Definition of life Intelligent Design Origin Of Life

What is Life?

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Without a good definition of life, how do we look for it on alien planets? Steven Strogatz speaks with Robert Hazen, a mineralogist and astrobiologist, and Sheref Mansy, a chemist, to learn more.

Scientists don’t really agree on a definition for life. We may recognize life instinctively most of the time, but any time we try to nail it down with set criteria, some stubborn counterexample spoils the effort. Still, can we really search for life on other worlds, or understand the earliest stages of life on this planet, if we don’t know what to look for? On this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with Robert Hazen, a mineralogist, astrobiologist and senior staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, along with Sheref Mansy, professor of chemistry at the University of Alberta, to learn more about how new taxonomies and a “cellular Turing test” might help us answer this essential question.

Transcript

Steven Strogatz (00:02): I’m Steve Strogatz, and this is The Joy of Why, a podcast from Quanta Magazine that takes you into some of the biggest unanswered questions in math and science today.

In this episode, we’re going to be talking about what it means to be alive. What is life? Can you define it? 

The question of what life is also matters, because if we’re going to be looking for life on other planets, don’t we need to at least have some idea of what we’re looking for?

Strogatz (01:40): Great. Well, let’s jump right into this. Why is it so hard for scientists to agree on something that, common-sensically, most people would say they already understand? Like, we know that a plant is alive and a rock is not. Why is it so hard to come to some agreement about the definition of life?

Hazen (01:57): Yeah, that seems strange, doesn’t it? Because we all know things that are alive. And we all know things that aren’t alive. And yet, it’s that gray area in between. So when we start saying, this is alive and this is dead, that’s fine. But when you say everything either has to be alive or dead, you’re setting up a false dichotomy. Because the taxonomy of what it means to be alive, I think is much, much richer than just dead or alive.

Hazen (02:29): Well, think about it, you have an origin of life. So, that’s a really good metric. There was a point in our Earth’s history when there wasn’t a single living thing. It was a blasted surface, it was covered with volcanoes and magma, and it was just basically inhospitable. There was no place that life could even get a tiny foothold. But gradually, as the Earth cooled, as oceans formed, as the atmosphere became more palatable for some kind of living thing, we think there was a process. A historical process, the origin of life, in which chemical systems became gradually more complex, became more interesting. And at some point, yes, there was a first cell that probably had proteins and DNA. But there had to be something before that, and where do you draw the line? It’s just difficult to say there’s an absolute point in space and time when there was no life, and then the next point in space and time there was.

(05:21): But life is very, very particular. And one thing I think we can say is, if something is alive, it’s going to put its energy into making a few molecules that work really well. And ignoring the vast number of molecules that don’t do much of anything. So, if you have a system that has the biological overprint, it’s going to show very specific groups of molecules. Maybe molecules that are what are called “chiral,” or left- and right-handed, maybe you’ll have a predominance of just the left-handed or just the right-handed molecule. Maybe you’ll have just strings of carbon that have multiples of 2, 2-4-6-8, rather than all the other odd numbers as well. Maybe you’ll have some other characteristic that wouldn’t form just by a random process, but forms by a selective process. So that’s what NASA was looking for. And I think that’s a smart thing to do.

Strogatz (06:13): That’s very interesting. The idea of chemical selectivity, you say, could be or at least was proposed by NASA to be a possible — well, nowadays, we speak of biosignatures, I don’t know if that would be the language they would have used at that time.

Hazen (06:26): Yeah, exactly right. That you’re looking for biosignatures. So I think if you see those chemical idiosyncrasies, you can say, wow, something really interesting happened here. And it doesn’t look like just the normal natural process, it looks like there was some real selection for function. Molecules that did a job, you know, they metabolized or they, they help build strong cellular structures or something like that. So, I think that’s what they were looking for.

Strogatz (10:31): So then, getting back to NASA for a second, are there are some kinds of things that you think they should be looking for when searching for life on other planets? Or should they just be kind of going for the most glorious, rich, bountiful taxonomy they can come up with?

