Are viruses alive?

Alfredo Penzo apenzo at
Fri Nov 10 06:19:27 EST 1995

   From a precedent article:
:: A recent disucussion into the nature of life and, specifically, viruses
:: made me wonder if a virus is alive. Since a virus can lie dormant for
:: extremely long periods of time and then begin replicating itself in the
:: presence of a host, is it, indeed, in "control"? Is it replicating itself
:: or is the host replicating it? Is the fact that a virus may be carried by
:: one species with no deleterious effects because that carrier hasn't the 
:: proper raw materials to allow or instigate replication? Also, in a species
:: where the virus is harmful or even fatal, does it stop because the virus
:: has run out of "fuel" or, if the host is in control, because it no longer
:: has the ability to continue supplying either energy or raw materials?

::I have no background in biology so I apologize if my questions are
:: ridiculous.

      As to if viruses are or not alive, the question is closely related to an older one: What is life? (20 points if you can answer this!) definition are based on classifying parameters, and we have not, until now, found a set enabling to define life without serious execeptions.

       I believe that we have not, and we will not, found such a parameters set simply because it doesn't exist: the frontier between living an inanimated realms would be a dizzy one, with no trascendental point.  The same goes, for exemple, with animals and plants: is easy to classify higher forms but its becomes impossible with organimsms as 
euglena (unicellular being, photosynthetic under light but becoming pigmentless in dark).

       And don't worry if you are not a recognized biologist...... this just talkin'!

							A. P.

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