What is Life?

090111TGT_dsc8286sIt is always difficult to define things we do not fully understand. Things like God, or good, or love or life. But it’s worth a try because we need to all know what we are talking about when we use these words. As life is the subject of this exercise, I will do my best to define it, but with the understanding that we do not fully understand life. If we did, we could create new life from its raw materials, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and all that. Up to now we only can make new life from old life.

A life form, or a living thing, is able to do the processes that are necessary to sustain itself and reproduce itself if the environment provides the things it needs to survive. Different life forms require different environments (things like temperature and chemical components).

One way to define life is to say that a living thing has sensory ability — that is the ability to sense its environment — and to respond to that environment in a way that keeps the living thing — alive.

A “unit of life,” this is not a technical term; it means one living thing. You are a unit of life; so am I. We all know that life forms are extremely variable. There are units of life all over the place, from the flies in your desert to the bacteria in my pond.

We also know that life, as a subunit of The Creation or the universe,is arranged in a hierarchy, that is, life exists in levels of organization.

The most basic unit of life is a cell. The cell maintains its own life in a nonliving universe. It is able to do this because it is composed of organelles and molecules and atoms that it uses to maintain a healthy balance between itself and its environment. It would be easy to have a very long and enjoyable debate about whether or not these subcellular components are “living”, but we will not because our purpose here is to point out the hierarchy of living things in the nonliving universe. Maybe we will talk about them later.

The next higher unit of life is the multicellular organism. That could be a plant or animal or fungus or you, or me, or a few other types of organisms. The next higher self-sustaining form of life is the ecosystem, and the whole earth ecosystem is made up of many smaller ecosystems. Just in the same way that we are made up of cells.

The largest, most complex, highest unit of life is the whole earth ecosystem, and it stays alive — just as we do — by using energy and information to maintain a healthy balance among all its parts.

3 Responses

  1. […] have said that LIFE is not the same reality as A LIVING THING, and that is essentially because a living thing is not […]

  2. […] background for understanding the flow of energy, and of other things, through the living ecosystem. Life is possible because of the internet of living and nonliving things through all the levels. The […]

  3. […] The ecosystem is a living thing, and all living things are networks. We understand networks more and more every day. Now we can […]

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