Life is often defined in basic biology textbooks in terms of a list of distinctive properties that distinguish living systems from non-living. Although there is some overlap, these lists are often different, depending upon the interests of the authors. Each attempt at a definition is inextricably linked to a theory from which it derives its meaning (Benner 2010). Some biologists and philosophers even reject the whole idea of there being a need for a definition since life for them is an irreducible fact about the natural world. Others see life simply as that which biologists study.
There have been three main philosophical approaches to the problem of defining life that remain relevant today: Aristotle’s view of life as animation, a fundamental, irreducible property of nature; Descartes’s view of life as mechanism; and Kant’s view of life as organization, to which we need to add Darwin’s concept of variation and evolution through natural selection (Gayon 2010; Morange 2008).
How do you know if something is alive?
Now, this may seem like a straightforward question, it isn’t nearly that easy to answer. Fortunately, biologists have developed a list of eight characteristics shared by all living organisms. Characteristics are traits or qualities. Here is the list of characteristics shared by living things:
- Cellular organization
- Response to stimuli
- Growth and development
- Adaptation thru evolution
Life is the one major value thru out the entire universe
It is the one central thing that we humans have to understand and fully incorporate on all levels of our thinking. Whatever we are doing, whatever we are deciding, Life has to be all the time the most precious and highest value in all of it. We have to preserve Life. We have to protect life. We have to respect life. Under all circumstances. Life is the most important thing we all have to put in place for our orientation. It doesn’t matter what it is that we are doing, life has always to be the central value.
It is very easy to take something for granted just because it has been given to you by birth. If you would have been asked to create life, you will not be able to create it. These days, we are speaking a lot about artificial intelligence. It reminds somehow of a well-known story. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley (1797–1851) that tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Frankenstein was a genius. As a boy, Frankenstein always wanted to know and learn. He loved experimenting. Frankenstein grew up to be a doctor. One day, Frankenstein was sitting in his library when a thought struck him, “Could he take pieces of the human body and make a perfect human being?” The question rankled in his brain. “But what about giving this mass of flesh, life.” He questioned himself. The answer came to him almost instantly. “Electricity, a great big shock of electric current.”
The value of life is connected with a lot of responsibility. On planet earth, the species of human is sharing the space with other life forms like animals. As we humans are born and set out on this wonderful blue planet, we were never given any guide how we are should live. Most of the time we were and still are focused only on ourselves. This selfishness is currently valid for a single human as well as for the race of mankind. We like very much to praise ourselves individually and also our species. But we have never learned how we are connected with each other, with the environment and with the universe. Instead, we have developed a very high level of arrogance and at the same time also a very high level of ignorance. Ignorance of these mechanisms in which we are living in and from which we all are part of. Ignorance of other life forms such as animals and plants. Ignorance of our responsibility for being part of this interconnected mechanism.
You know, our arrogance and ignorance have made us from the beginning of our existence to fight against each other. Humans were fighting for all kind of reasons against each other and we are still doing so. The results of this kind of behaviour are always the same: destruction.
Each human is an individual. With individual skills and individual capabilities. The needs of one human being are by nature, by definition, the same as for any other human. We are calling this layer “personal”.
Starting with 2 humans and more, it is the beginning of a society. We are calling this layer “community”. Currently, our community counts roughly 7.5 billion humans.
We are sharing this wonderful planet earth with other life forms. These life forms and the planet itself we are calling our “environment”. So, the 3 layers of the interconnected universal mechanism are:
Needs: Water, food, air, sleep, shelter, sex, love, communication, transportation, medical treatment
Needs: Efficiency and Abundance
For all 3 layers, the main guiding value is life
If anything is destructive or life hostile, it will be discontinued. Immediately.
If an action from a human (personal) effects the community or the environment in a destructive or life hostile way, it has to be discontinued.
If an action from the community effects an individual (person) or the environment in a destructive or life hostile way, it has to be discontinued.
Following these guidelines will create a harmonic interaction with all life forms. Therefore, the environment will not react in any bad way to a person or to the community.
