What is Life?

The End of the Hen - Egg Problem?



Index:

1. Strategy and Definition of a Living Thing
2. The basis of a biological epistemology
3. The Genesis of Life or: the End of the Hen - Egg Problem?
4. The Pedigree of Species
5. The Self-Endangerment of Life
6. The great Importance of the Immunity Level and the Use of Sexuality
7. All is one life
8. The Human Being – a Naked Ape?


1. Strategy and Definition of a Living Thing

The realization that also scientists blindly rely on the attribution mechanism, makes us recognize the assimilation of a foreign body as the strategy of a living thing: such as the physiological apparatus takes in objects as food and assimilates them materially, the cognitive interest effects the assimilation of the data obtained from the sense organs into a well-known fact by way of projection. Of this way also it to perceive a doing, how Maturana says. The attribution mechanism by which both a living thing and an inanimate thing are equally covered by analogy with the properties of the subject is no accidental makeshift product of the brain but an integral part of the assimilation machine which we call organism. The key phrase:

"life is matter with the ability of assimilating foreign structures into its own one"

is - as description of the strategy of living matter - in my opinion, the most universally applicable definition of life. It does not only describe the strategy of scientists down to viruses, but also the way of acting of the prions which are responsible for the mad-cow diseaseBSE. The so-called infectious "malignant" prion protein does nothing else than imposing its structure on the so-called healthy "benign" protein and thus demonstrates in a uniquely clear way what life is.


2. The basis of a biological epistemology

But also every education, every teaching and proselytizing work is the attempt to assimilate foreign behavior and different convictions to one's own behavior and to one's own conviction respectively. This essay is, of course, also such an attempt. The conversion of the foreign into his own is the very strategy of life. Knowledge has to be, similarly, the outcome of the conversion of data into understanding of observer.


3. The Genesis of Life or: the End of the Hen - Egg Problem?

The way the "malignant" prion protein works suggests the idea for me that life on earth could once have begun with molecules which were able to assimilate differently structured but probably similar molecules till one day molecules transferred this process inward and multiplied themselves by division, i.e. they made parts equal to the whole. Before and after that they laid down the assimilation pattern in a code of its own, the RNS or DNS, and thus freed themselves from assimilation by way of linkage. In this context, it is decisive that my explanation of the genesis of life overcomes the old problem of the hen and the egg and makes the transition from inanimate to living matter fluid in that it sees the reproduction of a structure by assimilation as the property of a complex matter, which means, it can do without the hen even if the bovine prion used as an example requires a genetic program for its production.


4. The Pedigree of Species

As soon as that what we call life has established itself, one can describe its system ability to assimilate foreign structures into its own as "autopoiesis", derived from the Greek "autos" = self and "poiein" = to make, as Humberto Maturana does it, for the result of the assimilation of foreign energies is again and again the living system itself. But if it is characteristic of life to assimilate foreign structures into its own one (which is laid down in the affinity of the matter and can therefore not be referred to as "pure chance"), how is it that today biologists express the totally different opinion - apart from Humberto Maturana - namely that life is a product of "adaptation" to its medium or environment? Can one really more mistaken? How can a thing come into being by adaptation? For this purpose it has to exist first. Has the molecule being able to pass on its structure not simply used an opportunity for reproduction? And is this not still the case? By way of reproduction variations due to the reproductions process, this constant ramification takes place, whereas the principle of autopoiesis of living systems, which Maturana calls their organization, always remains the same. And those structural variations, which are viable, form in the course of millions an billions of years the pedigree of species with both dying and newly budding twigs and branches. The talk about adaption implies that life, such as man, has goals to which it subordinates itself. Here again the uncritical observer, i. e. he who does not have ismrole in mind is at work - that observer with the "reality without quotation marks", as Maturana puts it* - who unconsciously transfers his way of teleological thinking to the object of research. The result of ramification he experiences as such an observer thus becomes for him the strategy of a living thing. But does not man himself as unspecialized non-adapt type, represent best with the civilization created by him the ability of a living thing to assimilate foreign structures at their cost unhesitatingly into his own one, which means the structure adequate to him, which becomes a growing problem for him which fatally covers the talk of conformism of all life?
*Humberto Maturana, Was ist erkennen? Serie Piper Munich, 1996


5. The Self-Endangerment of Life

In order not to strain creation to the state of exhaustion, it has become imperative for the global mankind and the economy to get the give and take back into equilibrium, that is to bear in mind its acquiring strategy and to actually create the conformism claimed. He who only takes all the time, should not be surprised when some day his hands remain empty. Life as the assimilation of a foreign body into its own one at the cost of the foreign body is "evil" by nature as shown already by the BSE prion (the Pope thus having finally got rid of his theodosian problem in an elegant way with recognition of the darwinian theory). As far as the character of life is concerned, we must not be under any illusion, for it is just this "diabolical" aspect and its effects, of which we must be aware of in our present power position. Nothing is alive without assimilating foreign matter and separating remains - "waste" - in the seemingly most harmless case by photosynthesis, which - on account of the agressive oxygen released - first of all poisoned the whole atmosphere only over long periods of time did animals learn to survive in this atmosphere for certain period (I'd just like to mention the danger emanating from the "free radicals") and to use it but during which time and again the extinction of species occurred on account of the constant increase in oxygen. Today man pursues a civilizing assimilation of the planet at the expense of that what has so far been his basis of life with similarly fatal consequences, except that the retrospective process of oxygen reduction etc. passes much more rapidly and does therefore not leave enough time for the existing species to produce a sufficient number of viable variations by ramification, if man leaves them at all any living space. Until he realizes and acts according to this realization that not single species but only ecosystems are able to survive, it could easily be too late. The moment of the greatest triumph of man over all other species would thus inevitably also be his last moment, and he will no longer have any time left to find out how little intelligent and adapted he had been in spite and actually because of his big brain.

