On life

Worldview Science Item of the Day

One of science’s most persistant problems has been arriving at definitions that are as encompassing as possible. One of the definitions that scientists still struggle with, as a result, is “what, exactly, is life?”

That might seem like an easily answerable question, but the past century of scientific endeavor has opened new worlds of inquiry that show it not to be so simple. The problem of classifying things like viruses or prions means that the definition of life must be very broad indeed.

One has to wonder, however, if the definition is this broad:

“Once the replication of the molecules in Benner’s system is self-catalyzed, without PCR [polymerase chain reaction], the process is self-sustaining. Benner claims, “then it’s artificial life.””

By Steven Benner’s definiton, a whole lot more things are alive than are not alive. If that definition is the case, the it opens an ethical black hole for society that forces us to look at everything from how we recover natural resources to how we define the child destroyed during abortion.

For me, Benner’s definition speaks clearly to something I have always believed: creation testifies to the creator. If a bunch of molecules in a scientific experiment are alive because they self-replicate, then how much more so the child living in the womb. If that child, then, is alive, then it is not a leap to understand that it is endowed with the inalienable rights of its creator, and if that is the case, then we, as a nation, have been sanctioning murder since 1973.

I believe that the latter statement is true, and that sciene will eventually destroy whatever pretense that abortion is anything but a crime simply because science cannot help but reveal the truth. If that truth is revealed in the creation of artificial “life” in the laboratory, then, perhaps, so much the better.


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