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How can we chemically differentiate between living/nonliving

 
 
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2004 11:02 am
It's a simple question...

What is the biological/chemical/physical basis that differentiate a living organism from something inanimate like a pool of chemicals that is reacting to various other chemicals that it interacts with in the environment.

From a higher level, looking at living organisms as whole, rather than their component chemicals, we believe that they have consiciousness, free will, purpose and various characteristics such as the ability to reproduce.

But when we look at any living organism in it's component parts, there is nothing seperating them from any nonliving thing such as say pool of chemicals that reacts to things such as the oxygen in the air and the sodium in the ground to evolve and change.

Unless you believe in a higher being, there is no evidence of any component found in living organisms not found in non living organisms.

So on what basis do we claim to free will, consciouness, thought etc?

On the basis that from a holistic perspective, we seem to be capable thought we can't be sure if it's not an illusion?

Couldn't we just as easily argue that a computer has the ability to think just as easily if we looked at it strictly from a holistic perspective instead of breaking it to it's component parts?

Isn't that a flawed process, to assume we have free will when we no biological/chemical or physical component that seperates us from things that we don't believe to have free will.

Even something as complicated as the human brain is nothing more than an aggregate of various chemicals. All it does is merely take in various stimuli (chemicals, ions and photons) from the outside environment, react with them and then give out the waste products. A pool of chemicals does the exact same thing.

Broken down to it's components, there is nothing that differentiates it from nonliving things.

I'm not alone in this belief. The person who headed up Celera genomics (the private company that challenged the US government to race it to sequence the human genome) is undertaken a project even more significant.

He is currently attempting to create a very simple basic living bacteria from scratch strictly from it's component parts to be used to mass produce enzymes far more efficently than we do using e. coli.

He is making the dna from component amino acids, and injecting it with basic amino acid enzymes that help sequence the dna to make all the proteins needed for life.

It's a multibillion dollar endeavor that his project leaders all believe can be realistically achieved within a decade. They already succeded in creating a virus from scratch.

So the question becomes, if it's possible to create life from it's component chemicals, the what is that distinguishes life from nonliving aggregations of chemicals?
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Anoxia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2004 11:06 am
You might want to research the debate between scientists on viruses... whether or not they are living. Some say they are dead, others living... but that's where you would find the criteria.
0 Replies
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2004 11:11 am
It is generally assumed that if the chemical complex is self replicating using DNA or RNA, it is living.
0 Replies
 
Centroles
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2004 12:13 pm
You guys are looking at it from a holistic perspective once again.

Yes, looking at the big picture (the entire organism) we came to certain arbitrary charcteristics defining what is living versus what is nonliving.

That's not what I'm asking.

I'm asking what is it that seperates living from nonliving when we look at the specific components that make up living organisms. There is no chemical, no physical or biological property that living organisms posess that nonliving organisms do not.

If we can't identify any difference life and nonlife at each of it's component pieces.

Isn't it flawed to assume that the characteristics that we observe for the organism are things that only living things are capable of? Especially when we knew that at the component level, there is nothing that seperates the two.

Isn't it faulty that the free will and thought we seem to possess are anything more than illusions if we can't identify the biological or chemical or physical components or properties we possess that are unique only to living things?

Isn't it like reasoning that a computer is capable of thought by simply looking at the thing as a whole instead of breaking it down to see iff it has anything that other inanimate objects don't have. Neither do we!

Think of a random number generator on a computer. It seems to output numbers at random. The same way we seem to act at random (which is what we use to claim possess free will). Thus we could state just as easily state that a computer has free will.

But when we break it down and look at the actual mechanism behind the random number generator, we can see that the numbers are not truly random though they seem to be.

Similarly, when we look at the actual mechanisms that make life possible, we can see that our thoughts, emotions and actions are precise calculated and carried out based on a set of specific chemical reactions. Thus these things that suggest that we have free will are merely illusions, atleast until we can find a chemical, physical, or biological component or property that we possess that nonliving things do not.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2004 12:19 pm
Centroles wrote:
Isn't it faulty that the free will and thought we seem to possess are anything more than illusions if we can't identify the biological or chemical or physical components or properties we possess that are unique only to living things?

No.
0 Replies
 
Gargamel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2004 12:48 pm
Dude, you live at Wrigley Field?
0 Replies
 
Centroles
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 02:55 am
no, why?
0 Replies
 
Gargamel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 06:42 am
Sorry.

