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Are Viruses Living?

Ed Rybicki ED at molbiol.uct.ac.za
Wed Apr 19 10:11:18 EST 1995

> From:          wjohnson <wjohnson at opal.tufts.edu>
> Subject:       Re: Are Viruses Living?

> benc9 at aol.com (BenC9) wrote:
>  What however, is more central to life (all life) than the processes 
> of evolution?All life has in common the use nucleic acid encoded 
> information, ...
> 	Where did viruses come from?  More than likely they arose as bits
>  of escaped nucleic acid subsequent to the appearance of cellular
>  or protocellular life.  If viruses are not alive, then we must 
> accept that life begat something that was not alive and yet has a
>  tremendous capacity to direct its own replication according
> to all the same rules that guide the evolution of  living_ species.   

Ah, the eternal question....

If you define life as:

"The phenomenon accompanying the replication of informational 

then viruses - computer and analogue - are living.  If you don't, 
then maybe they aren't.  One thing you should NOT do is apply the old 
botanically- and zoologically-derived definitions, which only 
grudgingly take account of unicellular life forms, let alone viruses. 
 More argument and reasoning in 

 |     Ed Rybicki, PhD      |  ed at molbiol.uct.ac.za   |
 |    Dept Microbiology     | University of Cape Town |
 | Private Bag, Rondebosch  |   7700, South Africa    |
 |   fax: x27-21-650 4023   | phone: x27-21-650-3265  |
 ------WWW URL: http://www.uct.ac.za/microbiology------
   "And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
      From the profit he's made on your dreams..."

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