The "crown of creation" devours in its immense ability of instrumentalization of a foreign body creation itself.


6. The great Importance of the Immunity Level and the Use of Sexuality

Aids, BSE, resistance to bacteria: although the selection also takes place in the generations of the phenomenal level, on the level of immunity, to which too little regard has been given so far, the struggle for survival occurs every moment and most precisely. The "fitter one" is in the long term the one who has an immunologic system which is working better and more broadly patterned. He only can preserve for himself the ability of the living to convert instinctively for themselves foreign structures, on their costs. The variation of the genetic make-up by sexual reproduction primarily serves the purpose of gaining another advantage over disease-causing agents with a short generation term: to hasten away from the threatening assimilation of its own resourses by bacteria, viruses and parasites with the help of self-transformation by way of a new combination of genes. Individuality is a guarantee of survival. (Out of it is also the great significance of personal love understandable, as drive - opposite to ordinary life - to be like others.)

Diversity of species, together with all kinds of inter-species barriers and with individuality, are the most important result of this struggle for survival, with which life attempts to protect itself from its own agressivity.

This unique effort of nature becomes - with the cloning of new races of domestic animals - subjected to the urge for profit. Care must be taken when organs from foreign species are being transplanted. Also it must be warned most strongly of the transplantation of (human) parent cells into other species, in a new variation of sodomy (which is probably the source of syphilis and Aids in man) and other gene transfer. And the so-called "gene scrap" of genes not required at present, a term used by biologists in an alarming way in order to debase things not understood, is both the memory of evolution and the silent gene reserve for times of crisis.


7. All is one life

With the genesis of the living before ownes eyes, one realize that all is one life, which has ramified without limit. The results of gene-analysis come, thus, not as a surprise. The biologist Hubert Markl wrotes in an essay published in the journal FOCUS 11/2001 "The ever wider Horizont": "The establishment of a genetic overlap with domestic mices is much more astonishing and - from the standpoint of the philosopy of evolution - of more far-reaching consequences, than the 99% genetic overlap with the hominide apes. Even more astonishing is the fact that our proteins coincide up to 40 to 60% with those of a worm, a yeast, or a fly! Only about 7% of all known protein families are specific for vertebrates, the large rest is common to all living beings and us." The conclusion of all this is: "Even if 99% of our human genoms are present in humanoid apes, this doesn't mean that our human nature is hidden in the remaining 1%. The whole man lays in his genoms, but this is mostly old, undeniable animal heritage: there is a lot of animal in man, or a lot of human in animals, as you prefere." In this one life there is much living from and for each other. Even the biggest and strongest living beings could serve as breeding ground for the smallest one and become dominated by these. The more variate an ecological system, the greater its chances to survive periods of shortage. The individual life is just a link in an infinite chain of life. This doesn't exclude, however, that a living being self-conscious of its existence, like the man, could give an individual meaning to another self-creative process. Beyond this, the powerfull man of present day, which became "lord of earth", is bound - in his own interest - to refrain himself, to limit his population and its goals, in order to protect the miracle of life from cheap consume.


8. The Human Being – a Naked Ape?

Being genetically such close to the ape, it’s quite logical calling man ‘a naked ape’ like the title of a book by Desmond Morris does. But according to my opinion, we do not know on which level of his genesis man has lost his ape’s fur an whether he still could be called an ape on that level. Of the homonides there are only bones and artifacts left. Since the sensitiveness that is related with the hand is playing an important role for the development of the differentiated typical human cognition, for me the conclusion lies close that nakedness has also something to do with the developing sensitiveness of the prehensile organ. Perhaps the sensitive and for tenderness looking human beings, which even back than have probably mostly been female, had started to look for partners for companionship and pairing who had a less shaggy fur which resulted in a genetic drift to more nakedness which corresponded with growing craftman’s and spiritual skills. These skills in turn enabled man to compensate the disadvantages of nakedness through clothing and housing and thus to adapt quickly to the respective climate which led to the ability to settle in all different climes. So it could be by all means true that, how it is described in the Old Testament Mose 3, Adam after being prompted by his wife Eve to eat together with her from the tree of knowledge, they both recognized that ‘they had been naked’, i.e. our ancestry did realize emphatically the difference between man and animal which had manifested in an extrinsic form. At this point the ‘naked ape’ had been out of the question. But why shall man hide his nakedness, except for reasons of weather and hygiene? Shall he be ashamed for not being an ape anymore? Shouldn’t he be allowed to face the genuine truth of his being naked, after it had been revealed to him?

© HILLE 1996-2001
No. 1-7 translated by Dr. George Galeczki (Cologne/Germany),  No. 8 by Peter Hille MA (Munich/Germany)

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