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It's a stinking, shambling corpse grotesquely parodying life.
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Is fire alive?
Yes 23%  23%  [ 7 ]
No 48%  48%  [ 15 ]
Depends 29%  29%  [ 9 ]
Total votes : 31
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 12:54 pm 
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The more or less agreed definition:
"An Exothermic chemical reaction involving a source of fuel and oxygen, where the energy within the fuel is released as heat and light."

A human being is essentially a set of chemical reactions. We have body heat, so as a system, the human body is Exothermic. We eat and breath - so fuel and oxygen are covered. We don't really do things like photosynthesis, so it's safe to say all energy emitted by a human being was at some point released from our fuel source. We release body heat, some degree of kinetic energy, and a human body has an electromagnetic signature (light).

So, a human being can be clasified as "fire". Assuming that human beings are alive - then at least some subset of all types of "fire" are alive.

At least until you proceed set the human being on fire, and then it becomes questionable.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 10:02 am 
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That's like calling a rock a sword because it has iron in it.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:34 am 
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A rock is potentially a sword.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 12:03 pm 
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That's true, but can a human or animal potentially be considered a fire because they share (to some people) certain characteristics? I mean, what's to stop someone from throwing the lot of humanity in with murderers and rapists if you are doing it from that perspective?

Fire generates heat, and so do humans. But Murderers eat, and so do normal people.

That rational just sends off warning bells in my head when you try to validate a concept by comparing a few traits it has to simular traits of something else.

I, personally have always considered something alive when it can make a volitive act, say as to stop eating something when it puts you in danger. Fire can't make that decision, it'll just keep going wherever there's fuel and where the wind is pushing it. It doesn't make any choices about going hungry for a promise of better food later.

This debate is sort of just a circle jerk unless you define what you consider to be "alive". The Characteristics of other living things, the ability to make choices, cellular growth(viruses, which I don't consider to be "alive", but they live) and so on.

I've stated my views previously on the matter obnoxiously but now I've given it some thought. I do not think fire is alive. Maybe when I light a cigarette and the flame pleads for me to keep the zippo open I might change my views, but until then fire is fire, not life.

To me.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 1:02 pm 
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Reason wrote:
I, personally have always considered something alive when it can make a volitive act, say as to stop eating something when it puts you in danger.

Okay, I have a question for you in relation to this. There's this particular species of wasps. In this species, the females make a nest, lay their young in it and fill the nest with paralysed insects for the larvae to feed upon. When it catches insects, it brings it back to the nest, leaves the paralysed insect outside beside the nest, goes into the nest to check the eggs then comes back out, retrieves the insect and puts it in the nest.

If something occurs to move the paralysed insect away from where the wasp left it, then the wasp retrieves the insect, leaves it outside beside the nest, goes into the nest to check the eggs and so forth. If something moves the insect away from the nest yet again, the wasp will again repeat the same procedure. In fact, if someone/thing were to keep moving the insect before the wasp dumped it in the nest, the wasp would continue the same procedure until it died of starvation.

Is this wasp really alive, since it cannot make a volitive decision to take the insect into the nest with it?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 1:32 pm 
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Now we're getting to the meat of the matter. Right now I'm reviewing my definition of being Alive and I'd have to say that's bording on not being what I'd consider alive.

From what I've seen on the discovery channel and animal planet, bugs are sort of "programmed" to do a certain thing when a certain thing for a certain amount fo time blah blah blah. I reminds me very much like one of those robot dogs that were the hip thing to buy your kids a few years ago.

All spiders, save for a few species, follow the same pattern all their lifespan and do not deviate from it, same with ants and all other small insects.

If I were to consider that wasp alive then I'd also have to consider my computer alive. For me, something has to be able to have a thought "Oh, this is good," or "I that is bad, don't touch" or "I don't know what that is, I'd better stay away/go investigate."

The wasp doesn't seem to have a thought. Why is the bug moving? What can I do to stop it?

It doesn't take action to stop it from happening, seemingly just having a planned set of actions in cannot deviate from. "Protect the nest. Provide food. "

So I guess my answer would be no, I do not consider it to be Alive, or a better word would be Cognitive.

