that put it here. I can support that simple theory by sole fact that we, humans, do possess intelligence (at least to the best of our ability to identify as such) and we are made from the very materials that have come to be within the universe. Additionally, this current state we exist in from all the events preceeding before appear to be guided towards the creation of more diverse forms - and I use the word "creation" only within the context that new forms of matter have and will continue to be produced within the universe - not "creation" in the sense of a "god" putting them here.
Perhaps I am using the word "intelligence" too liberally here though. Defining "intelligence" around these parts is, in and of itself, yet another topic I wouldn't be surprised to find being entertained somewhere on this forum covering pages upon pages of dialogue. With that in mind, and for sake of keeping on topic, I think we should omit the word "intelligence" all together within this discussion - I just dont see "intelligence" as an applicable word.
When I say that it doesn't appear that all of this just happened, I only mean to say that I observe how the universe appears to have an affinity towards creation of diversity - the universe isn't getting more simple - it is becoming more complex. Would this be a fair assumption to make?
We are both on the same page when it comes to eluding the concept that there was some sort of intelligent designer that put all of this here - it is an irrelevant concept as it clearly gives no specific insight. On that token though, it could be argued that there exists some goal-seeking element within the cosmos - the apparent goal being diversity.
I specifically use the word "diversity" as it leaves very little ground for debate on what that term means. At the same time, I dont use it as grounds for a challenge - it is simply a word that best illustrates what it is I am trying to express. Is our universe seeking to become a diverse? I'm sure I'm not the first to ponder such an idea. Although the law of entropy states that the universe seeks a state of maximum homogenity, which also insinuates the deterioration of a "living" state, perhaps the concept of entropy is short-sighted in some way? I would presume that living organisms do not violate the laws of thermodynamics, right? Or do they?
In some undescribable way, I get the feeling that trying to understand how "inanimate" matter came to possess "animate" qualities lie within our ability to more clearly understand the laws of physics. It is difficult for me to fully accept the second law of thermodynamics when I observe how the energy associated with a living organism behaves. Granted, I'm not a physicist so it wouldn't surprise me to hear that I'm not seeing the big picture, but from my limited perspective it appears to me that there may exist a conflict between the idea of entropy, that which forces structure towards disorder, and diversity, that which has led to the current material structures we not only call life, but structures which have enabled matter to have awareness, mind, etc - (i.e. although one of many of such structures, one being the thing you and I are both using right now to have this very conversation! :)
Perhaps my observation of the structure of the universe moving towards more diverse structures is entropy itself? The definition of entropy doesn't have explicit context when it comes to how entropy affects diversity - it only speaks in terms of order vs. disorder. So, is the movement towards greater diversity a movement towards more or less order? Or, more specifically, is "order" equivalent to less diversity while "disorder" is equivalent to more diversity?
It would appear to me, just by my means of awareness, that the human brain, that which has given rise to my ability of awareness and which is a product appearing to be resulting from diversity, is a result of the natural tendency for the universe to move towards more "disorder". I could just use the word "disorder" in my dialogue but I am sure the conundrum this presents is visible to all - would it be fair to say that disorder and diversity are just two different words to define the same thing? I'm not very comfortable in thinking that the diversity of matter which I am constructed from was a product of the path towards greater disorder. "Entropy" just appears to fall short as a definition given the terms used to define it are so specifically obscure, if you follow what I mean. Adding to that, "entropy" also appears to lack sufficient "scope" in its definition - like looking at a painting with your nose on the canvas.
Perhaps there is an additional "dimension", for lack of better terms, that exists hand-in-hand with entropy; like a see-saw equilibrium. As entropy (disorder) increases, the capacity for the system to contain more diverse structures increases. Perhaps I have just answered my own question here through deduction - clarification by any reader versed in this would be appreciated. :) I am only working from the diction-definitions of words we are using to have this conversation. It is just difficult to think that the rise of self-awareness we humans possess is actually a result of increased "disorder" within the universe. Was "awareness" actually the next "step" in cosmological diversity? Taking the next step from there, are our abilities to change the universe as said "aware" beings the current step the universe is perched upon? Kindof hard to say "no" to those questions, isn't it? Isn't that exactly what is happening?
As for other life elsewhere in the universe: it could be the case that with the finite diversity within the universe the only possible form of "life" as we would define it can only exist as the structure we are familiar with (DNA/RNA). Unfortunately we dont even know all of the dynamics involved with this local structure to even contemplate some other analogous molecular form. However, my instinct tells me that the probability of a DNA/RNA life form existing elsewhere in the universe is almost certain. That thought, though, is a whole-'nuther topic in and of itself. :)
Quite exhilirating to read the info surrouding Ilva, dissipating systems, self-organization, etc etc.
I liken a lot of this to what I have personally labeled "complex chemistry"; a term I've used in a few conversations in the past with others - called such due to the fact that conventional chemical processes involve the direct physical interaction of matter whereas even using what we are doing right here as a perfect example, the chemistry occuring within the biology of my brain/body are affecting the chemistry occuring within your brain/body as well as any others who read what I am typing here. Chemical reactions "at a distance" where the conducting medium is seemingly abstract. This kind of chemistry exists at some level or another amongst just about all, if not all forms of life - consider it the element of "language", if you will..
This being the case, would it be acceptable to conclude that this kind of chemistry is what allows systems to seemingly deviate from the law of entropy/thermodynamic equilibrium, etc etc (i.e. all the "scientific" things that would otherwise prevent such a thing from occurring)? Maybe this kind of chemistry is the very thing I couldn't quite put my finger on previously when I said that "entropy" doesn't appear to be the whole story. Like the dipoles of a magnet, perhaps entropy and this complex chemistry are the "north" and "south" of the thing which regulates process.
Mathematics is a wonderful tool but at a certain point, as can be seen in this "complex chemistry" above, the ability to quantify all the variables within a system is a lost context. This may very well be the reason we can't understand how we have become aware of our awareness, as you put it; to answer the question it is necessary to quantify some thing which simply cannot be quantified - at this point it can only be answered in terms of its qualities - "I am aware", and that's all the answer necessary, I presume, LOL.