Mystery Of Life (repost)
Have you ever, for yourself, tried to define "life"? Before asking questions like "what's the purpose of life" or "how did life originate", don't you think it would be a good idea to first know what we're talking about?
the book of life
image by Alexas_Fotos - source: Pixabay
As with so many things, we've reached a point in our scientific progress that we can describe life pretty good; we recognize what makes something alive versus something that isn't alive. A rock just is. A plant is alive. In fact, all living things, all life we know of, is made up of cells, and the cell is the smallest "unit of life" in existence. If you tried and failed to exactly define life for yourself, don't feel too bad, since science can recognize life, but finding a good and all-encompassing definition of life is hard. Especially the question where to exactly draw the line between "alive" and "not alive" seems a difficult one to answer.
Although the scientists, technicians, and others who participate in studies of life easily distinguish living matter from inert or dead matter, none can give a completely inclusive, concise definition of life itself. Part of the problem is that the core properties of life -growth, change, reproduction, active resistance to external perturbation, and evolution- involve transformation or the capacity for transformation. Living processes are thus antithetical to a desire for tidy classification or final definition. To take one example, the number of chemical elements involved with life has increased with time; an exhaustive list of the material constituents of life would therefore be premature.
source: ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA
In the book, Schrödinger introduced the idea of an "aperiodic crystal" that contained genetic information in its configuration of covalent chemical bonds. In the 1950s, this idea stimulated enthusiasm for discovering the genetic molecule. Although the existence of some form of hereditary information had been hypothesized since 1869, its role in reproduction and its helical shape were still unknown at the time of Schrödinger's lecture. In retrospect, Schrödinger's aperiodic crystal can be viewed as a well-reasoned theoretical prediction of what biologists should have been looking for during their search for genetic material. Both James D. Watson, and Francis Crick, who jointly proposed the double helix structure of DNA based on X-ray diffraction experiments by Rosalind Franklin, credited Schrödinger's book with presenting an early theoretical description of how the storage of genetic information would work, and each independently acknowledged the book as a source of inspiration for their initial researches.
Joseph Mallord William Turner - Death on a pale horse
source: Wikimedia Commons
According to physics' second law of thermodynamics, the total entropy of a closed system can never decrease over time. Entropy can, for this post's sake, be regarded as chaos or disorder. This second law of thermodynamics says that everything in a closed or finite system tends to evolve into a state of ever increasing disorder. This is the law that explains the irreversible nature of natural processes through time; it makes the "arrow of time" point in one direction only. Everything decays into chaos eventually, so will the universe itself someday in the extreme far future.
Living things seem to counter this law, if only temporarily, since they are highly organized and maintain some inner equilibrium instead of giving in to the natural decay. For this process energy is needed, which living things obtain through some sort of metabolism; they interact with their surroundings to transform light or matter into the energy needed to maintain the inner equilibrium, to keep the orderly organization intact and keep the "machine" going. Living things invest energy to create order and to maintain homeostasis.
What are cells | Cells | Biology | FuseSchool
I call it a machine, because the above describes the smallest unit of life known on earth, the cell. The mystery is this: all parts of the cell are dead, so what makes the whole come alive? It has a wall, separating it from the outside world and maintaining order. It regulates itself and maintains a stable state, it consumes to stay alive, it grows and develops, it reacts to external stimuli from the environment, it reproduces and it is subject to evolution: there's that fairly good description of all life on earth I promised in the beginning.
Within each cell there are chemical substances, molecules with different atoms and compositions ranging from fairly simple to highly complex, mostly proteins, reacting with each other in a constant flow of thousands of chemical reactions per second. So all of its parts are dead, just matter that behaves according to the laws of nature. It's a biological machine with in each nucleus that code for the living thing around the cell or the cell itself, which we call DNA. Are these intricate cellular machines built to carry the code into the next generation before the living thing starts to lose its fight against that second law of thermodynamics and eventually dies?
Is life like consciousness then, an emergent phenomenon that arises from the sum of the complex chemical reactions, like consciousness arises from the sum of the complex electro-chemical reactions in our nervous system? That to me has always sounded like... not right. To explain something as "arising from complexity" is a bit like saying you don't know. That it's literally too complex to comprehend.
It seems that the goal of life is to ultimately prevent death. The death of the individual as well as the death of the species, and it achieves this goal by reproduction, by having offspring that inherit the organism's life-code, maybe slightly adjusted by combining male and female ancestral information and chance, thereby invoking the process of natural selection that will decide which slight transformations will survive best. It seems so inefficient, such a waste of time and energy to evolve such complex beings as humans, if the goal is just getting DNA into the next generation. In fact, the DNA that develops the most successful living thing around it has the best chance to survive into the future, to continue its fight against entropy.
Is DNA, or the information stored on that molecule, life then? DNA is a highly complex molecule, but useless by itself; it can't do anything. Or wait, sometimes it can; watch the below linked video for that. And this is the border between life and non-life. It's a vague border though, like I said at the start. Look at a virus, to name a hot topic: that's basically a string of DNA or RNA that needs a cell to do anything. They invade cells to do their bidding, and to make the border even more vague, some can invade dead cells and bring them back alive to do their bidding. And I say "bidding", but there's no conscious being at work here, just mindless chemical end electrical processes...
Or... is consciousness life? Is everything consciousness and is life its invention to study itself? If we hesitate to classify a virus as alive or not, isn't that proof that we just don't know what life is? I guess, in the end it's only really important to recognize life and to realize that we are alive. And that we're still the only living things we know of in the universe that can write blogs like this, questioning the nature of all things, including life itself ;-)
Universe God Cosmos Reality Consciousness
source: Max Pixel
I surely hope this was confusing enough to get you thinking about life and living, and to appreciate the life you have. You've got only this life, this time and the arrow of time always points toward the future, so you can't get any of it back. That's why I hope you don't find the time spent reading this a waste, but that it made you appreciate life's mystery more. Thanks so much for spending some of your time with me, dear reader, and I hope you'll find the time to come back tomorrow :-)
Defining "Life" - It's a Process
Thanks so much for visiting my blog and reading my posts dear reader, I appreciate that a lot :-) If you like my content, please consider leaving a comment, upvote or resteem. I'll be back here tomorrow and sincerely hope you'll join me. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy!
Recent articles you might be interested in:
|Latest article >>>>>>>>>>>||How Liberty Dies|
|Decentralized Globalization (repost)||BTC VS Taxes|
|The Socialism Smear||America First In Europe|
|Technofeudalism||Freedom For Sale|
Thanks for stopping by and reading. If you really liked this content, if you disagree (or if you do agree), please leave a comment. Of course, upvotes, follows, resteems are all greatly appreciated, but nothing brings me and you more growth than sharing our ideas.