Hazen (10:46): Aha! Why not both? Because, you think about it. One thing we do have a hunch about is habitability. That is sort of the range of temperature, pressure, composition. A water-rich world, a sunlit world, you have to have energy, you have to have various other criteria that allow chemical systems to do interesting things. If it’s, if it’s, everything’s molten, or a vapor, it’s much too hot. If everything’s frozen, and nothing moves, like on Pluto, then that seems much too cold. So, so we do think there’s some sweet spots. And we do think there are things we can look for, like liquid water, or some other fluid, but water is the only one that really seems to do the job.

(11:28) We need to look for carbon-based molecules, because it seems like carbon’s the only element that forms the kind of richly varied backbones that you need for the structures of what we think of as life. And I really don’t believe in cloud-based life or, you know, electronic life, or life in a plasma or something like that. I mean, that just, you don’t see the kinds of structures that you need, that spell what I think of as the complexity of a living system. So there are parameters, and that’s what NASA is looking for. Let’s look for water-rich worlds, let’s look for worlds that have the right kind of temperature and pressure and atmospheric composition. And rocks and minerals play a really interesting role. And they provide all sorts of chemical elements in addition to carbon, that might be essential for a complex chemical system.

Strogatz (15:39): Wow. It’s a cosmic thought. You know, I’m sort of encouraged by how quickly life started here. Speaking of geology, like let’s put it in a geological perspective. Give me the numbers, roughly, how old the Earth is and how soon it starts to teem with life.

Hazen (15:56): Sure. So, Earth began to form at 4.567 billion years ago. And it was not habitable for the first period of time. It may have had a window of habitability for a few tens of millions of years, and then that huge impact, the Theia impact that formed the moon, and that just smooshed everything — the whole planet was encircled by a magma ocean, glowing, red hot, that had to cool. So that may have been 4.45 billion years ago, I think, something on that order, maybe as recently as 4.4. But that’s the kind of extreme beginning date that we can think about. And we know that by 3.8, life was well established. We have stromatolites, we have other signs of life that were clearly there.

(16:47) So that’s a block of, what, 600 million years, but I think life started much, much more quickly. But that’s a hunch, I think probably we are looking at millions or tens of millions of years for a process to occur. If it’s going to happen, you know, chemistry, you’ve got a vast surface area of Earth, you’ve got millions of years to play with, you’ve got all different kinds of chemical systems and fluxes. And so, Earth is a great experimental laboratory for chemistry. And with hundreds of millions of years to play with over the entire surface of the planet. Wow, that’s, that’s a lot of combinations of chemicals you can try. And life pops out of it.

OK, that’s enough. This lengthy transcript contains much more dialog, but from a scientifically sensible point of view, I think we’ve reached the end of the track… “And life pops out of it.” What kind of science is that?! Surely, it’s not too difficult to understand how utterly improbable it is for even a single protein molecule to “pop out” of a random mix of abiotic ingredients, let alone a living cell, with its exponentially greater complexity.

The full transcript can be read at Quanta Magazine.

39 Replies to “What is Life?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to: “And so, Earth is a great experimental laboratory for chemistry. And with hundreds of millions of years to play with over the entire surface of the planet. Wow, that’s, that’s a lot of combinations of chemicals you can try. And life pops out of it.”

    But alas for there imaginary scenario of “life pops out of it”, (i.e. out of the imagined primordial soup), and as Dr. Ross noted, “All the carbonaceous material, we see in the entire geological record of the earth, has the signature of being post-biotic not pre-biotic. Which means planet earth never had a primordial soup.”

