What makes us "alive"?

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What makes us "alive"?

Postby mikey838 on September 12th, 2006, 12:39 pm 

Why are we alive? What is the difference between us and a rock? What makes a living organism?
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Re: What makes us "alive"?

Postby mtbturtle on September 12th, 2006, 12:51 pm 

mikey838 wrote:Why are we alive? What is the difference between us and a rock? What makes a living organism?


A similiar thread question was asked in the Philosophy of Science Forum. Some more thoughts to maybe get you started... http://www.philosophychatforum.com/bull ... php?t=1113
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Elan Vital

Postby PeSla on September 12th, 2006, 1:05 pm 

My guess is that the difference between what makes us alive and organic , or inorganic like the rocks, is the simple fact that we can extend matter to several helical structures. For example the carbon chains or the dna and protiens. It is a mystery for example why you can have no more than three inorganic tetrahedral structures (to go beyond this if it were possible would choose between a left and right handed helix)... Once we can have a loose organic helix we also find that we can arrange them in a higher system of such three units of tetrahedra and also break them down, we get both the integration and differentiation of subsystems for higher biological organization.

There is certainly more to defining what life is than what is seen as a certain material structure, we could say it is a life force or elan vital or perhaps some sort of atomic or electrical as yet not understood phenomenon (and by orgainic I also mean the mental aspects also). A virus can be the same matter but not alive... we, the last I heard could make rna atom for atom out of primitave inorganic matter but it not replicate or live.

Other than that there is the usual idea of life as animation or motion and the like.
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Re: What makes us "alive"?

Postby inhahe on January 14th, 2008, 12:39 pm 

mikey838 wrote:Why are we alive? What is the difference between us and a rock? What makes a living organism?


The book The Tree of Knowledge has some interesting things to say about that. Me, I would say that primarily what makes something alive isn't something you can measure..it's just obvious.. sure there are unclear lines in that case, but there are also ambiguities in defining/classifying what's alive on empirical/absolute grounds. The physical aspect of life/its delineation is an observation we make *after* primarily distinguishing life based on the observation that it's animate or not. How would you judge whether a possible way of defining life materially makes sense or not? By comparing it to what's obviously life. (Consider that "life" had a meaning way before science even knew what a cell was, or what organs are for. Consider that "life after death" isn't an oxymoron in essence.)

But yes, the physical makeup of something is a function of whether it's alive or not--or vice versa, the point being that certain physical forms can act as vessels or catalysts for life.. or vice versa. It's "synchronous." A rock turned cellular can become alive, and a person turned rock will have passed on.

But that does leave the question of what characteristics define a form that is suitable for life to inhabit (or at least, be recognized.. a rock could be a very peaceful entity.), and I think that book I mentioned has some good ideas about this. The things that come to *my* mind are holism, synthesis, and structure on the edge of chaos.
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Postby AuELks on January 14th, 2008, 4:53 pm 

A rock, isn't self-aware. A rock (as far as I can tell) does not know it is alive. It is entirely possible that some form of unexpressed or uncommunicated consciousness exists inside a rock, but I don't think any scientist or philosopher has reach such a conclusion.

If I was to bring a hammer down on a rock, to crush it, the rock doesn't seem to care either way that it's about to destroyed. But if you were to attempt to whallop me one with a hammer, I would definitely react, and so would a cat, or a fish. So, things that are alive have mechanisms to defend themselves, but rocks (non-living things) do not.

-Goldie
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Postby Ezequeel on January 14th, 2008, 5:25 pm 

^How are you suggesting a tree would react? Not all life is self aware...

I would say it is up to science to precisely define life, not philosophy, since the distinction is more use to science.

For the most part, though, I'm in agreement with inhahe.
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Re: What makes us "alive"?

Postby newyear on January 14th, 2008, 6:48 pm 

mikey838 wrote:Why are we alive? What is the difference between us and a rock? What makes a living organism?


Who am I to give the answers. A god? Is this a question that is wanting an omnipotent reply.

Darwin gave a segment of the how regarding evolution, but not the beginning of it. The fact that we are 'manufactured' from some of the same minerals that are found in rocks and stones, does make one think. We could be walking, thinking rocks. This description would not then make us different from rocks, but rocks with different qualities. And, our 'job' in the universe may be to redistribute minerals. Being a moving creature might not be a requirement for this task, but it may well be more effective in the long run, and one that will cause the universe less of an upheaval in the redistribution of minerals.

A living organism is anything that can grow. Again we come to the redistribution of minerals.
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Postby RidetheWalrus on January 14th, 2008, 6:59 pm 

Are the seven 'Life Processes', as taught in elementary school, no longer valid?

Whatever happened to Mrs. Nerg (mnemonic acronym)?
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Postby newyear on January 14th, 2008, 7:35 pm 

RidetheWalrus wrote:Are the seven 'Life Processes', as taught in elementary school, no longer valid?

Whatever happened to Mrs. Nerg (mnemonic acronym)?


Most of the things one is 'taught' in elementary school, or anywhere else, is questionable, except the ability to read, write and do arithmetic.

A critical mind is a healthy mind.
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