The Scientific Definition of LIFE
INTRODUCTION: The Scientific Definition of Life
What is life? What could this term possibly refer to?
a) An entity? If so, which one? Should we go on an expedition to compile a list?
b) A process? If so, what specific process distinguishes life from all other processes?
Even though Cosmologists are searching for life and Biologists are handling it, none of them can define this seemingly elusive term. They complain that it’s very challenging to define it, their brains hurt from thinking about it and it’s unfair to make such unreasonable demands of them. Why don’t we just give these poor fellas a break then? Nonetheless, Biologists have concluded that life is one of those terms that cannot be defined or understood. That’s why they can’t tell you whether DNA or viruses are alive; or whether DNA is the building block of life. When you can’t define, you have no clue.
This article will rationally define life in no ambiguous or contradictory terms so it can be used consistently in Science. The reader will understand that the term ‘life’ is a concept alluding to what is inherently dynamic. So whatever definition we can critically reason, it must necessarily describe the dynamic criterion that is common to all living entities in the Universe; whether we know about them or not.
Furthermore, this article will outright expose and embarrass Mathematicians, Cosmologists, Biologists and Theologians alike. So it’s probably best they ignore it and continue pretending that life cannot be defined. Science couldn’t care less. For those opposed to the rigors of the Scientific Method, ignorance is indeed bliss. Of course, it will upset many because it’ll destroy their long-held belief that only an all-knowing God can understand what life is. Regardless, this article can withstand the backlash unleashed by those who divorce themselves from Science and delve into mysticism.
WHAT IS BIOLOGY?
Science is the study of reality using the Scientific Method. Scientists use the Scientific Method to propose Hypotheses that will be used as a basis to rationally explain their Theories. All categories of Science are exclusively studied with the rigors of the Scientific Method.
Science: the study of reality (i.e. existence) for the purposes of accumulating a collection of rational explanations (i.e. Theories) for natural phenomena using the Scientific Method.
Science is categorized into several branches. For example, Physics is the general discipline that studies the bounty of the Universe: objects that exist.
Q: What is Biology?
A: Biology is a specific branch of Physics which exclusively studies objects we categorize as LIVING (alive, etc.).
Biology: the study of living objects.
MAINSTREAM ACADEMIA WHINES THAT LIFE IS TOO DIFFICULT TO DEFINE
Here is the challenge that mainstream Academics have been faced with:
“It is a challenge for scientists and philosophers to define life in unequivocal terms. This is difficult partly because life is a process, not a pure substance. Any definition must be sufficiently broad to encompass all life with which we are familiar, and must be sufficiently general to include life that may be fundamentally different from life on Earth.” -- Wikipedia
Poor babies! I mean, violinists should play some somber tunes while we cry rivers for our dear tormented Mathematicians, Biologists, Philosophers and Theologians. Tears aside, the taxpayers demand of them to define exactly what they are studying before they hand out their hard-earned income for irrelevant studies. It’s inconceivable that Academics with their fancy titles, Nobels, authority, Hollywood personas, arrogant attitudes et all, are whining like little spoiled brats when asked to provide a simple definition pertaining to their profession.