    “We get that evidence from looking at carbon 12 to carbon 13 analysis. And it tells us that in Earth’s oldest (sedimentary) rock, which dates at 3.80 billion years ago, we find an abundance for the carbon signature of living systems. Namely, that life prefers carbon 12. And so if you see a higher ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 13 that means that carbon has been processed by life. And it is that kind of evidence that tells us that life has been abundant on earth as far back as 3.80 billion years ago (when water was first present on earth).,,, And that same carbon 12 to carbon 13 analysis tells us that planet earth, over it entire 4.5662 billion year history has never had prebiotics. Prebiotics would have a higher ratio of carbon 13 to carbon 12. All the carbonaceous material, we see in the entire geological record of the earth, has the signature of being post-biotic not pre-biotic. Which means planet earth never had a primordial soup. And the origin of life on earth took place in a geological instant” (as soon as it was possible for life to exist on earth).?”
    – Dr. Hugh Ross – Origin Of Life Paradox (No prebiotic chemical signatures)- video (40:10 minute mark)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=UPvO2EkiLls#t=2410?

    Further notes,

    Was Earth born with life already on it? – Sept. 24, 2016
    Excerpt: Living organisms?—?as far as we’ve been able to biologically observe?—?seem to prefer to uptake carbon-12 to carbon-13, due to metabolic enzymes reacting with carbon-12 more efficiently. If you find an ancient source of carbon and it’s enhanced with carbon-12 as opposed to carbon-13, that’s a good indicator that it’s the remnants of an organic life-form. By looking for graphite, a form of pure carbon, deposited in otherwise highly metamorphosed rocks,,, we’ve been able to push back well beyond that 1–2 billion year barrier, and had placed the emergence of Earth-life all the way back to 3.8 billion years ago, or just some 750 million years after Earth formed. But as of 2015, we’ve done even better.
    By finding graphite deposits in zircons that are 4.1 billion years old, graphite deposits that show this carbon-12 enhancement, we now have evidence that life on Earth goes back at least 90% of Earth’s history, and possibly even longer!
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....st-formed/

    Life on Earth may date back 3.95 bn years: study – September 27, 2017
    Excerpt: life may have existed on Earth 3.95 billion years ago, a time when our infant planet was being bombarded by comets and had hardly any oxygen, researchers said Wednesday.,,,
    “Our samples are also the oldest supracrustal rocks preserved on Earth”—a type similar to the formation which contained the Quebec samples.,,,
    For the new study, Komiya and a team studied graphite, a form of carbon used in pencil lead, in rocks at Saglek Block in Labrador, Canada.
    They measured its isotope composition, the signature of chemical elements, and concluded the graphite was “biogenic”—meaning it was produced by living organisms.
    https://phys.org/news/2017-09-life-earth-date-bn-years.html

    Evolution Just Got Harder to Defend By Eric Metaxas | September 14, 2016
    Excerpt: These life forms came into existence virtually overnight (3.7 billion years ago),, “[g]enetic code, proteins, photosynthesis, the works.”
    This appearance of fully-developed life forms so early in the fossil record led Dr. Abigail Allwood of Caltech to remark that “life [must not be] a fussy, reluctant and unlikely thing.” Rather, “[i]t will emerge whenever there’s an opportunity.”
    Pardon me? If life occurs so spontaneously and predictably even under the harshest conditions, then it should be popping up all over the place! Yet scientists still cannot come close to producing even a single cell from raw chemicals in the lab.
    Dr. Stephen Meyer explains in his book “Signature in the Cell” why this may be Darwinism’s Achilles heel. In order to begin evolution by natural selection, you need a self-replicating unit. But the cell and its DNA blueprint are too complicated by far to have arisen through chance chemical reactions. The odds of even a single protein forming by accident are astronomical. So Meyer and other Intelligent Design theorists conclude that Someone must have designed and created the structures necessary for life.
    Meanwhile Darwinists, faced with a fossil record that theoretically pushes the origin of life back further into the past, are forced to assume the metaphorical can opener. They just don’t know how these early cells came into existence, and the more we dig up, the more improbable—rather than likely—life becomes.
    – Eric Metaxas
    http://cnsnews.com/commentary/.....der-defend

    Verse:

    John 1:3-4
    Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    What is Life? is one of the Big Questions that Evolutionism hopes to distract from because Evolutionists don’t like the answer.

    Andrew.

