Are viruses living, and is it a pointless debate?
Posted: 21 April 2018 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Biologists debate whether viruses should be considered living organisms, partly because the term “living” is difficult to define. Is the debate simply semantics, or is it consequential?

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Posted: 21 April 2018 08:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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MGaMike - 21 April 2018 12:22 PM

Biologists debate whether viruses should be considered living organisms, partly because the term “living” is difficult to define. Is the debate simply semantics, or is it consequential?

IMO, viruses are a hybrid, somewhere between purely chemical, yet being able to act as parasitic organism.

A missing link between inanimate and animate?

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Posted: 21 April 2018 10:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Are viruses alive? New evidence says yes
Evolutionary history suggests they evolved from ancient cells
By Grennan Milliken September 25, 2015
https://www.popsci.com/new-evidence-that-viruses-are-alive

Guess the next question would be, what difference does it make?

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Posted: 22 April 2018 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Citizenschallenge-v.3 - 21 April 2018 10:58 PM

Are viruses alive? New evidence says yes
Evolutionary history suggests they evolved from ancient cells
By Grennan Milliken September 25, 2015
https://www.popsci.com/new-evidence-that-viruses-are-alive

Guess the next question would be, what difference does it make?

Evolution from an inimate to animate bio-organisms?

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Posted: 22 April 2018 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Citizenschallenge-v.3 - 21 April 2018 10:58 PM

Are viruses alive? New evidence says yes
Evolutionary history suggests they evolved from ancient cells
By Grennan Milliken September 25, 2015
https://www.popsci.com/new-evidence-that-viruses-are-alive

Guess the next question would be, what difference does it make?

That article posits biochemical similarities between viruses and cells “suggests that viruses were not simply shed genetic material of cells, but shared unique properties with cells (and thus were living) and eventually evolved as separate entities.” It seems to me that viruses probably descended from cells rather than originating independently (that is, rather than there having been no universal common ancestor). We can find viral gene segments in the human genome, and it seems like every living cell across all three domains can be infected by at least one virus. But is it reasonable to conclude that because viruses and cells co-evolve/d, viruses are living? Maybe a better question is, should the capacity to actively self-replicate be necessary to consider something living. It seems like a trivial argument at first glance, but maybe it has implications in understanding the origins of life and the search for extraterrestrial organisms.

Write4U - 21 April 2018 08:22 PM
MGaMike - 21 April 2018 12:22 PM

Biologists debate whether viruses should be considered living organisms, partly because the term “living” is difficult to define. Is the debate simply semantics, or is it consequential?

IMO, viruses are a hybrid, somewhere between purely chemical, yet being able to act as parasitic organism.

A missing link between inanimate and animate?

You bring up an interesting point - it’s hard to distinguish physics from chemistry from biology because lower levels of organization produce higher ones. Atoms form molecules that undergo chemical processes that we call metabolism. Viruses are not metabolically active outside of a cell. Your use of the word “organism” suggests you consider viruses living once they infect a cell, since an organism can be defined as a discrete living individual. But do viruses become metabolically active once inside cells, or are they still passive?

You reworded the question nicely. Of course these are big open questions but it’s an interesting discussion.

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Posted: 23 April 2018 04:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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MGaMike - 21 April 2018 12:22 PM

Biologists debate whether viruses should be considered living organisms, partly because the term “living” is difficult to define. Is the debate simply semantics, or is it consequential?

I think it is pure semantics. We know pretty well what viruses are, how they multiply, and that they have no metabolism on their own. But if they count as ‘life’ is, given this knowledge, a question of what you consider as ‘life’.

DNA in itself is not life, it is a molecule. Same with RNA, proteins. But combined (and ‘started in the right way’), they can constitute life. If you count the combination known as ‘virus’ to life, seems a matter of taste to me.

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Posted: 23 April 2018 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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GdB - 23 April 2018 04:40 AM
MGaMike - 21 April 2018 12:22 PM

Biologists debate whether viruses should be considered living organisms, partly because the term “living” is difficult to define. Is the debate simply semantics, or is it consequential?

I think it is pure semantics. We know pretty well what viruses are, how they multiply, and that they have no metabolism on their own. But if they count as ‘life’ is, given this knowledge, a question of what you consider as ‘life’.

DNA in itself is not life, it is a molecule. Same with RNA, proteins. But combined (and ‘started in the right way’), they can constitute life. If you count the combination known as ‘virus’ to life, seems a matter of taste to me.

I think that language betrays us a bit. “Living” is more a process. “Life” as a thing is bit deceiving term, regardless how common it is. Commonly we speak about state of “living” and state of “death”. Some states “in between” were dubbed as clinical death or hibernation, depending on type.

What we do know about reproductive cycle of the viruses indicate that they are “alive” inside a cell while reproducing. If they are using molecules around to reproduce only, its still a sign of life, regardless the virus itself does not have any other signs of life, especially outside of the cells.

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Posted: 24 April 2018 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The argument is over semantics.  Alive or not some viruses can cause devastating diseases and that alone if more than enough for us to learn all we can about how to defend our bodies from viruses.

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