Since Mathematicians and Theologians alike believe in Creation and God, they’ve discarded the definition of ‘life’ as mysticism. Only God can possibly know what His Creation is, they argue. A convenient proclamation for the purposes of injecting mysticism into the discussion and dismissing the definition altogether. Some people think that only Theologians believe in Creation and God, but that’s clearly not the case. Many Mathematicians and Biologists in mainstream Academia believe in a Deistic God who hasn’t bestowed them with a Bible. The most notable celebrities being Biologist Richard Dawkins and Mathematician Lawrence Krauss:
"A serious case could be made for a deistic God." -- Richard Dawkins
“I actually think Deism, the possible existence of a divine intelligence is not an implausible postulate. And I won’t argue against it. It could be. I mean, the universe is an amazing place! So I think the possible existence of a divine intelligence is perfectly plausible and addresses some of the perplexing issues associated with the beginning of the universe. In fact, I should say it more clearly: science is incompatible with the doctrine of every single organized religion. It is not incompatible with Deism.” -- Lawrence Krauss
“There may be no evidence for purpose in the Universe, but that doesn’t imply that there is no purpose in the Universe. If tonight the stars spelled out ‘I AM HERE!’, then I think most scientists will say: you know, there’s something there.” -- Lawrence Krauss
“We take seriously the notion that there may be many different Universes….and the purpose of a Universe could be very blasé. Some Mathematician showed that you could build a Turing Machine with the Universe. So maybe such a Universe was created to calculate pi to 100 decimal places, and maybe that’s the purpose of the Universe.” -- Lawrence Krauss
“Maybe we are all in somebody’s computer simulation, maybe the entire Universe that we’re in is the product of a purposeful design of an alien intelligence that has put us into a simulation…that’s equivalent to saying that it’s a grand God of some sort, and I don’t have an objection to that.” -- Richard Dawkins
When the High Priests of mainstream quack-Academia believe in Creation, Design, Purpose and God, it’s no wonder they can’t define what life is. Now the reader understands why these crackpots whine and bellyache when cornered to provide the Scientific definition of life.
WHAT SINGLE CRITERION CAN DEFINE LIFE?
If we can critically reason how a living entity differs from a non-living one, we will be rewarded with the criterion that defines life.
The mainstream Academics already advanced the notion that living entities out there could be radically different than those on Earth. Let’s concede this just to make them happy, as it’s unnecessary to contemplate scenarios our definition can handle anyway.
So here’s what we’re tasked with: a sufficiently general definition for ‘life’ has to be transparent to all unknown compositions, characteristics and behaviors of any living entity, whether on Earth or anywhere in the Universe. Also, our definition must be unambiguous and satisfy their requirement with flying colors. Fair enough - we can handle this.
The term ‘life’ alludes to a process, not to any specific entity or composition. So we need to understand its core context before we can even begin to entertain a definition. The term ‘life’ is a linguistic noun in syntactical grammar for the purposes of formulating syntactically correct sentences. That’s fine and dandy, but reality couldn’t care less about mere syntax. Reality is all about the core meaning; i.e. context! Only the meaning of a term will elucidate its application to reality.
In its proper context, the term ‘life’ alludes to an abstract concept even though it’s a syntactical noun. But in order to prevent confusion over petty syntactical issues, we will define the Scientific category LIVING for these figurative “life” entities. This keeps us consistent with the definition of Biology. So instead of saying that an entity has ‘life’, for the sake of Scientific precision we will use the phrase: an entity is ‘living’ or ‘alive’. Remember, the term ‘life’ is an abstract concept we only use in ordinary speech. Biology studies first and foremost, entities – specifically, those categorized as LIVING. Biology does not study concepts, like ‘life’, or entities like rocks, rockets, stars and robots.
In their proper context, the terms living/alive are dynamic concepts. They allude to a process, an activity, etc. Of course, all entities, whether living or non-living undergo various dynamic processes because they are perpetually moving. Not a single object in the Universe is motionless as all objects are subjected to the perpetual influence of gravitational attraction. That seemingly motionless rock on the ground is actually moving due to Universal gravitation.
To make our definition as robust and to-the-point as possible, we will reason a single dynamic criterion that can be universally ascribed to living entities and yet simultaneously exclude inert ones.
We begin by understanding what a living entity does in and of itself; i.e. without other entities assisting it. Living entities undergo their own dynamics irrespective of the perpetual influence of gravitational pull from all the other entities in the Universe. Inert entities cannot accomplish such a feat. Inert entities are pulled by other entities without offering any resistance to them. Living entities necessarily resist the gravitational attraction from all other entities in the Universe.
A living entity moves on its own against gravity. Before a living entity can breathe, eat or reproduce, it must move against gravity to do so. Before a living entity can be analyzed to prove it’s made of cells, DNA, organic matter (CHNO) or whatever, it must move against gravity, otherwise nobody would study it as a living entity. Even for a cell, before it can nourish itself or reproduce, it must move against gravity. It is impossible for any natural entity to be alive unless it is resisting gravity.