But then you go back to the fire. If we go by Dictionary.com'sdefinition of life, then fire isn't, since it doesn't have a few of the traits mentioned (adaptation was the one that stuck out to me).

But someone mentioned philosophy, and from a philisophical stance I'd also have to say that I don't think fire is alive 'cause it does not adapt or make cognitive decisions. Even the Wasp can recognize when it is threatened, while a fire doesn't lash out at a fire truck when the water starts pumping.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 3:34 pm 
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Reason wrote:
But someone mentioned philosophy, and from a philisophical stance I'd also have to say that I don't think fire is alive 'cause it does not adapt or make cognitive decisions. Even the Wasp can recognize when it is threatened, while a fire doesn't lash out at a fire truck when the water starts pumping.


*cough*

Let's not forget that life is not limited to animals. Plants and fungii seem to be excluded from this philosophical definition.

...OMG I'm so fucking sick of this debate...
*SETS FIRE TO THREAD*

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 4:48 pm 
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First I'd like to say I completely support this thread. I love debates about this shit.

To go back to an earlier point:
Rusty wrote:
nick012000 wrote:
Wikipedia wrote:
conventional definition
While there is no universal agreement on the definition of life, scientists generally accept that the biological manifestation of life exhibits the following phenomena:

Organization - Living things are composed of one or more cells, which are the basic units of life.
Metabolism - Metabolism produces energy by converting nonliving material into cellular components (synthesis) and decomposing organic matter (catalysis). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
Growth - Growth results from a higher rate of synthesis than catalysis. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter. The particular species begins to multiply and expand as the evolution continues to flourish.
Adaptation - Adaptation is the accommodation of a living organism to its environment. It is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism's heredity as well as the composition of metabolized substances, and external factors present.
Response to stimuli - A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism when touched to complex reactions involving all the senses of higher animals. A response is often expressed by motion: the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun or an animal chasing its prey.
Reproduction - The division of one cell to form two new cells is reproduction. Usually the term is applied to the production of a new individual (either asexually, from a single parent organism, or sexually, from at least two differing parent organisms), although strictly speaking it also describes the production of new cells in the process of growth.


Now, let's run through that list.
Organization: Nope. Fire's a homogenous mass.
Metabolism: Sure...
Growth: Yes.
Adaptation: No.
Response to stimuli: Not really, no.
Reproduction: No.


Fire can climb walls, fly to other areas (Both aforementioned are adaptability), and shrink from water as well as explode in growth from certain chemicals (Response to stimuli). It "reproduces" in a sense of the word, and typically doesn't stop unless put in check by an external force (This sounds a bit like bacteria). Also, ascribing to any sort of idea of fate, fire is organized; there's obviously a plan for the fire under this circumstance, and the fire is following it out to the letter. See your own post on God and free will to see where this is going.


Rusty, I think your argument here is actually pretty weak.

By the deffenition of react to stimuli, fire does not react. This was touched on a couple of posts earlier, but I think it's important to reiterate. Fire can only do one thing; consume fuel to produce more heat/light. It does not 'shrink' from water, merely it connot proceed in consuming it. Fire does not climb walls, it begins to burn them, and as has been shown at this point, attributing reproduction to fire is dubious at best as we haven't yet ironed out wether it is reproducing or growing bigger. I'd have to side with growing bigger. This means that fire doesn't qualify under the wikipedia deffinition of life.

Oh and Kali, if we go by that same wikipedia deffenition, both plants and fungi qualify as living entities. From the philisophical stand point, they also react to situations, they can grow, alter their shape and colour, and many have defensive mechanisms that alow them to lash out at predators, so they also qualify.

I think that fundamentally fire doesn't qualify because it is far to simplistic. I find that life is fairly complex, and fire is simply not complex enough to call it 'alive.'

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 3:13 am 
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Vigi-Kami wrote:
Oh and Kali, if we go by that same wikipedia deffenition, both plants and fungi qualify as living entities. From the philisophical stand point, they also react to situations, they can grow, alter their shape and colour, and many have defensive mechanisms that alow them to lash out at predators, so they also qualify.


