what is alive

Steve McGrew stevem at comtch.iea.com
Fri Sep 20 08:48:20 EST 1996


Mike O'Hara wrote:

>The more I look at this discussion and similar I have had over the 
>years, the more I think that the life is in the interactions, rather 
>than intrinsic to the creature. I also am not positing a soul. 
>
>I would then return to my original question re the BSE agent (and prions 
>etc generally) and suggest that the PrP 'system' is alive by the 
>definition of interacting information. It is also alive in that it is 
>part of a larger organism and its internal systems - or if not, at what 
>point in the reduction process does it lose 'life'?

        In other words, life is a matter of degree, not something that is 
"there" or "not there".  Perhaps a frozen spore is "less alive" than the same 
spore when it's germinating.  BSE is pretty low on the scale, ranking maybe 
slightly above ordinary crystals and slightly below clays-- and way below 
viruses.  I think that if we composed a list of tests for "degree" of the 
different features we attribute to life, and built a composite score from the 
tests, we would find that rocks and rivers would have to receive a nonzero 
score.

Steve


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