Q: What is gravity?
A: Gravity is not a thing. Gravity is an action that things do; i.e. action-at-a-distance (AAAD) – they attract each other. Since gravity is a concept, the term must be defined.
Gravity: a phenomenon where objects pull each other in direct proportion to their matter and in inverse proportion to the square of the distance that separates them.
NOTE: For ease of readability, this article makes use of shorthand phrases such as “against gravity”, “resistance to gravity”, etc. to signify an object’s motion against the gravitational pull of all other objects in the Universe.
WHAT IS THE SCIENTIFIC DEFINITION OF LIFE?
A living entity does what no other entity can do by itself: move in a way that violates Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation: GMm/d². That’s funny, I remember my university Physics professors teaching us that Newton’s Universal Law cannot be violated. My Physics colleague even wrote his Doctoral Thesis on the immutability of Newton’s Laws. The Physics department was impressed and handed him a PhD degree. Could they have missed something? Could they be wrong? Was Newton wrong?
It turns out they were dead wrong! All living entities violate Newton’s Law because they move against the pull of gravity. A violation of gravitational attraction is termed: anti-gravitation. Living/alive are synonymous with the process of ‘natural anti-gravitation’. All entities, including living ones are gravitationally pulled by all the other entities in the Universe as described by Newton’s Law. Only living entities can, on their own, challenge/fight/resist the gravitational pull of all these entities. Living entities snub their noses at Universal Laws. Humans invent laws for the sole purpose of having them broken by violators.
What unequivocal definition can be rationally applied to all the living entities in the Universe and yet simultaneously distinguish them from all others?
Living: a term that refers to a natural object moving by itself against the gravitational pull from all the other objects.
Resistance to gravity is the only dynamic criterion which unambiguously and parsimoniously elucidates the context of the term ‘living’. It has eluded Mathematicians and Biologists for over 5000 years. And yet it’s sufficiently general enough to include living entities that may be fundamentally different from those on Earth. Our definition is crisp, clear and doesn’t delve into subjective irrelevancies or human opinion. I mean, what are we left with in the alternative?
“Since there is no unequivocal definition of life, the current understanding is descriptive.” -- Wikipedia
Really? Let’s test their current understanding then: Can a Biologist unequivocally describe for us any unknown living entity on the other side of the Universe?
Not! You see, even their current proposal fails. They have no definition whatsoever. Just petty guesses, subjective descriptions and human-enforced rules. Their proposal is unscientific and can only belong in Religion.
Our definition, on the other hand, truly solves and answers the painful challenges faced by Academics as outlined in the Wikipedia page on ‘life’. How embarrassing is that for our proud and spoiled Academics?
THE EMBARRASSED ARE LAUNCHING A WAR AGAINST SCIENCE!
Those whom I’ve embarrassed will venomously strike back by irrationally claiming that an entity is ‘living’ only if it:
a) has the ability to perform some innate activity W (i.e. think, sense, experience, self-replicate, etc.), and/or
b) performs an assisted activity X (i.e. pushed/pulled by another object), and/or
c) has characteristic Y, and/or
d) is comprised of a substance or component Z (i.e. DNA, amino acids, organic, inorganic, etc.)
But this necessarily leads to circularities and contradictions. You cannot place the cart before the horse. Merely satisfying the aforementioned conditions, does NOT constitute a definition for a ‘living’ entity.
Consider the following half-witted attempts to fight our Scientific definition:
1) Some claim that life is a self-sustaining process. Well, so are atmospheric phenomena, self-sustained within the atmosphere. Let’s hope Hurricane Katrina isn’t alive! One can attempt to argue that the Sun influences the atmosphere, but they shot their own foot since the same holds for any living entity on our planet. Without the Sun, life cannot be sustained here. POOF goes any attempt at a “self-sustained” argument!
