What Is Life Essay

Submitted By Mieka111
Words: 1050
Pages: 5

What is life? The question is probably one, if not the most, complex in the world to answer. Yet, there are in fact various definitions in place so society can start using the word “life” in every day communication. One of Merriam-Webster’s medical definitions for life is “c. an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reactions to stimuli, and reproduction.” (Merriam-Webster) The scientific world, however, appears dissatisfied with some scientists saying life may be a result of chemicals. Others claim it could be a result of cells. Still others say life can be defined by knowing what cannot be life. Because of the advances in research and technology which allows them to research on how life came to exist, scientists are having a hard time agreeing with not only a widely-accepted definition but also with each other.
David Deamer and many other scientists believe that life is a “cell with genetic material and the ability to reproduce, turn food into energy and evolve through natural selection.” (Borenstein) This is why a person has life while a book does not. An animal is alive but a car is not. Thus, a being that has stopped breathing, adapting, growing and reproducing is said to have no life or be dead. This working definition of life has been used in the home, in the classroom and even in the courtroom, where a child is to be considered with life only if it was “born with the ability to breathe, and must actually have breathed.” (Bouvier) Meanwhile, a number of scientists have conducted researches that have brought about disunity on this definition of life.
Dr. Craig Venter and his team were able to form “a completely new synthetic life form” by getting the DNA of a bacterium, writing a new “DNA” on their computer and replacing the originals with the new artificial genetic code. (Alleyne) The synthetic life form was observed to reproduce, an important component in the meaning of life. Since then, the discovery has been met with both applause and criticism. Venter and his team remain optimistic, nevertheless, that this discovery is only the start of finding a truly apt definition of life.
If compared with Deamer’s definition of life, Venter cannot be said to have created life although his synthetic life form has been seen to reproduce. The ability to reproduce is just one of the necessities for a being to have life. Venter’s new life form must also be able to sustain itself and grow. It must also learn to evolve as it adapts to its environment. Unless Venter’s life form can do all these, then the synthetic being is no different from fire which can also reproduce itself as proven by forest fires but is not a living being.
Another attempt at defining life comes from scientists at NASA’s Astrobiology Institute in California. Director Carl Pilcher and his team, in contrast, are doing it the opposite way – by looking for what life is not. The group which studies extreme life on Earth and the chance of it existing elsewhere has been advised to direct their focus on things other than carbon, often associated with causing life on Earth. (Borenstein) Supposedly, all things have carbon in them. This is why in studying ancient life carbon dating is a common process. Nevertheless, this cannot be a true test of life. If Deamer’s definition of life is applied, a diamond, for example, does not have life since it does not evolve through natural selection or have the ability to reproduce. This is why a diamond is classified as a non-living thing or something without life. If so, then there is something more than carbon which distinguishes a non-living from a living being and fulfils Deamer’s definition.
Finally, there are scientists who are attempting to make the robotic creations become more life-like. Professor Carlo Montemagno and his team used rat heart cells to come up with ‘muscles’ for plastic or silicone ‘bones’ and consequently created a tiny “bio-bot” that moves by itself without any outer…