Are Sperm a Living Creature?

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Sun Dec 29 19:02:12 EST 1996

On 29 Dec 1996, Dr. Michael T. MacDonell wrote:

> In <Pine.SOL.3.91.961229132501.24495A-100000 at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>
> berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) writes: 
> >
> >
> >
> >On 29 Dec 1996, Dr. Michael T. MacDonell wrote:
> >
> >> In <Pine.SOL.3.91.961229114117.16136B-100000 at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>
> >> berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) writes: 
> >> >
> >> >
> >> >
> >> >On Sun, 29 Dec 1996, Sid Lipkin wrote:
> >> >
> >> >> Always wondered this...Is human sperm classed as a living
> creature?
> >> >
> >> >It depends on your definition of life. Some say
> >> >that computer viruses are also living beings.
> >> >And so are the cars: they do multiply 
> >> >(on car factories) using the environment (assembly
> >> >workers) for their reproduction and their is
> >> >Dawrinian competition for survival between 
> >> >variuous breeds of cars.
> >
> >
> >> 
> >> Some say that the earth rides through the universe on the back of a
> >> giant turtle!
> >> 
> >
> >I suggest that you read "Physics of Immortality" by
> >Frank Tipler (Doubleday, 1994). There is also a 
> >growing follow up literature to this problem (that is
> >the definition of life). Then you see that your
> >joke on turtle misses the point.
> >Alex Berezin
> No, Alex, it is you who misses the point.  Reading Frank Tipler, or
> anyone else, really adds nothing to the debate other than to add
> another opinion.  

I can agree that perhaps my statement of you 'missing
the point' was too strong. But so is yours.
See, we all may have some point(s).

But when you say "... reading Tipler [ or whatever ]
really adds nothing... than another opinion", I don't
see it as having negative connotation. After all,
isn't science (almost all of it) is just a bunch of
opinions ? 

Even if you take and eat all the known stuff 
about paradigm shifts, 'objective reality', 
'experimentaly verifiable science', etc,
science is still largely this: the current (dominant)

> The problem is that "life" is a definition.  If you
> were to allow that the definition of "life" is anything blue in color,
> then, by definition, everything colored blue would be living.  I use an
> outlandish example, admittedly, but it makes the point.
> If life were an entity you could measure, quantify, weigh, etc., then
> it would not evoke a flurry of opinions.  

Agree with the above. So, who's makes the point ?

> The same problem, by the way,
> is experienced in the field of microbial taxonomy.  How do you decide
> that bacterium "A" is a different species than bacterium "B"?  If you
> use the standard definition of a species, then you should determine
> whether they can produce viable offspring.  Doesn't work does it.  In
> fact, it doesn't come close.  So what happens is that some folks
> propose that bacterial species are defined by DNA:DNA hybridization
> similarities, or 5S rRNA sequence differences, or 16S rRNA differences,
> or even gross differences in enzymatic pathways.  In the end, the folks
> who make the best case 

> (possibly argue the loudest), win and get to define "bacterial 
> species".

Yes, now you seem to be on my wavelength (at least to my degree 
of my understanding of the above).

In MOST cases (though fortunately not all) in science (as in almost
anything else) to be right means to shout the loudest. At
the risk of been offensive, I can say that now the molecular 
biologists seem to have the strongest throats and NOW, yes,
unless it's not DNA/RNA it's not a biology (and likely not even 
> In the end, some group will make the "best case" for the definition of
> "life" and we will either live with it or get very high blood pressure,
> but it WILL BE the definition.  

> Life is not a measurable entity. 

Neither me, nor Tipler says this. Converesely, we can
perhaps say that life has too many (perhaps, infinitely
many) measuarable aspects.

> Now, whether I agree or not with Tipler's opinions as to what comprises
> "life" is as irrelevant as Tipler's opinion of my definition of "life".

I am quite sympathetic to the opinion (or rather, a
practical inference) that there (almost) as many
sciences as there are scientists. When we all agree,
will be the last day for science.
> Am I making contact?

As far as I am concerned, yes.
> Best Regards!
> Mike
> P.S. Please do not email me a copy of your response, since I lurk this
> newsgroup several times a day.

I am sorry, with my level of e-mail literacy, I can
only hit 'reply to all' and then you likely get 2 copies 
of the same reply (unless someone show me how to reply 
to 'cc', without replying to the prime sender).

> P.P.S. No more maize, please.
> -- 
> +---------------------------------------------------------+
> |"A common mistake that people make when trying to design |
> | something completely foolproof, is to underestimate the |
> | ingenuity of complete fools."            -Douglas Adams |
> +---------------------------------------------------------+

More information about the Bioforum mailing list