Here’s the abstract:
There is a huge variety of RNA- and DNA-containing entities that multiply within and propagate between cells across all kingdoms of life, having no cells of their own. Apart from cellular organisms these entities (viroids, plasmids, mobile elements and viruses among others) are the only ones with distinct genetic identities but which are not included in any traditional tree of life. We suggest to introduce or, rather, revive the distinct category of acellular organisms, Acytota, as an additional, undeservedly ignored full-fledged kingdom of life. Acytota are indispensable players in cellular life and its evolution. The six traditional kingdoms (Cytota) and Acytota together complete the classification of the biological world (Biota), leaving nothing beyond.
But philosopher of biology James Barham is not so certain. He kindly writes to say,
In my opinion, this is an important-and deeply misguided-concept.
It is obvious that viruses, plasmids, and such are degenerate, parasitic molecules. They cannot exist independently of cells, and never could have.
To label them a separate form of “life” is seriously misleading, because it insinuates that they are somehow transitional, which they cannot be.
Worse than that, It perpetuates the myth that replication is the essence of life, whereas in truth replication is always and everywhere a function under cellular control.
Metabolism—i.e., the functional (intelligent) control by the cell of the cell’s environment and the cell itself for the sake of maintaining itself in existence—is the essence of life, and obviously only occurs in full-blown cells.
Readers! Can’t sleep? Think this one out overnight!
Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista: Much thanks for all the years of great tips! Keep ‘em coming!
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