X-Message-Number: 1063
Date: 28 Jul 92 02:45:37 EDT
From: "Steven B. Harris" <>
Subject: Life Force??

To: Charles Platt:

   Obviously it will be fruitless to argue against someone who is
going to say that nobody will ever be brought back from
the "dead" because, whenever someone is resuscitated, that proves
they were really "alive."   Duh.  That's going to be either a
semanic game involving hidden syllogisms, or else a confession of
faith, like some people's belief in fate.  I try to stay far away
from both kinds of poison.

   Is life "mechanistic"?    Life is "mechanistic" to the
extent that we know it can depend on structure and NOT function
or metabolism.  We know this from our long list of frozen un-
damaged novelties, like worms and 10-legged crustacean Tardi-
grades, little critters which may not look like much, but are
pretty darned complex to be called robots or zombies.  You can
dry out a Tardigrade and freeze it in liquid helium-- for that
matter you can do the same for any mammalian embryo (want the
ref?).  That's COLD-- only 4 degrees above absolute zero. 
There's no question of any metabolism at these temps:  there just
isn't any.  In fact, there is nothing but a solid lump of atoms,
whose _only_ real characteristic is how they're connected.  Not
what they're doing, because they're not doing very much of
anything (there's some quantum zero point motion, but it doesn't
enter into chemical reactions).  

   Now I don't know if your wife or editor has done much thinking
about Tardigrades or embryos in liquid helium, but you need to
clue them into the fact that these things are not "asleep." 
There is no metabolism ticking over that you can point to as the
banked fires of life.  Instead, these things are inanimate.  No
metabolism.  No liquid.  No cellular function.  No chemical
reactions.  We're talking rock here at nearly absolute zero.  Or
dry dust just sitting on a shelf.  But if you warm it up and add
water, pretty soon it crawls.  Or grows into a baby.  Or what-
ever.   To ME that's counterintuitive.  Life is not supposed to
be like that.  But it is like that.  We can accept the fact, or
ignore it.  I chose to accept it.  And accepting it, I choose to
accept the philosophy it entails.


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