Currently, as our actions as individuals and as a community are for 100% destructive and life hostile, the environment (the earth) is trying to get rid of us. A comparable example for this you can think about and infection in our body. As a first reaction, our immune system is also trying to get rid of the intruders in the way of raising the temperature – it creates a fever. Is it not possible for the body to render the harm with the fever and the infection is still persistent, the body will take the next necessary step of protection and shut down the complete system – death.
Our home planet earth is telling us since more than 40 years that our actions are causing destruction. We have received already many clear signs of the “fever” the earth has activated in the hope to bring us humans back to reason. As we are still persistent, the universe has to activate the assistance. One possible form of such an assistance can be the hit of an asteroid on the planet earth.
If we want to live, it is now time to stop all actions which are destructive and/or life hostile.
The probability that the universe steps into assistance for the rescue of the planet earth, which is approximately 4.54 billion years old, is at this moment at about 90%. We still have a chance to change things for the better. But for this, we have to change fundamentally some things in our current mindset. The simple descriptions in this article can be a guide for us all.
The universal mechanism
If the actions of a person or the community affect the environment in a destructive or life hostile way and will not be discontinued, the environment will respond in a bad way towards the community.
Should the environment of the planet not be able to bring back the status of harmonic interaction again, the universe will step into assistance and perform actions that either erase the community or forces them to re-establish the status.
The first characteristic of life we listed was cellular organization. This simply means that living things are made of cells. Cells are the most basic unit of life. It doesn’t matter if those cells are plants, animals, fungi, or bacteria. If something is going to be alive, it must be made of cells.
Second is the reproduction. If something is alive it must be capable of reproducing. Multicellular life forms such as humans reproduce sexually, while unicellular life forms like bacteria reproduce asexually. The important thing to remember is that, in either case, living things reproduce.
Next is metabolism. Metabolism is essentially a collection of chemical reactions occurring within the body (or cell). These reactions vary in form and function but promote processes such as protein synthesis, chemical digestion, cell division, or energy transformation. Because metabolism includes reactions that link to other characteristics, it is sometimes grouped with those other characteristics. However, for our purposes, we’ll keep metabolism separate.
The fourth characteristic is homeostasis. Homeostasis is the term used to describe maintaining a stable internal environment. In other words, think about how our bodies maintain a constant body temperature or how blood sugar levels are consistent. If homeostasis is disrupted, and we spike a fever, it’s an indication that something is threatening life. The same holds true with blood sugar. When it gets too high or too low, homeostasis is disrupted, and unfortunately, this can be deadly. Therefore, maintaining homeostasis is a vital characteristic of life.
Next, we come to heredity. Heredity means that our genetic information can be passed from one generation to another. If either of your parents has dark eyes, and you also have dark eyes, it’s because of heredity.
Response to stimuli is the next characteristic of our countdown. This is simply a reaction to an internal or external force. This is something you’ve probably witnessed already. Think about a sunflower tilting towards the sun, a dog panting when hot, or trees losing their leaves in the fall when sunlight levels decrease. All living things respond to stimuli in some manner; to see it, all we have to do is look.
The seventh characteristic of life is that living things all grow and develop, which simply means they become bigger and mature. Consider yourself as an example. You were a baby, then a toddler, then a young child, etc… Today, you’re probably an adult. Consider this butterfly as another example.
The largest scientific study of its kind estimates that Earth could play host to more than 1 trillion different species, which means we’ve probably only identified a vanishingly small proportion of them – only about one-thousandth of 1 percent.
To figure this out, biologists in the US combined more than 35,000 separate analyses of microscopic and non-microscopic species. This massive compilation of documented life forms covered 5.6 million species sampled from locations across all the world’s oceans and land masses (excluding Antarctica), and if the scientists are correct in their estimates, we’ve got a long way to go before we’ll have seen all that Earth has to offer.
A new study suggests, that many other planets throughout the universe probably hosted intelligent life long before Earth did.