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Life as a function of biological definitions - Essay Example

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Perhaps one of the most complex questions that biology attempts to answer is not who are we and where have we come from;but rather the simplest of answers – what defines life?Depending on who is asked and what journals and/or texts are consulted,the researcher attempting to answer such a question will likely be led down a host of different paths…
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Life as a function of biological definitions
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Download file to see previous pages Perhaps one of the most complex questions that biology attempts to answer is not who are we and where have we come from;but rather the simplest of answers – what defines life?Depending on who is asked and what journals and/or texts are consulted,the researcher attempting to answer such a question will likely be led down a host of different paths. However, oftentimes the best way to define something that is infinitely complex is to draw a very broad definition that focuses on the key attributes and elements that are displayed while also drawing on the key attributes and elements that are noticeably missing. In this way, it is necessary to work to define life as well as to provide many of the prior and current definitions that scientists have used to attempt to determine what is living from what is not. One might question why such an absolute definition is such an integral facet of understanding biology; citing the fact that life is obvious to the observer when it is seen. However, this is not always the case. Due to the recent advances that have been made in biology and genetics as they relate to the creation of “living” wetwear and other engineered forms of life, the observer finds it increasingly difficult to define with a high level of certainty what is life and what is not. Due to the fact that scientists are ever coming closer to engineering and “creating” more and more complex forms of “non natural/human engineered” life, the necessity for a clear and actionable comes into clear focus. Thus the purpose of this essay will be to weigh those competing definitions and draw inference based on their requisite strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, scientists have struggled over the years to uniformly define life based on its most common attributes. For instance, in 1944, physicist Erwin Schrodinger defined life as “that which avoids the decay into equilibrium”. Although this definition is at least partially valid, there are non-life forms that ascribe to this same level of meaning. For instance, few biologists would argue that a forest fire is a life form. It grows, reproduces, and resists entropy. One could even argue that to a certain degree fire consumes energy to produce thermal heat as well as performs a type of respiration; all of these are verifiable attributes of life. However, fire is most certainly not a life form. However, even considering the shortcomings of this particular definition, there is the additional shortcoming that all life, regardless of its form, eventually seeks entropy as well. In this way, it is clear that although certain processes may avoid decay into equilibrium, it is unwise to call these processes a life form due to the fact that eventually all matter, energy, and life seeks entropy (Jagers op Akkerhuis 248). Similarly, many biologists have hearkened back to Darwin in order to determine what defines life. Those that ascribe to distinctly Darwinian school of thought define life as that which resists entropy and seeks to perpetuate a self-sustaining system cable of evolution. Although this definition is useful, it is similarly too broad to adequately narrow the focus of the researcher/student in understanding the complex nature of life. Likewise, many others conclude that metabolism is a requirement for something to be considered a life form. Regardless of the particular variety of life that is being analyzed, the common denotation of this is that all life requires a form of metabolic processes in order to synthesize, utilize, and extract useful energy for life. Similarly, this process invariably utilizes H20. As such, many biologists have appropriately theorized that all life requires H20 as a functional component of cellular growth, respiration, and division. Although this is merely supposition, the evolution of life on other planets may well utilize another more plentiful means of growth, division, and respiration than H20. Due to the fact that ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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