Is a virus alive?

Ricardo Azpiroz azpiroz at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Fri Feb 7 13:41:01 EST 1997


On 6 Feb 1997, Dr E. Buxbaum wrote:

p.french at ARNIE.CFI.UNSW.EDU.AU (Peter French) wrote:

>From which I conclude that s/he thinks that a virus is not alive. This is
>clearly nonsense. If a virus is not alive how can it be killed by viricidal
>agents? Saying it is not alive because it uses cellular metabolism to
>propagate itself is like saying that humans are not alive because we need
>the earth's atmosphere to be able to live. Clearly under any sensible
>definition of life, viruses are living organisms. A better question is "Are
>prions alive?"

Unfortunately, it is part of the common definition of living organisms, 
that they have a metabolism and that they are able to reproduce 
themselfs. 

That bit with the atmospere is irrelevant, by the way. Every organism 
needs material from its surounding, otherwise metabolism would be 
impossible.

	Now I want to say, again, this is a waste of time.
	THINK, for one minute, about whether the definitions
	prersented here for "life" and "alive" and such, are
	merely semantically different. What is or isn't alive
	is wholly dependent upon your definition of life, which
	itself depends upon where you draw the boundaries for
	your conception of the set of items that can be considered
	"alive". IT IS A CIRCULAR ARGUMENT. It leads nowhere.

	Thinking is fun. Thinking is good. This discussion is neither.

	Please, stop.


----------------------
Ricardo Azpiroz
Department of Biochemistry
Life Sciences South
University of Arizona
Tucson AZ 85721-0106

azpiroz at U.Arizona.EDU




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