2) Some claim that life is a chemical process that self-replicates. Before an entity can even begin to perform this activity (a), it had better move against gravity. Cells can self-replicate. People cannot self-replicate, otherwise they would make copies of themselves. Even if you argue that a woman gives birth (not self-replication), a sterile woman is alive but cannot give birth. POOF goes any attempt at a “self-replicate” argument!
3) Some claim that life is that which can evolve. Mountains and glaciers evolve but aren’t alive….for most of us anyway. How about that new cell replicated just a few second ago, but which died seconds later without evolving? Wasn’t it living? POOF goes any attempt at an “evolution” argument!
4) Are robots alive? A robotic machine with sensors easily satisfies conditions (a, b, c, d), but is not alive. Robots are not natural entities.
5) Thinking. Before an ant has the ability to think and pick up a bread crumb and satisfy condition (a), it had better be alive and move against gravity. A dead ant satisfies conditions (b, c, d) with flying colors. Whereas a living ant is necessarily resisting gravity AND satisfying all the after-the-fact conditions (a, b, c, d).
Painful lesson for those who insist on arguing with the mirror:
Loose terms, contradictions and Begging the Question won’t save your lost cause. Dogmatically forcing an entity (especially an unknown one on the other side of the Universe) to satisfy human-imposed conditions cannot form a basis for defining what a ‘living’ entity is! Human opinion and dogma always defeat any rational attempt at a definition. This is why Academia hasn’t offered a definition after 5000 years of ad-hoc opinions. Scientific definitions are objective and do not partake in any subjective human-imposed nonsense. Those embarrassed and angry folks need to acquire critical thinking skills to spot their contradictions. At the present time, Science is the least of their worries.
WHAT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL UNIT OF LIFE?
The fundamental unit of a living entity is the cell. Cells are the smallest natural entities that can move on their own against gravity. Hence, they are the building blocks of all living entities. DNA is neither the smallest life form nor the building block of life, as some irrationally assert without justification. DNA, amino acids and viruses are not living entities. They are inert molecules.
That AIDS virus on the toilet seat of a public bathroom is not waiting to crawl into your skin and swim inside your bloodstream. Neither can it die by pouring gasoline on it or setting it on fire. It’s not even alive to begin with. These entities can be transported by the bloodstream into your cells and replicated within the cellular environment. But they don’t move by themselves against gravity. DNA, viruses and aminos are not alive.
THOSE WITH AGENDAS DO NOT WANT YOU TO DEFINE LIFE
Believe it or not, there are people out there who will fight any rational definition of life because it destroys their personal or political agenda, whatever it may be. They go to extreme lengths to “convince” the unsuspecting public that it is impossible to unambiguously define the term.
They usually attempt to throw Philosophy and Religion into the equation by appealing to knowledge and mystery. Their goal is to obfuscate the issue and confuse the audience into thinking that only a God can possibly KNOW what a living entity really is. They take the discussion out of context by using the trickery of appealing to “characteristics” of living things. They argue that since we aren’t gods, we cannot possibly know all the yet “unknown”, “undiscovered” and perhaps “mysterious” characteristics of all living things. Once they’ve captivated the audience with this breathtaking argument, they continue to reel them in by proposing that perhaps all living things in the Universe don’t have a common characteristic. They whet your appetite for their argument by presenting you with a basic list of characteristics for living things:
· etc., etc….
They plant the seed in your mind that perhaps in a far-away galaxy, a living entity may not require nourishment or may not reproduce or grow. Maybe it assembles, lives for a day and dies. Perhaps in another galaxy a living entity may not be comprised of cells, DNA or organic compounds (CHNO). Its composition may be radically different than what we are familiar with here on Earth. They essentially argue that the Universe is MYSTERIOUS: everything is unknowable and anything is possible! Now that the audience is 100% convinced, they fell into the trap that it is impossible to define the term ‘living’ unambiguously. They claim that any definition will only be an opinion since it cannot account for a single common characteristic between all living things.
