Bacteria and Viruses?

Ed Rybicki ED at MOLBIOL.UCT.AC.ZA
Tue Sep 10 05:20:32 EST 1996


> To:            mol-evol at net.bio.net
> From:          Louis van de Zande <L.P.W.G.M.van.de.Zande at biol.rug.nl>
> Subject:       Re: Bacteria and Viruses?
...
> It is ever so tempting to point to the self-appointed guru that 
> things may be not as simple as proposed. So when Rybicki says:
> 
> > Yes...B-)...and Yes and no...but both need qualification.  ...
> 
> he is adressing part of the problem and even avoiding a clear answer 
> (obviously because there is none). But the worst is yet to come!

But the self-appointed guru is gently pointing out here that things 
are NOT as simple as proposed - that is, that "viruses are simpler 
than bacteria".  So where is the problem?  Especially as you point 
out that "..he is...avoiding a clear answer (obviously because there 
is none)"...!!"

And the WORST is yet to come?  Really?  Attempting to answer
someone's question on a topic to which I have given much thought, in
a way that I have used in lectures for 16 years, is the WORST?

> > As for being alive: yes, viruses in a cell, actively replicating, 
are ...

> A virus IN a cell, usually is no longer its former entity, but has 
> injected its genome into the cell. Now the genome is the living 
> thing? I'm not so sure about that. It all ends up a in definition of 
> LIFE. But nobody can give that. 

No-one said the genome was alive: in fact, I make a good case in my
undergraduate lectures for NOT considering isolated genomes -
whether they be viral, bacterial, or nuclear - to be alive.  I am
saying the "viruses may be considererd to be alive when they are
actively replicating in a cell", which is not the same thing at all.

And as for definitions of life: yes, they can - and have, at length,
in many places.  My favourite:

"Life is the phenomenon associated with the replication of 
self-coding informational systems".

Chew on that, Louis....

                     Ed Rybicki, PhD  
      Dept Microbiology     |   ed at molbiol.uct.ac.za   
   University of Cape Town  | rybicki at uctvms.uct.ac.za
   Private Bag, Rondebosch  |  phone: x27-21-650-3265
      7700, South Africa    |   fax: x27-21-689 7573
    WWW URL: http://www.uct.ac.za/microbiology/ed.html      
                                        
    "Out here on the perimeter, there are no stars..."



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