What is Life?

To put it as simply as I can, life is what distinguishes organic matter from nonorganic matter, and there are five kingdoms of life on Earth, and they are:

• Prokaryotae – (unicellular ie: Bacteria)

• Protoctista – (eukaryotic ie: Algae)

• Fungi – (Multicellular ie: mould)

• Plantae – (photosynthetic ie: flowers)

• Animalia -(Multicellular ie: vertebrates and invertebrates

A wider way of describing life is cell based matter that’s capable of adapting to its environment, thus evolving, the ability to reproduce, a metabolism, response to stimuli, and growth. Yet biochemist ‘Gerald Joyce‘ who works for NASA in their astrobiology department suggests that life can be defined as; ‘self-sustaining‘. All organisms are comprised of cells that carry DNA, which is genetic material that maps out functions and is passed on through reproduction to future generations.

There are two families of cells, humans and all other mammals, birds, plants, insects and reptiles are eukaryote, which contain an outer membrane with a nucleus within, and the other family is prokaryote, which is unicellular like bacteria. Everything that has what we determine as life, will do anything it can to preserve itself. Life is purely about survival, and being able to continue the species.

Earlier today I had a rather unpleasant encounter with a religious individual who claimed a foetus was alive. A foetus that’s younger than 21 weeks cannot survive if taken away from the womb, and even at 21 weeks, survival is extremely unlikely, yet not impossible. Even with the wonders of modern medical science, it’s a difficult task to replicate a mother and provide a foetus with the nutrients it needs. To put it bluntly, a foetus is essentially a parasite who lives of its host, and if taken away from its host, it’s survival isn’t guaranteed. A foetus cannot self sustain, is without true consciousness, and isn’t affected by stimuli until quite far into the pregnancy.

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” – Genesis 2.7

Correct me if I’m wrong, but does Genesis 2.7 say that upon the first breath, man becomes a living soul? So does the Bible suggest that life begins after birth when the baby takes its first breath? It sure seems that way to me, but I’m sure a Christian would accuse me of taking it out of context for the purpose of confirmation bias.

So what would you say defined life?

God created man in his image

“So, God created man in his own image, In the Image of God he created him; Male and female he created them. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” – Genesis 1: 27 – 31

The above quote from the first book of the Bible, Genesis, is perhaps one of the most well known, and it’s responsible for the creationism myth. It’s a term that only applies to humanity, and represents the relationship between man and god. I’m led to believe that it actually means that humans aren’t meant to represent god in physical form, but he’s provided us with emotions, morality, and intellectual abilities that separate us from other life. My major issue in accepting this, other than not being naive enough to believe in god, is that humans are extremely flawed, and if we are in his image, then he too must be flawed. We know by the Old Testament that he’s a jealous god, and he’s got a superiority complex, but he also has a terrible rage, and at the very start of life, he tried to trick Adam and Eve by leaving the tree there for no apparent reason.

Humans share a biological ancestry with all life on Earth, and the way that DNA, and cell structure works is universal, and that suggests that we all came from a common ancestor, but we know humans have evolved as we have found evidence in skeletons, and skulls of human ancestors that date back millions of years, not thousands like the Bible claims. Australopithecus is the oldest hominin found to date, and is almost 3.8,000,000 years old, and was found in a South Africa, not Asia. But the Skuhl-Qafzeh remains discovered in Israel in 1929, date back over 80,000 years, which is considerably further back than the creation myth suggests. Even further back than that was a jawbone found at Misliya Cave in Israel, and after several tests scientists concluded that it’s approximately 180,000 years old, and is considered the oldest human remains outside of Africa.

So how exactly does an early primitive Homo sapien align with man being made in god’s image? It’s a common fact that the cognitive abilities that humans acquired weren’t always there in as abundance as it is now. Civilisations outside tribes and villages is only in the thousands of years, and we are getting smarter as a species with every generation. When the Bible was written, the authors had absolutely no concept of what the world would be like thousands of years into the future. The alleged morals in the Bible are out of date, as are the lack of ethics involved in punishment. They had no concept of space, or that we’d be sending people there. They didn’t even know the Earth was round, so maybe god forgot to mention that part? It took humans millions of years to evolve into what we are now, so what’s stopping another species of Primate evolving and matching the Biblical level of intelligence? Where does that leave the man created in god’s image theory then?