When is an entity considered alive?
The following criteria for determining when an entity can be considered a free-living organism, as we observe it today, is quoted from The Origin-of-Life Foundation, Inc. publication. They hope to entice researchers into demonstrating the theoretical plausibility of spontaneous generation. I have selected to use these criteria because of the obvious thought and careful consideration given to distinguishing between living and non-living entities. After all, there is a one million dollar reward involved.
- Delineate itself from its environment through the production and maintenance of a membrane equivalent, most probably a rudimentary or quasi-active-transport membrane necessary for selective absorption of nutrients, excretion of wastes, and overcoming osmotic and toxic gradients,
- Write, store, and pass along into progeny prescriptive information (instruction) needed for organization; provide instructions for energy derivation and for needed metabolite production and function; symbolically encode and communicate functional message through a transmission channel to a receiver/decoder/destination/effector mechanism; integrate past, present and future time into its biological prescriptive information (instruction) content,
- Bring to pass the above recipe instructions into the production or acquisition of actual catalysts, coenzymes, cofactors, etc.; physically orchestrate the biochemical processes/pathways of metabolic reality; manufacture and maintain physical cellular architecture; establish and operate a semiotic system using "signal molecules"
- Capture, transduce, store, and call up energy for utilization (work),
- Actively self-replicate and eventually reproduce, not just passively polymerize or crystallize; pass along the apparatus and "know-how" for homeostatic metabolism and reproduction into progeny,
- Self-monitor and repair its constantly deteriorating physical matrix of bioinstruction retention/transmission, and of architecture,
- Develop and grow from immaturity to reproductive maturity,
- Productively react to environmental stimuli. Respond in an efficacious manner that is supportive of survival, development, growth, and reproduction, and
- Possess relative genetic stability, yet sufficient diversity to allow for adaptation and potential evolution.
"'Tis very certain the desire of life prolongs it." ~Lord Byron
"Death never takes the wise man by surprise; He is always ready to go." ~Jean de La Fontaine