• Wayfarer
    8.9k
    All of which are designed artifacts. Furthermore the ‘mechanism’ of the most simple organisms is vastly more complex, not ‘simple’ in the sense of any machine.

    I’m saying the whole metaphor of ‘organisms as machines’ is misleading. What you’re seeing with life is the emergence of subjectivity and intentional action at the most simple level. Not springs, levers wedges - or chemistry. You’re seeing subjects of experience, and there is no meaningful ‘science of the subject’ in modern discourse.
  • Qmeri
    56
    One way to prove, that a self-replicating system with random mutations does not have to be very complex fundamentally, is computer simulation. Almost any decent programmer can program a simulation where a system replicates itself with random mutations in a world with completely mechanical rules. Of course it's easy when the programmer can choose the rules of the world himself to make creation of life simple, but it proves that purely mechanical self-replication does not have to be complex.

    And we do know that chemical things can combine to create mechanical things at least as complex as that. (Random mutation comes almost as a side product since nothing in chemistry is that precise.) This combined with the fact that enormous amounts of random chemical reactions happen in this enormous world. Therefore it would be weird if life hadn't happened. It would also be weird if creating life in a lab would be easy, because then it would also be that much easier to happen at random. Every millisecond, more random chemical reactions happen on the surface of Mars than will ever happen in all our labs combined. If life happened easily in a lab, it would have happened on Mars dozens of times in our lifetimes, not to mention the past billions of years.
  • Pfhorrest
    596
    Wedges and ramps and wheels are not necessarily designed artifacts, they're just simple shapes than objects can easily take. Complex chemicals, not even living things yet, are already nanomachines: when we build our own nanomachines, we do so chemically, because we're building them out of tiny molecular parts, the molecular equivalents of those kinds of simple machines: a molecular bond that lets something swing like a hinge or rotate like a wheel and so on. Search YouTube for a CG visualization of the kind of molecular machinery that unzips DNA, for example; it's really amazing and fascinating to see these tiny mechanisms at work on the molecular level.

    And you know from other threads already that I'm not denying that subjectivity and intentionality exist at this level too. I'm just not stuck in the Cartesian mindset you are of seeing mechanism and intention, physicality and phenomenality, as mutually exclusive categories. They're two sides of the same coin. You can start with the most basic physical mechanical description of things and build up to complex physical and mechanical descriptions of human brains without paying any attention to the phenomenal and intentional experience going on in the first-person of those brains, or you can start with a phenomenal and intentional first-person account of a mind and simplify and disassemble it down until you get the protoexperientiality that exists in the most basic elements of the universe. It's not one or the other.
  • ovdtogt
    465
    The loss of that many flowers would be devastating.NOS4A2

    True. Scientific research has had a devastating effect on nature.
  • ovdtogt
    465
    Mules can't reproduce, for example, but they're still alive.Pfhorrest

    Everything we consider to be alive has been created through replication even though they themselves may be unable to sexually reproduce. Even your mule. No living cell (with or without an ability to reproduce) has been created 'artificially'.

    And oxidation (fire) is not replication.
  • Pfhorrest
    596
    Everything we consider to be alive has been created through replication even though they themselves may be unable to sexually reproduce. Even your mule.ovdtogt

    That's basically what I said. We needed replication to create life, but it doesn't have to replicate to be alive.

    No living cell (with or without an ability to reproduce) has been created 'artificially'.ovdtogt

    Yet. That's not a matter of principle but a matter of technology.

    And oxidation (fire) is not replication.ovdtogt

    It's a chemical reaction that initiates more of the same chemical reaction. Consumes fuel, produces waste, spreads. But it's not alive. Why not? On my account, because that reaction is just increasing entropy, not even decreasing it locally anywhere. But why not on your account?

    You know this is not a new topic in philosophy. Coming up with a definition of life that includes things like mules, and excludes things like fire, or crystals (which are a local reduction in entropy, but still don't count as life by my definition), is a big problem and no popular definition has seemed to have solved it yet. (I'm not aware of anyone well-known putting forward my definition for widespread discussion).
  • ovdtogt
    465
    and excludes things like fire, or crystalsPfhorrest

    Oxidation is not life. Crystals are not life.
    Apart from chemists, only life has the ability to incorporate inorganic carbon compounds into 'organic' compounds through a network of processes and only life is able to make a replicate copy of this 'network of processes'.
  • Pfhorrest
    596
    Oxidation is not life. Crystals are not life.ovdtogt

    Yeah, that's the point. Those are things we don't want to include under the definition of life. But your definition does include fire, and excludes mules. Not on purpose, I know, but the fact that that accidentally happens as a consequence of your definition is a problem with your definition. Other definitions have unintentionally included crystals, and that's a problem with them.

    If you want to revise your definition to be something about carbon specifically, go ahead, but that wasn't your original definition in the OP.
  • ovdtogt
    465
    life: a replicating chemical reaction.ovdtogt

    This definition still holds. It is just that it concerns a special kind of chemical reaction: namely the synthesizing of inorganic to what we consider to be 'organic' compounds. And maybe I should have said self-replicating instead of replicating.
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