  3. 3
    JVL says:

    Asauber: What is Life? is one of the Big Questions that Evolutionism hopes to distract from because Evolutionists don’t like the answer.

    Just curious: what answer do you think ‘evolutionists’ don’t like? Regard what is life not how did life begin. I always find things like viruses are really hard to categorise as live or not.

  4. 4
    relatd says:

    To anyone,

    Please send me one “How to Make Life Chemistry Set.”

  5. 5
    asauber says:

    “what answer do you think ‘evolutionists’ don’t like?”

    JVL,

    That life is a gift of the Creator. Evolution can’t provide it.

    Andrew

  6. 6
    JVL says:

    Asauber: That life is a gift of the Creator. Evolution can’t provide it.

    Ah, yes, that answer would not be very acceptable to unguided evolutionary adherents.

  7. 7
    Upright BiPed says:

    .

    what answer do you think ‘evolutionists’ don’t like?

    At bottom, science can measure the effects of physical generalities (laws) from initial conditions. This can be done successfully to both lifeless objects and living beings themselves. The problem then becomes what was highlighted in a question asked by Karl Pearson in 1892: “How, therefore, we must ask, is it possible for us to distinguish the living from the lifeless if we can describe both conceptually by the motion of inorganic corpuscles?” Over seven decades ago the answer to that question was predicted in a series of lectures presented at the Hixon symposium, with luminaries of the evolutionary biology community present. Those predictions were then confirmed via experiment in the 1950s and 1960s. Nobel awards were handed out. Life is caused to exist by a symbolic control hierarchy — as has since been documented in the physics literature. Mainstream evolutionary biologists have never fully integrated that fact, they resist it against all evidence to the contrary. (Just as you do).

    7 minutes

  8. 8
    JVL says:

    Upright BiPed: Life is caused to exist by a symbolic control hierarchy — as has since been documented in the physics literature. Mainstream evolutionary biologists have never fully integrated that fact, they resist it against all evidence to the contrary. (Just as you do)..

    I’m just trying to deal with all the publicly available evidence. Fred Hickson seems to have good reasons for disagreeing with you and considering that no one in the semiotic community has publicly come out in favour of a design paradigm does that not make you, at least a little, wonder if your interpretation of the data and research is correct?

  9. 9
    TAMMIE LEE HAYNES says:

    Asauber: That life is a gift of the Creator. Evolution can’t provide it.

    As a Creationist, I am forced to say that this is a most inadequate defitniton.
    Here are two reasons:
    1) The SUN is also gift of the Creator. And that Evolution can’t provide it. But the sun is not life.
    2) It doesnt deal with important distinctions, such whether viruses are alive. A decent defintion of life would include make that disticntion.

  10. 10
    JVL says:

    Tammie: It doesnt deal with important distinctions, such whether viruses are alive. A decent defintion of life would include make that disticntion.

    What do you think? Are viruses alive?

  11. 11
    asauber says:

    TLH,

    Yes, the definition is inadequate for other specific things, but it’s enough for what JVL was asking.

    Andrew

  12. 12
    asauber says:

    TLH,

    I think it can also be argued that the sun is necessary for life. But we digress off the point.

    Andrew

  13. 13
    Upright BiPed says:

    .

    Every time you try to defend your position, you repeat the logical fallacy ingrained in your reasoning. You can do nothing else.

    You have been given an inference to design in biology that you cannot refute. In fact, you were eventually forced to agree to the historical and experimental facts that support the inference. But you chose to deny that inference based on the use of a common logical fallacy. You denied the inference not based on the actual experimental facts and data that researchers have documented in the literature, but by the undemonstrated opinions of authorities. You actually reasoned that recorded history and documented experimental results are invalidated by the mere speculation of authority figures. When this was brought to your attention, you simply repeated the fallacy, and can now do no more than repeat it again and again.