By the Wikipedia definition, they are alive, which is why I mentioned them. Reason's philosophical stance was "does not adapt or make cognitive decisions." Cognition implies brain. Frontal lobe, even, though I wasn't going to go that far. Plants and fungii do adapt, but they have no brain. They have no locomotion either (specifically why I mentioned them, as there is a tendency to think that locomotion is a qualification for philosophical life). So I was arguing Reason's specific definition of "philosophical life," not Wikipedia's.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:53 am 
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"Life" is essentially any enclosed system that employs DNA/genetic material to organize itself and reproduce. Fire is not alive, a sentient robot would not be alive, and any form of extraterrestrial intelligence that we encounter would not be alive unless it possessed DNA, RNA, or something similar. The difficulty in this debate arises when we confuse sentience/cognizance and life. Humans are both sentient/cognizant and living, and life forms most closely related to human beings are also, to some degree, both sentient/cognizant and living. But sponges, plants, fungi, and microorganisms (i.e. 99% of life on earth) is not cognizant, whereas an intelligent computer would not be living.

As humans, we tend to be anthropocentric in our understanding of different categories/concepts. Thus, we try to see will/choice/intelligence in the actions of, say, insects, or plants, since they are living things like us. Likewise, if a robot or computer gained consciousness, or if we encountered some sort of conscious non-DNA-based extraterrestrial entity, we would describe it as "alive", even though said entity would have nothing in common with a sponge or a slime mold. The fact is, that if we consider insects, plants, fungi, and microorganisms to be "life" then the definition must be based upon the possession and utilization of DNA to create and reproduce chemical systems, and have nothing to do with "will", "choice", "self-agency", etc.

Just because human beings are both alive and possess willpower/cognizance/sentience/consciousness doesn't mean these two concepts are related in any way.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 2:34 pm 
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Life has existed as a term before DNA or RNA , it has nothing to do with them.

Life is a competely subjective term. An AI could be considered alive, after all, it could in theory build another copy of itself and thus reproduce.

This is to me similar to the "Is pluto a planet" debate going on right now. "Planet" is mostly a subjective term. Any kind of "magic line" you draw between a planet and a planetoid is purely fictious. What pluto is, is a spherical mass of X, with composition of X,Y and Z and an orbit of X. Attaching or removing an artificial label such as "planet" changes nothing about it.

Likewise life is an artifical label, something is what it is. There is no set definition of "life" between cultures and even individuals because it is quite impossible to fit everything in the universe into two neat little piles of "alive" and "not alive". The universe does not so easily bend to mans will.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 6:51 pm 
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Zzarchov wrote:
An AI could be considered alive, after all, it could in theory build another copy of itself and thus reproduce.

An Ai would be sentient not alive. The character Data from star Trek was sentient but he was not living.

Kali_Ava wrote:
I was arguing Reason's specific definition of "philosophical life," not Wikipedia's.

My bad. I missunderstood.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 8:00 pm 
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And what would he be missing from his criteria to be alive?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:14 am 
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Zzarchov wrote:
Life has existed as a term before DNA or RNA , it has nothing to do with them.


The term "cloud" existed before we understood that clouds were floating condensed water. The term "star" existed before we understood the concept of fusion and realized that the sun itself is in the "star" category. To understand a term, you have to analyze all objects that that term is uncontroversially applied to, and then isolate the property that unifies all of these things. In other words, if I want to understand "x", I look at all the things that everyone (or at least every sane person) would include in category x. In the case of "life", everything that everyone would definitely agree is "life" - insects, sponges, mushrooms, fish, bacteria, people - shares the ability to create structure and reproduce via DNA/RNA. All examples of "life" that could be given that are not DNA-based would not be accepted by everyone as "life".

If you're still hung up on my narrow definition of the term "life", let me put it another way: the concept of "life" as many are using it in this thread, encompasses two separate and unrelated concepts: use of DNA to create external systems (my definition of "life"), and some vague idea of will or self-agency (essentially pre-sentience). Such a concept cannot help but be vague enough (criteria such as "motion" and "reproduction") to include other things (e.g. fire). It's like if I tried to create a concept that encompassed both the concept of "fruit" and the concept of "star" - such a concept would wind up being vague enough to include all sorts of other non-fruit, non-star things.

