Re: Life in a test tube

Arthur V. Chadwick (
Thu, 06 May 1999 15:39:00 -0700

At 10:31 AM 5/6/99 -0600, John wrote:
>Someone wrote recently that "life" could be defined as any entity
>having the attributes of reproduction, metabolism, and response
>to external stimuli."
>On the basis of those three attributes, he went on to say, the
>biologist Fox had, from chemicals clearly not having those
>attributes, created life.
>It seems to me that this ought to be a pretty clear argument for
>the creation of "life in a test tube." Particularly if the chemicals Fox
>used could be created from non-organic chemicals.
>Just wondering. What possible rebuttal could be made to this claim?

Only a tyro of biology would suggest that a microscopic bubble having some
of the properties of an inert semipermeable membrane, and some of the
elastic properties of proteins, was by itself, related to life. Whatever it
may be doing, it is nothing that soap bubbles cannot do. Soap bubbles
expand and contract, they bud and give rise to new daughter products, they
can by virtue of the ordered molecules in their membranes selectively
interact with other molecules, letting some pass and excluding others.
This is a whacked definition of what life is. Where is the whole genetic
mechanism required to replicate complex biochemical pathways and energetics
that can be scaled and directed to specific tasks involved in reproduction?