    This has all been documented in excruciating detail on these pages over a long period of time. The exchanges where you launch your fallacies have been copied and pasted (and put back in front of you) dozens of times. In fact, you have basically become is a lab rat – a demonstration – on how an educated ID critic repeatedly avoids and denies documented science and history that they cannot even begin to refute — universal physical evidence that is not even controversial. You then made matters worse by enthusiastically endorsing the exact same design inference that you completely deny to ID. This is the double-standard fallacy we’ve talked about many many times And here again, when confronted with this, you became patently dishonest – suggesting that you said things you never said. You were even willing to blow up your entire (enthusiastic) reasoning — just to avoid having to deal with the obvious contradictions you put on the table. And all along, you attack me in order to divert attention away from the incoherence in your reasoning.

    You admit to none of this. You admit to none of this, no matter how many times your own words are copied and pasted and put back in front of you. This is the lab rat demonstration – which you never fail, and will not fail the next time I put it in front of you (as we all will observe). If you respond to this comment with a defense of your reasoning, you will do it again.

  14. 14
    Fred Hickson says:

    UB at it again. 😉

    Who is “You” in the above diatribe?

  15. 15
    Fred Hickson says:

    UB at it again. 😉

    Who is “You” in the above diatribe?

  16. 16
    dogdoc says:

    The Hixon symposium was about brains and behavior, right? Can’t find any references to “symbolic control hierarchy” or any related Nobel prizes. UB can you provide any pointers to see what you’re talking about?

  17. 17
    JVL says:

    Asauber: Yes, the definition is inadequate for other specific things, but it’s enough for what JVL was asking.

    Does that mean you can decide if viruses are alive or not?

  18. 18
    jerry says:

    viruses are alive or not

    They are not alive.

  19. 19
    asauber says:

    “Does that mean you can decide if viruses are alive or not?”

    JVL,

    No. It means you don’t like the answer I referenced. You’re whole erroneous view flows forth from this dislike.

    Andrew

  20. 20
    JHolo says:

    The question would be, if viruses aren’t alive, what is the condition that determines that they aren’t alive?

  21. 21
    chuckdarwin says:

    BA77/1
    So now you’re citing Eric Metaxas as an authority on evolution?

  22. 22
    jerry says:

    as an authority on evolution

    Who would recommend?

    How about Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe or Stephen Meyer? They probably know more than anyone.

    Actually, Metaxas has some interesting insights.

  23. 23
    bornagain77 says:

    ChuckyD, Metaxas did not even cite himself as an authority but appealed to Stephen Meyer and his book “Signature in the Cell”.

    And to give a taste of just how detached from reality Darwinian Atheists actually are,

    Origin: Probability of a Single Protein Forming by Chance
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1_KEVaCyaA

    Mathematical Basis for Probability Calculations Used in (the film) Origin
    Excerpt: Putting the probabilities together means adding the exponents. The probability of getting a properly folded chain of one-handed amino acids, joined by peptide bonds, is one chance in 10^74+45+45, or one in 10^164 (Meyer, p. 212). This means that, on average, you would need to construct 10^164 chains of amino acids 150 units long to expect to find one that is useful.
    http://www.originthefilm.com/mathematics.php

  24. 24
    Fred Hickson says:

    The question “are viruses alive” is much less interesting than “how did viruses become as they are”. Viruses are supreme parasites, having contracted out all their metabolic processes to the host cells they infect. But viruses can’t have existed in their current form prior to the existence of their hosts; we cannot look to viruses as examples of what the earliest living organisms were like. Viruses must be stripped down descendants of free-living ancestors. They evolved to be simple.

  25. 25
    Upright BiPed says:

    .

    we cannot look to viruses as examples of what the earliest living organisms were like.

    Don’t be too hasty. You surely remember the Ichihashi/Mizuuchi “RNA evolution” experiments from Tokyo (you know, where they imported the entire translation apparatus of e.coli in order to run the experiment). They found that in an RNA ecosystem (where they continuously feed the system with “fresh” translation apparatuses) some RNAs will quickly lose their capacity to boot up their own replication, and will become parasites and variants – viruses – catching a free ride on all those variants that can still do the trick.

