What is life?

When looking at my third aspect of reality, I think that the biggest question, and mystery, that jumps out for me, is the matter of the existence of life. What actually is it, how can it be defined and where could it have come from?


What is life?

Why are we different from all the rocks and stones that are around us and share much of our chemical make up? Defining life is trickier than you might think. When asked generally people would perhaps say, I know I am alive because I feel I am alive and I can talk to you. We know things are alive because they seemingly interact with the environment to sustain themselves in a way that rocks and stones do not, or do not need to. Life usually, but not always, moves independently in some way. It usually grows and reproduces itself in some mechanism. It is a closed and independent system. It takes in nutrition from the environment to sustain itself. We know it when we see it, without necessarily being able to explain it. All we can say is that on earth it is generally cellular based. Cells are the building blocks of so called organic life. All life on planet earth seems to be organic, made of either one cell or a collection of cells.


A scientific definition

Cell structure fulfills the basic scientific criteria that is used to distinguish life ( animate) from non life (inanimate). These criteria are, firstly, the ability to metabolize and release the energy stored in molecular bonds. This is what we do when we eat food and convert it to energy to power our bodies. Secondly, the ability to form boundaries. The cells that make all living things are enclosed structures, usually by some form of membrane. Thirdly the ability to reproduce itself/ourselves. This can be by just splitting or copying cells or by some form of sexual reproduction. Non live, or inanimate, objects cannot do this.


Where could life have come from?

Firstly, if you favour the religious creation theories, then the answer is simple. Life is a gift of a creator being. It needs no further explanation.


Secondly, things, funnily enough, get more difficult if you lean towards the purely scientific explanation for our origins. The really strange thing is though, science can describe life, interfere with it, even clone it, it cannot really understand or replicate why bunches of chemicals gradually became live organisms. There is a leap there that is even beyond scientific human understanding at the moment.



As ever we are back to the beginning. Life on earth is said to have evolved over millions of years. The more you think about it, the stranger the concept seems. Until we properly understand the big picture though, and know why we are here and what is our purpose, if any, the generation of life will always remain a profound mystery. The existence of life  is, however, a fascinating aspect of reality.




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