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?

A retrospective: John Locke

John Locke was a philosopher and physician who was born in Somerset, England in the 17th century, and is credited as the Father of Political Liberalism, and is without a doubt one of the most influential figures in the Age of Enlightenment. He was a strong advocate for the scientific revolution, where the scientific method evolved, and he was a medical researcher, who was concerned with the evidence being gathered empirically. As well as being a researcher in the sciences, he was also a political critique and believed that humans have three basic rights; life, liberty and estate, and he was a keen advocate for the separation of the church and the state; secularism, and heavily influenced the United States of America’s founding documents, especially the first amendment, and the Declaration of Independence.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

In 1689 he published his book, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which became an instant hit amongst enlightenment thinkers, where he studied that understanding the human consciousness, and knowledge, including moral knowledge, comes from sensory experiences. One of his greatest admirers was Voltaire, who was heavily influenced by his political and ethical philosophy, as well as Sir Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, and just like Thomas Jefferson claimed, Voltaire believed them to be the three most important thinkers in history.

“All mankind… being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” – John Locke

Locke’s political theory cantered around reason and tolerance, and he claimed that no leader, or monarch had a divine right to rule, and should be removed from power if they failed in their duties, and advocated revolution if the need arose, and scholars claim his ideas had a profound influence on America’s decision of independence. The term liberalism’s origins come from the Latin word Liber, which means free, but it became a very popular philosophy in the 17th century when the focus of equality became a serious subject. Laws were reformed where fair trials were eventually witnessed by juries, speech became freer, as did religious freedom, and freedom from religion.

“The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.” – John Locke

Despite these things, the subject of ethical rights and freedom were discussed thousands of years before in classical Greece by a wide range of philosophers, including the Stoics, Sophists and the Cynics, who believed virtue was the only path to a great life, as did the Peripatetics, who Aristotle was part of. He clearly had a positive influence and contributed towards liberalism, but as for being the father, I disagree completely, but his scientific works, and his views on how to gain knowledge are still influential to this day.

Black lives really do matter

No doubt I will face a backlash for this like I did on Twitter earlier, but I’m not ever going to stop asking questions that are relevant to the society we live in. I asked earlier if supporters of the ‘black lives matter‘ movement was going too far by rioting, vandalism and looting, and I had mixed responses, but the majority suggested that for any movement to succeed there needs action, which I do agree with to an extent, but African Americans have been oppressed for centuries, and despite the civil rights movement in the sixties, violence and protests happened, ‘Martin Luther King‘, and ‘Malcolm X‘ were assassinated, and what really changed? America currently has a President that’s got a huge following of evangelical, right wing, white supremacists, that hold positions in office, government, the police force and the judicial system. Is rioting, looting and vandalism the answer? No, it isn’t.

The issue of racism is deeply rooted in society, especially in certain parts of America, where society has little to no tolerance for the black, and Hispanic culture. Support for them has gained momentum world wide, which is great, but is the destruction of public property, or the tearing down of statues acceptable? The world is listening, but I’m starting to think that it’s seeing the actions of many as being unacceptable, and destructive to the cause against injustice. Do the black lives matter human rights movement approve of the way that this is being carried out, as I would imagine they’d want to fight against the oppression, and systematic racism imposed on the black community peacefully. The black lives matter movement has thirteen guiding principles, and not one of them focuses on rioting, looting, violence or vandalism, and despite several people claiming that you have to fight fire with fear, and spill blood for blood, that isn’t the answer. Education is the answer, and reform. The police force involved need to be made an example of, and punished severely, and police chiefs need to accept responsibility for the actions of their officers or nothing will change.

Thirteen guiding principles

Restorative Justice is the commitment to build a beloved and loving community that is sustainable and growing.

Empathy is one’s ability to connect with others by building relationships built on mutual trust and understanding.

Loving Engagement is the commitment to practice justice, liberation and peace.

Diversity is the celebration and acknowledgment of differences and commonalities across cultures.

Globalism is our ability to see how we are impacted or privileged within the Black global family that exists across the world in different regions.

Transgender Affirming is the commitment to continue to make space for our trans siblings by encouraging leadership and recognizing trans-antagonistic violence, while doing the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk.

Queer Affirming is working towards a queer-affirming network where heteronormative thinking no longer exists.

Collective Value means that all Black lives, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location, matter.

Intergenerational is a space free from ageism where we can learn from each other.

Black Families creates a space that is family friendly and free from patriarchal practices.

Black Villages is the disruption of Western nuclear family dynamics and a return to the “collective village” that takes care of each other.

Black Women is the building of women-centered spaces free from sexism, misogyny, and male-centeredness.

Unapologetically Black is the affirmation that Black Lives Matter and that our love, and desire for justice and freedom are prerequisites for wanting that for others. These principles are the blueprint for healing and do not include nor do they support ignoring or sanitizing the ugliness and discomfort that comes with dealing with race and anti-race issues.

I am extremely sympathetic to each one of their guiding principles, and it’s sad that the world we live in has to have a movement like this because racism is still a large worldwide concern. The question that I asked on Twitter was not only is the looting, rioting, and vandalism going too far, but do actors need to apologise for comedy about black people, or shows being pulled from TV? I wasn’t trying to make a point that I agreed with the shows in question being allowed to make jokes about black people, or blackening up for roles, I genuinely asked because will it go too far? Will anyone that plays an LBGTQ character have to apologise for incorrect portrayal? I know we want equality, and fairness, but a white person blacking up is racist, but a black person whitening up isn’t. You can’t have double standards if you want equality for all. People seem to forget that racism can be a two way street, and because black people have been oppressed doesn’t mean that some aren’t racially against white people, or other creeds. But as soon as you dare say something like that, that’s considering a little controversial, I’m accused of being ignorant, or racist, or someone who doesn’t understand because I’m a white privileged man. Despite that, I’d have dragged that police officer off ‘George Floyd‘ even if there was a risk of being shot. Preservation of life, and dignity is paramount.