    Thereby proving the RNA World. 🙂 🙂

  26. 26
    Fred Hickson says:

    @ UB

    You mean this?

    https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2020/cc/d0cc06606k

    Looks interesting. Thanks for the heads-up.

  27. 27
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note, Stephen Meyer & Eric Metaxas “Socrates in the City” interview was recently uploaded Jun 29, 2022

    Eric Metaxas and Stephen Meyer Tackle Science and God – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3aoQircZeQ

    Bestselling authors Eric Metaxas and Stephen Meyer have a free-wheeling discussion of science, faith, and God during a special episode of “Socrates in the City” taped live at the 2022 Westminster Conference on Science and Faith in the greater Philadelphia area in April 2022. Meyer is author of “The Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe.” Eric Metaxas is a radio talk show host and author of “Is Atheism Dead?”

  28. 28
    JVL says:

    Jerry: They are not alive.

    Because of what?

  29. 29
    JVL says:

    Asauber: No. It means you don’t like the answer I referenced. You’re whole erroneous view flows forth from this dislike.

    Well, perhaps I am being stupid, but I don’t understand how your response about what is life applies to the question of whether or not viruses are alive. It might be easier for people to understand your views if you were clearer about them.

  30. 30
    asauber says:

    “Well, perhaps I am being stupid”

    JVL, you are.

    Your question was: “what answer do you think ‘evolutionists’ don’t like?”

    You aren’t impressing any potential Evolutionist converts.

    Andrew

  31. 31
    JVL says:

    Asauber: Your question was: “what answer do you think ‘evolutionists’ don’t like?” You aren’t impressing any potential Evolutionist converts.

    Okay. Would you like to weigh in on the question of whether or not viruses are alive?

  32. 32
    asauber says:

    “Would you like to weigh in on the question of whether or not viruses are alive?”

    JVL,

    Not my field of study, so I’m completely unversed in the subject. While a potentially interesting question, I don’t have an opinion yet. I would have to reallocate some mindspace and time to looking into it.

    Andrew

  33. 33
    JVL says:

    Asauber: Not my field of study, so I’m completely unversed in the subject. While a potentially interesting question, I don’t have an opinion yet. I would have to reallocate some mindspace and time to looking into it.

    Fair enough. Thanks for responding.

    Would some of your ‘mindspace’ be considering theological issues if you did consider the issue?

  34. 34
    asauber says:

    “Would some of your ‘mindspace’ be considering theological issues if you did consider the issue?”

    JVL,

    Possibly, but I can’t imagine what the specific issue would be. You have something in mind?

    Andrew

  35. 35
    JVL says:

    Asauber: Possibly, but I can’t imagine what the specific issue would be. You have something in mind?

    Not from your God given point of view. From my point of view I have different considerations.

  36. 36
    relatd says:

    FH at 24,

    Wow. Evolution just evolved it before it evolved everything else? Or maybe not?

    If I put all the parts for a bicycle in a pool of water, would it self assemble in a thousand years? A million?

  37. 37
    JHolo says:

    If you conclude that viruses are alive because they use their genetic material and a hosts cell to create copies of itself (reproduce) then what about prions?

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    We can profitably discuss biological, cell based life and its “parasites” such as viruses, cut down cells and prions. KF

    PS, Wikipedia is a point of departure for understanding a certain ideologically tainted conventional wisdom:

    Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities [–> could there, horrors, be SPIRITUAL entities that are self moved and self coordinating, capable of acting . . . perish the thought by strategic silence at the outset!] that have biological processes, such as signaling and self-sustaining processes, from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (they have died) or because they never had such functions and are classified as inanimate. Various forms of life exist, such as plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria. Biology is the science that studies life.

    There is currently no consensus regarding the definition of life. One popular definition is that organisms are open systems that maintain homeostasis, are composed of cells, have a life cycle, undergo metabolism, can grow, adapt to their environment, respond to stimuli, reproduce and evolve. Other definitions sometimes include non-cellular life forms such as viruses and viroids . . . .

