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Author Topic:   Definition of Life
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Message 1 of 2 (333635)
07-20-2006 7:24 AM

Where Do We Draw the Line?
I was reading a book: Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: The Interplay of Science, Reason, and Religion. (Phil Dowe), which says, in regards to the formation of carbon atoms after the Big Bang:
...[T]he entire process is so improbable that it is overwhelmingly unlikely that there can have been enough carbon produced since the Big Bang for carbon-based life to have evolved. The fact remains however, that sufficient carbon was produced. How can we explain this improbable good fortune?
It's hard to exaggerate how fortuitous this is. If the energy levels involved in this process had been any higher or lower there would be no carbon, and therefore no life in this universe.
(Dowe 149)
The rest of the chapter is tied up in finding various scientific and religious explanations as to how this "improbable" event could have occurred. The problem I am having here is the insistence that carbon is required for life. A Wikipedia article on Alternative Biochemistry makes it quite clear that there are other chemicals available from which life (given the proper conditions) could form.
This, however, brings up yet another problem in my brain. How is it that we (Earthlings only familiar with carbon-based life forms) can decide what other life forms would look like, or be made of? The Wikipedia article seems to say that the only chemicals in consideration are those which bear resemblance to the ones we know of for forming life (carbon, water, etc.). This is no surprise, as the Wikipedia article on Life seems to offer a definition very much fitting with our observances of life on our own planet. A view, which to me at least, seems rather self-centred--and as it's been shown since we first realized the Earth is not the centre of the Universe, such views can often be wrong.
I feel there must be a more general definition for life, which could incorporate all possibilities of complexity, self-replication, etc. that make life different from non-life. And if such a definition is not found, then it does become rather unlikely that we will ever find life elsewhere in the Universe--if, after all, we are to only regard things fitting our own self-centred view of life as life. And in such a case, is there any difference between life and non-life? Indeed, this would make us much less special in the galaxy (which would be better-fitting with the fact that we are also not at the centre of the Universe).
It is my opinion that life/non-life is a subjective differentiation that we make; and that there is nothing more special about life, than there is about non-life.
Is there anything scientific to show that there is something drastically different from life and non-life, other than more subjective lines drawn to separate one thing (existence) into two separate categories (life/non-life)?
I would appreciate this going into one of the science forums, perhaps Big Bang, Origin of Life, or Misc. Though it might work best in the Misc. I'll remove this message if/when my topic is promoted.
Edited by Jon, : SCREWED UP BIG TIME!
Edited by Jon, : Finished topic

In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist... might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. - Charles Darwin On the Origin of Species

Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by AdminNWR, posted 07-20-2006 8:34 AM Jon has not replied

Inactive Member

Message 2 of 2 (333653)
07-20-2006 8:34 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
07-20-2006 7:24 AM

Re: Where Do We Draw the Line?
Promoted to Definition of Life. This copy of the thread closed.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 07-20-2006 7:24 AM Jon has not replied

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