what is alive

Mike O'Hara mohara at ihug.co.nz
Thu Sep 19 10:07:19 EST 1996

This thread has really gone on and although some my consider this type 
of discussion sophmoric, I think that science (and not just philosophy) 
should tackle some of the hard questions.

Johnjoe McFadden makes some interesting comments and I'd like to throw a 
few metaphorical cats (not Schrodingers) among these pigeons.

Johnjoe talks about imposition of will and the implication almost has to 
be that this 'will' is separate and independent - a rock (read 
earthquake) can certainly impose its will on you. Again this is 
anthrocentric. Further, the rock is more capable of 'resisting change 
within its own body' than most RNA viruses (high mutation rates).

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'?

"Bigger bugs have little bugs, upon their backs to bite 'em..
and little bugs have lesser bugs, and so ad infinitum." 


Mike O'Hara

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