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Is a virus alive?

A J Harrington ajh28 at pantheon.yale.edu
Wed Feb 12 11:38:54 EST 1997

: Dr E. Buxbaum wrote:
: >"R. BAKER" <rubaker at nmsu.edu> wrote:
: >>Is a virus a living organism or not????  It can reproduce but must rely 
: >>on the host cell and the host cell's metabolism?  What constitutes a 
: >>virus as alive or non-living?
: >
: >Nop, it can NOT reproduce. It can only make cells to reproduce it, which 
: >is a fundamental difference. Viruses also lack metabolism, another of the 
: >characteristics of live.

ok, well, there are some orchids that can't reproduce without fungi, they
must not be alive either.

And then what's to say that crystals aren't alive?  They reproduce,
consume energy, all the good stuff that's listed in Intro Biology books.
For that matter so does fire.  Why aren't they alive?

Face it, any definition of life is by nature arbitrary.  We decide what's
alive and what's not and then we try to come up with some rules that
include the things we think are alive and exclude everything else.  There
are bound to be exceptions.

A better question is, does it matter??

Mandie Harrington
ajh28 at minerva.cis.yale.edu
Department of Neuroscience
Yale University

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