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Philosophical Leanings

Kenneth Plahn JBNZ29A at prodigy.com
Fri Apr 21 20:39:54 EST 1995

>Furthermore such glib characterizations of the will of nucleic acid do 
little to >increase the understanding of molecular biology by the general 
public or >undergraduates.

How many of these people are aware that a T4 phage looks like a lunar 
module? I bet many will remember the analogy. For nuc acid to have a 
'propensity to replicate doesnot require 'will'. A spherical object has a 
propensity to roll down an incline plane, while it doesnot have a 'will' 
to roll down this plane. The Apollo was designed to 'dock' on the moon in 
much the same way a T4 phage docks on a bacterium. Fortunately the Apollo 
wasnot spherical in shape.

A propensity to replicate is a sufficent definition of a living organism 
to some. It al depends on how you define life. By this definition, 
computer viruses are alive as are human languages and cultures. The host 
for a computer virus would be a computer while the host for languages and 
cultures could arguably be human consciousness. (Languages nad cultures 
use human consciousness to replicate and mutate.) While this is straying 
from the concrete discussion of viruses, it is useful in creating a 
context from which to answer the philosophical question: Are viruses 
alive? Philosophical discussions of biology can be useful, if for no 
other reason, just to exercise our brains.

Ken Plahn, Scientist         JBNZ29A at prodigy.com

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