Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

Kee Hyun Kim's picture

Defining life


As I mentioned in my previous post, I have had a long time interest in the issue of abortion. Although it is a very complex political, religious and social issue, I believe the core issue in the whole pro-choice pro-life debate centers around the definition of life.


Although both of my parents and many of our family friends are medical doctors (in Korea, one had to study medicine as an undergraduate to become a doctor, which meant that all my parents friends from college are doctors) Nobody has been able to give me a clear answer in what defines life.


Until Fridays class, I continued to have a vague belief that some standard must exist which will allow us to define living things from non living things. Although I had little knowledge in science and biology, I just had this naive belief that soon, smart scientist will be able to come up with the ultimate yardstick to define life and that will solve the ambiguity among what stage of the fetus is it a life. (Whether it may be the stage of conception to 8 month into the pregnancy)  


Although I am still confused and unclear regarding the definition of life, I am no longer anxious. Now I know that although there may be some characteristics that pertains to a living organism (such as energy dependent, semi autonomous, bounded etc) it is simply not possible to produce a single definition of life.




To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
4 + 4 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.