Are Sperm a Living Creature?

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Jan 9 20:38:06 EST 1997

On Thu, 9 Jan 1997, Howie Watkins wrote:

> In article <32dbe530.25034567 at>, Sid Lipkin
> <sidlip at> writes
> >Always wondered this...Is human sperm classed as a living creature?
> >  Is there a genus of animals that it belongs to?  Can sperm survive
> >  outside the human body(in a lab setting)?
> >
> >   What about anti-bodies?  are they Alive in the sense that we define life?
> >     They have a purpose and act according to certain criteria?  is this life?
> >
> >  Sorry if this is uneducated...just curious
> >
> No apology necessary, this is just the sort of ponderance that makes
> reading newsgroups when one should be working!
> Generally I agree with Dr Berezin, it does depend on how you categorise
> Living.
> However, I would suggest that it useful to describe an entity as living
> only if it can replicate by itself to pass on it's genetic material to a
> new generation.  This of course excludes viruses, virons and prions as
> they are parasitic entities incapable of reproducing without the
> biochemical machinary of a host cell.

Yes, as I said all depends on the point of view. I personally
(contrary to many) believe that there is rarely a uniquely 
defined 'scientific truth' (pure mathematics is perhaps the
only exception) and what science is all about is the diversity
od views, instead of one size fits all prescriptions of 
dialectical matherializm. On viruses (regrettfully, I gather)
many of us would conclude that (viruses) should be still
classified as are alive even they can't reproduce without host 
cell as another author says above.

Viruses (even if you see them as 'parasites') are part of the
lifecycle, we don't really know their evolutinary role and if
they are inevitable part of our lifecycle. Likely they are,
it's easy to say let's get rid of all (bad) viruses. And as
we all know, you get rid of some, you get new ones replacing 
them by new mutation. 

So (again unfortunatly), been a 'parasite' does not necessarily
disqualifes from being alive. It quite likely that from
the point of view of much of the biospecies on this planet,
WE (humans) are the biggest parasites of all. Ask seals
or whales for that matter. And we are very much alive, until 
the bioshpere (Gaia) will decide to get rid of us. We don't
know how, but apparently She know her ways. Hold your breath.

Alex Berezin 

> ________________________________________________________________________
>     Howie Watkins - Performance Biologist & Leaper "Extraordinaire"
> ________________________________________________________________________
>     "Men Deal with life as children with their play,
>     Who first misuse, then cast their toys away" 
>     (William Cowper)
> ________________________________________________________________________

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