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Thread: Completely unscientific questions about life

  1. #1

    Default Completely unscientific questions about life

    The first living organism is formed. It divides. Now there are two living organisms. When did life enter into the second organism?

    Were both lives present at the same time when the second cell was still part of the first? Two lives in one cell? Or did the second cell officially receive a life of it's own after separation?

    A third possibility, the one that I am entertaining, is that the life of the second cell is an extension of the first life. This possibility opens up the door to some interesting ideas.

  2. #2


    That's an interesting question.

    Does it not come down to how we define life?

    When can a foetus be described as alive? Is it at the moment of conception? Or later on?

  3. #3


    Life is just a description of a particular object; not something that could be said to "enter" an organism... After all, by "organism", surely you mean "living organism"... and life wouldn't "enter" an organism that was already alive.

    So I don't think that there is a single moment in which "new life" is suddenly created. It starts as an extension of existing lifeforms (parents) and at some point becomes physically separated.

    If you cut a starfish in two (you big meanie!), the two parts will grow as separate organisms, but you haven't really created new life... The life that exists now is the life that existed before... just in two separate containers. And I think (in my uneducated view!) that's how you could view evolution... Life first occurred long ago, but (as far as we know) new life hasn't occurred since; it's just evolved from the life that already exists.

    Well, that's how I see it anyway...

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by tiny View Post
    Life is just a description of a particular object; not something that could be said to "enter" an organism... After all, by "organism", surely you mean "living organism"... and life wouldn't "enter" an organism that was already alive.
    Could we describe life s the moment the organism starts to function?

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by Coodie View Post
    Could we describe life s the moment the organism starts to function?
    But the organism never ceases to function. A human body functions all the time, producing functioning eggs and functioning sperm. The functioning sperm fertilises the functioning egg and eventually form a functioning embryo. The functioning embryo develops into a functioning foetus, and eventually into a functioning baby, etc., etc.

  6. #6


    There is not really an unscientific way to speak about single-celled organisms. They are only observable by means of science (microscopes).

    I think this discussion requires a definition of life. I'm not even going to insist that it be a scientific definition, but I think we should be talking about a certain thing. If you talk about "life to you," and I talk about "life to me," then we aren't talking about the same thing, and we would inevitably wind up debating even though we are not technically disagreeing.

  7. #7


    I don't think that life is something that "enters" an organism, single celled or otherwise. It can be considered alive as long as it continues to function.

    What about multicellular organisms? Is the life part of the whole? Or is each cell alive individually?

  8. #8


    We all have an idea of what life is, and these ideas are probably very similar, but to impose limits on life by way of a definition would just be a reflection of our individual beliefs. We are already sharing our beliefs so, in that way, we are providing some definition of the term while leaving it somewhat open ended to allow for growth. In a sense, the meaning of the term "life" is intimately related to the question of the meaning of life, which is a question that has come up a time or two in the past 10,000 years and, apparently, has never been satisfactorily answered. There seems to be some dificulty in coming up with a good definition.

    Science provides us with a lot of useful information about biological cells but still leaves us with questions about the nature of life itself. We are all multicelled creatures. As I understand it, the cells that made "me" what I was many years ago have all died, yet I feel as if I still have the same life I had back then. This gives me a very personal interpretation of the idea that life in a cell is an extension of the life had by previous cells.

    There doesn't seem to be any disagreement, yet, to the concept that the life of the second cell was an extension of the life of that first cell. The idea has been brought up that no new life appeared spontaneously but that all life has evolved through the first life. I can't say for sure whether or not this is true but this idea appeals to me. We can use science to look for a common ancestor by searching for clues in the trail of dead bodies left behind but we may be overlooking something important. Life moved from that first cell through all subsequent cells over the last few billion years. Like the cells in my body, the earlier cells have ceased to exist as biological organisms, but that first life never died.

  9. #9


    A lot of people tend to think of life as a 'thing', something that exists either as matter or energy, whereas a more realistic way to look at life would be to consider it a 'process'. The process starts off at some point, runs for a while, and then eventually stops.

    We can look at computer applications to see how this might work in the context of single celled organisms. In computing a process can start another process which then becomes independent of the first one. This may be what happens with life, with the first organism simply pressing the metaphorical 'start' button on the second one.

    This would allow many lives to be started from a single organism, and each of those could start many more. The same idea scales up to larger organisms such as animals and plants. There isn't anything being shared or split between us, we simply start the process of life each time.

    The question that hasn't been answered yet is what caused the 'start' button to get pressed on the very first organism. It could be random chance, it could be some sort of grand design or it could be something that no one has yet considered. That's another thread though...

    Of course, I could be totally wrong!

  10. #10

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