    [skipping to the bio definition part:]

    Since there is no unequivocal definition of life, most current definitions in biology are descriptive. [–> a definition is a description that explicitly or implicitly identifies distinguishing core characteristics] Life is considered a characteristic of something that preserves, furthers or reinforces its existence in the given environment. This characteristic exhibits all or most of the following traits:[19][35][36][37][38][39][40]

    Homeostasis: regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, sweating to reduce temperature
    Organization: being structurally composed of one or more cells – the basic units of life
    Metabolism: transformation of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
    Growth: maintenance of a higher rate of anabolism than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.
    Adaptation: the ability to change over time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism’s heredity, diet, and external factors.
    Response to stimuli: a response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism to external chemicals, to complex reactions involving all the senses of multicellular organisms. A response is often expressed by motion; for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun (phototropism), and chemotaxis.
    Reproduction: the ability to produce new individual organisms, either asexually from a single parent organism or sexually from two parent organisms.

    These complex processes, called physiological functions, have underlying physical and chemical bases, as well as signaling and control mechanisms that are essential to maintaining life.

    It continues, ducking the blatant gaps:

    Abiogenesis is the natural process of life arising from non-living matter [–> question-begging assumption presented as fact], such as simple organic compounds. [–> information, organisation and design issues?] The prevailing scientific hypothesis [–> Lewontinian, a priori evolutionary materialistic guess] is that the transition from non-living to living entities was not a single event, but a gradual process of increasing complexity. [–> observational base?] Life on Earth first appeared as early as 4.28 billion years ago, soon after ocean formation 4.41 billion years ago, and not long after the formation of Earth 4.54 billion years ago.[1][2][3][4] The earliest known life forms are bacteria.[5][6] Life on Earth is probably descended from an RNA world [–> observational base warranting such a probability claim?],[7] although RNA-based life may not have been the first life to have existed.[8][9] Metal-Binding Proteins that allowed biological electron transfer may have evolved from minerals.[10] [–> evolutiona as an increasingly broad buzz-magick word, bewitching the unwary] The classic 1952 Miller–Urey experiment and similar research demonstrated that most amino acids, the chemical constituents of the proteins used in all living organisms, can be synthesized from inorganic compounds under conditions intended to replicate [–> lying by misrepresenting the reality that M-U frameworks and evidence of early conditions contradict] those of the early Earth. Complex organic molecules occur in the Solar System and in interstellar space, and these molecules may have provided starting material for the development of life on Earth.[11][12][13][14] [–> and how do we get to required functionally specific complex organisation and/or information, well beyond the 500 – 1000 bit FSCO/I threshold? The language, text and algorithms of DNA? Homochirality? Design is here ideologically suppressed, and evidence of design is silenced by selective omission]

    Since its primordial beginnings, life on Earth has changed its environment on a geologic time scale, but it has also adapted to survive in most ecosystems and conditions.

    It is clear that we see here ideological tainting.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS, contrast the opening remarks of NWE:

    A difficult term to define, life can be considered the characteristic state of living organisms and individual cells, or that quality or property that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate objects.

    Although universal consensus on a definition is lacking, biological properties common to the known organisms found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria) are that they are carbon-and-water-based, are cellular with complex organization, use energy and undergo metabolism, possess a capacity to grow, maintain homeostasis, respond to stimuli, reproduce, and have various adaptations to the environment.

    Not every definition of life considers all of these properties to be essential. For example, the capacity for descent with modification is often taken as the essential property of life. This definition notably includes viruses, which do not qualify under narrower definitions as they are acellular and do not metabolize. Broader definitions of life may also include theoretical non-carbon-based life.

    Beyond the biological manifestations of matter, some philosophical perspectives, notably the Aristotelian theory of the soul and modern vitalism, add that living organisms possess an inner aspect or character that confers the quality of life (below). They do not agree with a modern biological orientation that explains the phenomena of life only in terms of external principles of chemistry and physics.

    Although it cannot be pinpointed exactly, evidence suggests that life on Earth has existed for about 3.7 billion years.[1]

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