Monday, July 1, 2013

Living, Why?

Amoeba cell

Physical matter, the material that exhibits universal properties such as mass and dimension, also reveals the potential for displaying the characteristic we describe as life, and by extension, the means to render awareness, consciousness and self-identity.  Everything that is attributed to the nature of life adheres to the laws of chemistry and physics, the laws that govern the physical realm.  There is nothing having to do with life that doesn't also have to do with the nature of the physical universe.  Much as the phenomenon of gravity defies contemporary explanation, so too does the means leading to animal consciousness and human awareness and other complex human attributes described by Freud and others in terms such as ego and id.  One may feel disturbed by this apparent all-encompassing mechanistic explanation that governs even our most treasured spiritual beliefs and desires.  Yet, how profound it is to ponder that our most captivating thoughts and warmest emotions are all derived from the makings of this world’s cold and seemingly heartless atoms.   Over time science will fill in the answers as to how these phenomenon come about, but it will still be left to the human imagination to provide the answer as to why.  Take heart.  The story of Genesis need never be extinguished by the discoveries of physicists.  The more we learn the more intriguing becomes the underpinnings of existence.

The fundamental physical process of life is captured by the cell.  Everything beyond the single cell is an elaboration of this fact much as everything you see in the world about you is an elaboration on the material building blocks we categorize as atoms.  Existence is unknowable to us without atoms and life has no basis without cells. 

The cell is alien to most of us.  It is outside our experience. It is too small to notice yet it is extraordinarily complex.  Its processes and behaviors obey only the chemical dictates of its various, organized molecules.  In place of tissue are lipids and proteins.  In place of a digestive tract are specialized molecules, such as enzymes, that break specific chemical bonds to release the energy needed to power the cell’s activities.  Nucleic acids serve as the cell’s nervous system, governing its events through the use of molecular messengers to carefully regulate and sustain this very basic, but elaborate balancing act that appears to us as life.  What makes it live?  All the elements that determine its existence are readily found in its lifeless, inanimate surroundings.  Molecules are everywhere.  Yet the molecular structures found in soil, liquid or air show none of the complexity required of molecules to organize and animate the independent existence of the cell.  How did these choice, atomic structures first come about?  That question is currently being grappled within labs that attempt to recreate the circumstances of pre-life earth.  There is much argument over the conclusions being drawn.  Yet, initial experiments indicate a predisposition of various molecular structures to form fundamental organic compounds deemed necessary for the earliest life forms to come about.  Scientists are nowhere near creating life in the lab but clues to the basis of life’s origins have emerged.  There are plausible explanations based on scientific methods of discovery being discussed. 

Science is a tool.  It is limited to what can be found out through experience and observation.  It has no ability for determining the ultimate question about existence as to, “Why?”  Why should physical matter result in life?  Why should life generate our human degree of consciousness?  Why should there be existence, at all?  Why should we always be asking, “Why?”  Why?

Biology Topics:

Molecular Basis of Life

Limited Male

Opportunistic Bacteria 


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