That was directed at Joe from Chicago, whose cited location is the address of Wrigley. I assume the answer is no, but I answered naively before I considered, excited because I used to live maybe ten blocks from Wrigley.
0 Replies
 
Gargamel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 06:45 am
Implicit in your question of consciousness, whether we as humans are more than the chemicals we are made of, is one of my favorite questions: does the brain control the mind, or the mind the brain; i.e. what controls our chemicals, can their activity always be predicted, rationalized...
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 06:51 am
Re: How can we chemically differentiate between living/nonli
Centroles wrote:
It's a simple question...

What is the biological/chemical/physical basis that differentiate a living organism from something inanimate like a pool of chemicals that is reacting to various other chemicals that it interacts with in the environment.

From a higher level, looking at living organisms as whole, rather than their component chemicals, we believe that they have consiciousness, free will, purpose and various characteristics such as the ability to reproduce.

But when we look at any living organism in it's component parts, there is nothing seperating them from any nonliving thing such as say pool of chemicals that reacts to things such as the oxygen in the air and the sodium in the ground to evolve and change.

Unless you believe in a higher being, there is no evidence of any component found in living organisms not found in non living organisms.
So on what basis do we claim to free will, consciouness, thought etc?

On the basis that from a holistic perspective, we seem to be capable thought we can't be sure if it's not an illusion?

Couldn't we just as easily argue that a computer has the ability to think just as easily if we looked at it strictly from a holistic perspective instead of breaking it to it's component parts?

Isn't that a flawed process, to assume we have free will when we no biological/chemical or physical component that seperates us from things that we don't believe to have free will.

Even something as complicated as the human brain is nothing more than an aggregate of various chemicals. All it does is merely take in various stimuli (chemicals, ions and photons) from the outside environment, react with them and then give out the waste products. A pool of chemicals does the exact same thing.

Broken down to it's components, there is nothing that differentiates it from nonliving things.

I'm not alone in this belief. The person who headed up Celera genomics (the private company that challenged the US government to race it to sequence the human genome) is undertaken a project even more significant.

He is currently attempting to create a very simple basic living bacteria from scratch strictly from it's component parts to be used to mass produce enzymes far more efficently than we do using e. coli.

He is making the dna from component amino acids, and injecting it with basic amino acid enzymes that help sequence the dna to make all the proteins needed for life.

It's a multibillion dollar endeavor that his project leaders all believe can be realistically achieved within a decade. They already succeded in creating a virus from scratch.

So the question becomes, if it's possible to create life from it's component chemicals, the what is that distinguishes life from nonliving aggregations of chemicals?


Whereas, rocks do not contain mitochondria, all organisms that are eukaryotic and use oxygen as a terminal electron acceptor, do contain mitochondria. This fact is totally independent of the presence of a "God".
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 06:54 am
Acquiunk wrote:
It is generally assumed that if the chemical complex is self replicating using DNA or RNA, it is living.


A dormant spore is living, yet no DNA, RNA replication takes place during dormancy. Only when the spore germinates, are these macromolecules replicated. Cool
0 Replies
 
BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 06:56 am
chemical 'evidence'? simply look for 'droppings'! Rolling Eyes
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 06:58 am
Re: How can we chemically differentiate between living/nonli
Centroles wrote:
It's a simple question...

What is the biological/chemical/physical basis that differentiate a living organism from something inanimate like a pool of chemicals that is reacting to various other chemicals that it interacts with in the environment.
From a higher level, looking at living organisms as whole, rather than their component chemicals, we believe that they have consiciousness, free will, purpose and various characteristics such as the ability to reproduce.

But when we look at any living organism in it's component parts, there is nothing seperating them from any nonliving thing such as say pool of chemicals that reacts to things such as the oxygen in the air and the sodium in the ground to evolve and change.

Unless you believe in a higher being, there is no evidence of any component found in living organisms not found in non living organisms.

So on what basis do we claim to free will, consciouness, thought etc?

On the basis that from a holistic perspective, we seem to be capable thought we can't be sure if it's not an illusion?

Couldn't we just as easily argue that a computer has the ability to think just as easily if we looked at it strictly from a holistic perspective instead of breaking it to it's component parts?

Isn't that a flawed process, to assume we have free will when we no biological/chemical or physical component that seperates us from things that we don't believe to have free will.

Even something as complicated as the human brain is nothing more than an aggregate of various chemicals. All it does is merely take in various stimuli (chemicals, ions and photons) from the outside environment, react with them and then give out the waste products. A pool of chemicals does the exact same thing.

Broken down to it's components, there is nothing that differentiates it from nonliving things.