Words like "life" are not completely relative -- if they had no fixed meaning, we wouldn't be able to use them to communicate ideas. Just because we don't have to understand the explicit meaning of the concept in order to use it does not mean that that meaning is not there.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:27 pm 
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IcyMonkey wrote:
It's like if I tried to create a concept that encompassed both the concept of "fruit" and the concept of "star" - such a concept would wind up being delicious


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 1:06 pm 
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This debate is so awesome it has drawn me out of Lurker-dom and convinced me to actually register.

IcyMonkey wants to re-define life as a system utilizing DNA to reproduce. Well, I suppose that pre-emptively defines any extraterrestrial life based on a different chemical as being "already dead". You've just limited the universe to only containing Carbon-based lifeforms. Certainly, we've never found any other types of life, but thats not to say they couldn't exist. It seems like a remarkably arbitrary line to say that something is alive because it uses DNA.

I'm personally amazed at how much of a case can be made to say that Fire is alive.

Edit: It occurs to me that the real counter to that definition of Life lies not in alien forms, but in Organizations.

Is the Republican Party alive? How about Islamo-fascism? How about the Feminine Rights Movement? On a large scale, Organizations and Movements are often referred to as being "alive", and I see no reason to dispute that. They are organized, they grow, they adapt, they respond to stimuli, and they reproduce. (by fragmenting usually, but none the less...) A case can be made that they also Metabolize. But they don't utilize DNA. I think thats a good case for dismissing DNA as a definition of life.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 11:29 am 
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Kerostasis wrote:
IcyMonkey wants to re-define life as a system utilizing DNA to reproduce. Well, I suppose that pre-emptively defines any extraterrestrial life based on a different chemical as being "already dead".


That's a bit circular, isn't it? What do you mean by "extraterrestrial life"? How do you define that?

Most likely anything that could be considered "life" that wasn't DNA-based would not be recognizable to us as life. Reproduction, for example, would not be a good criterion because "inanimate" things reproduce themselves all the time. The only things not carbon-based that a human would consider defining to be "life" would be things which exhibit some degree of will or personality. But will/personality as a criterion for life would not include some organic/DNA-based life forms, especially those outside the animal kingdom.

That's why I'm trying to seperate the concept of organicness and DNA-use from the concept of willpower or sentience. Which one we call "life" really doesn't matter, but I applied the term to the former because every member of that category is undeniably life. If it makes everyone feel better, we can call the former "fleshiness" (examples of this being mushrooms, sponges, insects, and humans) and the latter "character" (examples of this being AI, intelligent cosmic gas-clouds, bizarre interdimensional beings, and humans(*)).

(*)And, to varying degrees, most other vertebrates.

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Is the Republican Party alive? How about Islamo-fascism? How about the Feminine Rights Movement?


Including these things (as well as fire) within the category of life is the result of accepting a definition vague enough to accomodate both "life-as-fleshiness" and "life-as-character".


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 4:14 pm 
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How about God? Is God alive? I don't believe he has any DNA. 8)

Of course, that leaves me open to the accusation that God may not exist. Without heading into that debate, lets just clarify that I'm asking if you would define that concept known as the Christian God to be alive, first assuming that he exists.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:18 pm 
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Kerostasis wrote:
How about God? Is God alive? I don't believe he has any DNA. 8)

Of course, that leaves me open to the accusation that God may not exist. Without heading into that debate, lets just clarify that I'm asking if you would define that concept known as the Christian God to be alive, first assuming that he exists.


The Christian God has character, but not fleshiness. Thus, he is not life in the same way a mushroom is life. There's no non-vague definition of life that can effectively encompass both God and mushroom.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:23 pm 
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Then, is it not conceivable that a Fire is also not life in the same way a Mushroom is, and yet still alive?

The fun part of this is, at the end of the day I still don't believe a Fire is alive. :)


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