Living entities are difficult to define. Seems that there is a kind of consensus on this. However, humans have always tried to do so. The sweet definition of Mayr may be a good starting point. He firmly states:
It is now quite clear that there is no special substance, object, or force that can be identified with life. The process of living, however, can be defined.
Then he continues with a list of characteristics that he calls both incomplete and redundant. His list comprises of a variety of factors, including but not limited to complexity and organization, chemical uniqueness, quality, uniqueness and variability and possession of a genetic program.
With all respect to his efforts and his sincere devotion to the scientific method, seems that he is limiting his definition of the living entities to humans, animals, and other animating objects. As he often contrasts living species with inanimate objects.
It seems that his definition and other similar definitions are just an effort to find common characteristics among humans, animals, cell colonies, and plants.
In a world of solid cubes, if you consider hard edge as a common characteristic of solid state, everything would be fine until the first solid sphere appears. This missing-hard-edge object would be considered as a new state of matter! Nothing is wrong. Except that you will be in need to make much more efforts to study the new object, as you believe that the old understanding of solid objects, cannot be applied to this new object.
Nothing is wrong. Except that you will be in need to make much more efforts to study the new state, as you believe that the old understanding of solid state, cannot be applied to this new state of matter.
Unless you have confidence in the ruler’s reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.
May it be a little hard to imagine why I am seriously insisting on the concern. Soon we will see that we have made the same mistake. Let me explicitly state one of my critical assumptions which I have based my discussion upon. It seems to me that living and non-living is more a subjective label we attach to the objects or systems, rather than an objective reality.
May this be one of the reasons that many of us fail to recognize and consider internet as a ground for the creation of new living species.
Let me emphasize once more I’m talking about “Living” and “Non-Living” attributes. it’s absolutely different with the concept of mindfulness and mindlessness. I fully understand Daniel Dennett‘s statement when he writes (as an assumption):
… The spiders and insects and other “clever” but mindless creatures… (Quoted from the book: Kinds of Minds)
But mindfulness and having consciousness is something beyond the concept of living. I’m sure that Dennett would call spiders living things even if he considers them as mindless creatures.
In the next article, we will think about biological cells and whether biological organization based on cells, shall be considered as necessary condition for an entity to be called a living thing?