what is alive?

Arthur Chandler arthurc at crl.com
Wed Sep 18 13:38:17 EST 1996

Steve McGrew (stevem at comtch.iea.com) wrote:
:         I think a lot of the problem people have with the concept of "what is 
: alive" may come from the idea that there is a "spirit" that enters leaves the 
: body upon birth and leaves upon death: an on/off kind of quantity called 
: "life".  In the context of current medical, biological, biochemical and 
: cybernetic knowledge, that idea is nonsense.  If "life" is to be something 
: science deals with, it must be measurable, quantifiable-- and probably not a 
: binary quantity.

  Death does have a binary feel to it. Say a person is walking down the 
street -- mind full of ideas, the muscles all working together, eyes 
taking in the environment... and then, a bullet through the brain. 
Instant death. It doesn't do much good to urge, "Well, the e coli are 
still churing away, the hair is still growing, etc." The whole person is 
dead -- irreversably dead. All those coordinated efforts have been shut 
down, never to be restarted. 
  Looks awfully binary to me.

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