Re(2): Living virus?

Ingvar.Eliasson at alinks.se Ingvar.Eliasson at alinks.se
Mon Aug 24 16:46:18 EST 1998


Hi all you in search of a definition of life!

Life is not divided into five or six kingdoms. However man, in 
his desperate urge to bring order into things, has divided 
biological lifeforms - as defined by man and limited to findings 
on this planet - into six kingdoms. At present...

We can deal with this in different ways: 

We can accept that life is what we define it to be, and then 
different schools can argue to include or exclude viruses, prions 
and other simple replicating structures into the definition. 

We can choose a more philosophic or even religious approach to 
the definition of life.

Or we can have a more physiochemical definition, e.g. that life 
is any force that increase entropy and concentrate materia, on 
earth mainly in the form of complex organic compounds rich in 
carbon, nitrogen, etc.

But life can also be defined as communication and interaction. By 
reducing the freedom of molecules, cells, multicellular organisms 
or communities, freedom on a higher level of complexity can be 
generated:

The lipid bilayer membrane locks molecules on the inside of a 
liposome. But inside, they can be concentrated and protected.

The nucleus gives molecules even less degrees of freedom and a 
higher degree of specialisation, but also allow for a higher 
degree of complexity and adaptation of that colony of molecules.

With the appearance of multicellular organisms, even idividual 
cells can have different specialised functions. Less freedom, 
loss of omnipotency, but room for more complex and diverse 
organisms to form.

Communication, chemical signals, becomes more and more complex 
and more and more necessary.

Later on comes nervous systems and immune systems (are they not 
just different aspects of the same thing? Isn't the immune system 
just a floating brain, attempting to continously re-define 
"self"?)

Organisms form colonies, groups, packs, communities

Different groups of organisms form echo-systems

Communication, exchange of information, interaction, 
interpretation and adaptive behaviour becomes the essence of 
success.

Less freedom but more advantages...

Then cultures, religions, civilisations. (OK, I admit that this 
may be interpreted as a homocentric perspective. Maybe the tick 
is the top of the evolution, if there is such a thing. But in 
terms of continous increase of complexity, cultures and religions 
are good examplpes.)

Less freedom for the individual, still more specialised 
functions, less omnipotency but more advantages, more chances of 
survival and prosperity.

What's next?

And what's life?

Maybe life is all that communication that happens between cell 
divisions, between the formation of haploid cells and 
reproduction? Maybe life is not so much in the gene as 
inbetween...

I am writing this, partly inspired by a Danish biologist, Jesper 
Hoffmeyer, whom I do not know much about, but he has written a 
book on this issue which provoked my thoughts quite a lot. 
Unfortunately for most of you, the book is in Danish with the 
title "En snegl p} vejen" ("A snail on the road"), 1993.

Late Monday evening

Ingvar Eliasson, M.D., Ph.D.
Clinical microbiologist
Alive

--------------------------------------------------
 Ingvar Eliasson, M.D., Ph.D.
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 Ingvar.Eliasson at alinks.se

 Website: http://www.alinks.se/  (in Swedish only)
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