Don’t always know what we think we know

Here’s a compelling argument I heard recently, which sort of demonstrates how slippery definitions are – even definitions we think we have an handle on.

Goes something like this: What is alive? Are viruses alive? Most people would say yes. But are they? Viruses consume nothing and they leave no waste. They’re unable to reproduce on their own. They cannot survive without a host. Wouldn’t we normally consider all of those elements of the definition of life?

Now consider fire. Fire can propagate itself. It consumes, and produces waste. It takes in oxygen and expels carbon dioxide. Under those criteria, fire sounds every bit alive as your aunt Sally.

This argument by itself serves as both an interesting philosophical exercise, and a cautionary warning to NASA that maybe they ought to broaden their life-searching scope. In the broader sense it reminds us that language can be tricky, and there are fewer absolute truths than we’d like to believe.

About editor, facilitator, decider

Doesn't know much about culture, but knows when it's going to hell in a handbasket.
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2 Responses to Don’t always know what we think we know

  1. I want to start blogging too what do you think, which blog cms is good for beginner?

    • Well, I won’t pretend to be an expert on the available technology. I think the most important question you need to answer is – what are you blogging for? There’s no wrong answer to that, but if you decide to report regularly on specific subjects (such as politics or current events) then your blog will look very different from on online journal of your stream-of-consciousness.

      I recommend that you decide what sort of blog you want to create, then take a look at several similar blogs for inspiration. And then dive in, and get started! Good luck, and please send a link when you’re up and running. We’d love to take a look.

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