Wow! That’s quite the bulletproof argument, right? That mysterious Universe mumbo jumbo gets us every single time, right? I mean, we’ve just had our butts handed to us, right?
Hey….not so fast!
Let’s please them by taking their argument at face value. Let’s assume that there could be living things out there having no commonality with the living things we are familiar with here on Earth.
Regardless, their argument (more of an excuse) or any other argument they can conceive of is totally irrelevant!
Before a living entity (whatever it may look like) eats, reproduces or dies…..before it can be comprised of cells, DNA or whatever else…..before it can have any unknown or mysterious characteristics X, Y or Z,….before a human can invent excuse after excuse to make living entities forever MYSTERIOUS and out of our reach….. a living entity MUST be able to move on its own against gravity!
The only unambiguous and consistent characteristic that ALL living entities have in common is that they can move on their own against gravity. All inert entities lack this ability. Every single entity that can be categorized as ‘living’ is necessarily fighting gravity. Whether it nourishes itself, breathes, reproduces, or whatever; it must fight gravity to do so. Before we capture a mysterious living entity in a far-away galaxy and test it to determine whether it’s made up of cells, has DNA, has X, Y, Z, etc.; it must necessarily fight gravity. Otherwise we would not recognize it as a living entity for “study”. Basic reasoning 101.There are no exceptions. In fact, it is impossible to conceive of any exception!
THEIR LAST RESORT IS TO APPEAL TO FALLACIES
Those who’ve had their Religion destroyed by the Scientific definition of life have a few more persuasion tricks up their sleeve. They attempt to accuse you of not being a Biologist, of not having a PhD, of not having a following and being popular within a voted community or sect.
These are classic fallacies of Authority, Popularity and Absolutism. They are also circular because they cannot answer the question of who was the first super-duper Authority who baptized all other individuals as alleged authorities. And who baptized the very first Authority? Was it God or a petty non-authority? Simple reasoning easily exposes these contradictions.
Think about it: if no so-called Biologist has ever been able to define the term life in the history of the human race, then how can anyone be so conceited as to authoritatively usurp the title of “Biologist”? I mean, how can a Biologist be tasked with studying living entities when he hasn’t the slightest clue what life is? Just what exactly is he “studying”? Does he even know? Today, a Biologist is nothing more than a lab technician – a corporate sponsored robot.
Scientific definitions are objective and stand on their own, regardless of human-invented trickery to oppose them. They are not subject to popular vote (consensus of opinion). Science is predicated on the objectivity of the Scientific Method. What is purported to be “authoritative” or “popular” has nothing to do with Science. In Science we don’t put a gun to your head and force you believe in and kneel down to High Priests like they do in Religion. Science recognizes no authorities, no dogma and no popularity! Science is about having unambiguous definitions in your Hypotheses and rational explanations in your Theories. Opinion, human emotion and Nobel beauty pageants are divorced from Science.
This was their last feeble attempt to chip away at the Scientific definition of life they so despise. These folks aren’t interested in Science or the Scientific Method. No, they are fighting a personal or political war.
In Science, objectivity always kills subjectivity without anyone having to open their mouth in protest. It would behoove these folks to take an introductory course in Science before chasing their tails in circular arguments, fallacies and other contradictions.
A natural entity is categorized as ‘living’ if it moves on its own against the gravitational pull of all other objects in the Universe. Inert entities cannot move in this specific manner.
Despite what Mathematicians, Biologists, Philosophers and Religionists alike prefer to teach their students, the definition of ‘life’ is no mystery!
More by this Author
Some people don't understand what a concept is, how it relates objects and why it's our fundamental unit of understanding. Without understanding the difference between objects and concepts, you won't understand how word...
What Is an Object? People often use the word “object” without having a clue what it means. Physics is the study of objects; real objects which are said to exist. Physics does not study something which...
Introduction Many car audio fanatics will use a power capacitor as an alleged secondary, passive storage device to supply current to their amplifiers. The capacitor is advertised to act as a supplemental power supply...