I'm not alone in this belief. The person who headed up Celera genomics (the private company that challenged the US government to race it to sequence the human genome) is undertaken a project even more significant.

He is currently attempting to create a very simple basic living bacteria from scratch strictly from it's component parts to be used to mass produce enzymes far more efficently than we do using e. coli.

He is making the dna from component amino acids, and injecting it with basic amino acid enzymes that help sequence the dna to make all the proteins needed for life.

It's a multibillion dollar endeavor that his project leaders all believe can be realistically achieved within a decade. They already succeded in creating a virus from scratch.

So the question becomes, if it's possible to create life from it's component chemicals, the what is that distinguishes life from nonliving aggregations of chemicals?


A very famous scientist at the NIH once told me, that the only difference was the present of a soul in the "living organism" and it's absence from the "noliving object".

No! It's not a simple question and by the way, there's no simple answer.
What precisely is the chemistry of a soul? Cool
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 07:02 am
Re: How can we chemically differentiate between living/nonli
Centroles wrote:
It's a simple question...

What is the biological/chemical/physical basis that differentiate a living organism from something inanimate like a pool of chemicals that is reacting to various other chemicals that it interacts with in the environment.

From a higher level, looking at living organisms as whole, rather than their component chemicals, we believe that they have consiciousness, free will, purpose and various characteristics such as the ability to reproduce.

But when we look at any living organism in it's component parts, there is nothing seperating them from any nonliving thing such as say pool of chemicals that reacts to things such as the oxygen in the air and the sodium in the ground to evolve and change.

Unless you believe in a higher being, there is no evidence of any component found in living organisms not found in non living organisms.

So on what basis do we claim to free will, consciouness, thought etc?

On the basis that from a holistic perspective, we seem to be capable thought we can't be sure if it's not an illusion?

Couldn't we just as easily argue that a computer has the ability to think just as easily if we looked at it strictly from a holistic perspective instead of breaking it to it's component parts?

Isn't that a flawed process, to assume we have free will when we no biological/chemical or physical component that seperates us from things that we don't believe to have free will.

Even something as complicated as the human brain is nothing more than an aggregate of various chemicals. All it does is merely take in various stimuli (chemicals, ions and photons) from the outside environment, react with them and then give out the waste products. A pool of chemicals does the exact same thing.

Broken down to it's components, there is nothing that differentiates it from nonliving things.

I'm not alone in this belief. The person who headed up Celera genomics (the private company that challenged the US government to race it to sequence the human genome) is undertaken a project even more significant.

He is currently attempting to create a very simple basic living bacteria from scratch strictly from it's component parts to be used to mass produce enzymes far more efficently than we do using e. coli.

He is making the dna from component amino acids, and injecting it with basic amino acid enzymes that help sequence the dna to make all the proteins needed for life.

It's a multibillion dollar endeavor that his project leaders all believe can be realistically achieved within a decade. They already succeded in creating a virus from scratch.
So the question becomes, if it's possible to create life from it's component chemicals, the what is that distinguishes life from nonliving aggregations of chemicals?


The basic repeating unit in proteins is the amino acid. That for DNA is the nucleotide unit. Your comments are a bit hard to understand, concerning amino acids and DNA synthesis.

As far as virus reconstruction, this is really "old hat'. Nothing new here.
0 Replies
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 08:07 am
Miller wrote:
A dormant spore is living, yet no DNA, RNA replication takes place during dormancy. Only when the spore germinates, are these macromolecules replicated. Cool


It can still replicate any time the environmental conditions are appropriate Dormancy is simply a state of conserving energy.The more complex the system parts will turn off. An large animal, say a bear for example, will have a much more active DNA than a spore during dormancy, it has more to maintain, but both are conserving energy.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 09:27 am
fascinating subject....
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 09:49 am
There is no isomorphism between analysis at the physical level and analysis at the "systems" level which describes "life". Nor should we expect any.
Would we for example expect "a work of art" to be describable solely in terms of its physical attributes? Of course not! Physical attributes may be necessary but not sufficient aspects for these concepts.

"Autopoiesis" is one term used to describe some of the essential features of life processes (see Google)
0 Replies
 
patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2004 11:08 am
Intact membrane, DNA, RNA, ribosomes. That's the bare minimum for life as we know it. There's nothing wrong with defining by components, or with acknowledging how fine is the distinction between living and nonliving. It kind of freaked the animist folks out when urea was first synthesized in vitro, but it's pretty old hat now.

I've yet to come across a biologist who considers viruses living.
0 Replies
 
 

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