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Life (a Foundation)


Introduction

What does it mean when we say that we are alive? Science can give us a list of properties or qualities that distinguish living plants and organisms from dead or inanimate matter. These include the capacity to grow, metabolize nutrients, respond to stimuli, reproduce, and adapt to the environment.

In its absolute and most basic form, life consists of a bunch of self sustaining chemical reactions. Living cells provide safe environments wherein these chemical reactions can occur and be sustained at an appropriate pace. What happens in a living cell is under the control of the cell’s genes. The genetic code tells the cell such things as how it should react to various internal and external stimuli, what proteins it needs to make, and when and how to reproduce.

Meaning

What is the meaning of life? People have proposed a number of possible answers to this question ranging from the spiritual to the pragmatic. Many people believe in some version of life after death wherein our lives somehow determine our fate in the afterlife. Many people believe that the meaning of life is in life itself and in its creation of descendents. In addition, some people believe that meaning comes from both our life and our afterlife. Then, there are some people who believe that life simply has no meaning at all.

First off, for those people who believe that life is meaningless, I would say that it is better to live life as if it did have meaning than live it as if it did not. If life truly is meaningless, then how people live their lives really does not matter, so living life as if it did have meaning would not make anyone any worse off. On the other hand, if these people were wrong and life does have meaning, then they would be far better off living life as if they did believed it has meaning.

Then, for those people who believe in an afterlife, I need to point out that there really is no definitive proof about its form or whether or not it even exists. A given person’s religion may claim to have an answer about the afterlife, but there are many different religions and many different ideas about an afterlife. The only real way to find out if there is an afterlife would be to die and then see what, if any, afterlife exists.

If an afterlife does exist, then what we do in life may play a big part in what happens in our afterlives. This means that there may be things that we should do in our lives in order to be prepared for the afterlife. Of course, whether or not an afterlife exists, the things that we would do to prepare for it may just make our lives better. Therefore, once again, we can see that we are still far better off living our lives as if life had meaning rather than living them as if they did not.

Genetic Code

All in all, based on what we actually do know and not just on what some people believe based on their faith, there may be only one underlying fact about life that we can truly be certain of. That is that life is all about its genetic code. This is true whether we talk about a complex multi-celled organism, a single celled organism or even a simple virus. Life, as we know it, could not exist without its genes. In its most basic form, life could be seen as nothing more than a system that provides the means by which its genetic code is able to survive.

The genetic codes that exist today were determined by what genetic codes existed and were able to survive and to reproduce in the past. In addition, the genetic codes that will exist in the future are dependent on what genetic codes exist today and will be able to survive and to reproduce. Therefore, the main driving force and the ultimate meaning of life seems to be the protection and propagation of its genetic code. In fact, if this were not the case for some organism, then its life and its genetic code would not survive.

Survival

For life to survive, it really does not matter where it came from, what greater meaning we may give it, or, for the most part, what happens to any given individual living organism. What seems to matter is the continued survival of enough members of a species in order for its genetic code to be passed from one generation to the next. In this light, we can see self sacrifice as an adaptation where an individual living organism will try to protect other living organisms that are carrying its genetic code. The ultimate sacrifice would be in trying to protect any and all living things and their corresponding genetic codes.

In order to survive, life also depends on its ability to reproduce and to adapt to change. Any given species must be able to create new members of its kind or it would soon cease to exist. A species must also have the ability to adapt to changes in its environment. It doesn’t matter whether these changes are in the weather or in other plants or animals. If a species does not adapt to change then it may no longer be able to survive and to reproduce in its new environment or to compete with other living things, and it and its genetic code would soon cease to exist.

Diversity

This all means that the members of a species must have within its genetic code enough similarities in order to reproduce and enough diversity to be able to adjust and to adapt to a wide range of possible changes. In fact, during times of rapid or extreme change, the more diversity that a species has, the better its chances are of surviving. In addition, just as diversity within a species helps it survive, having a larger diversity of species helps the overall survival of life itself. For instance, when there is a wide diversity of life and one food source becomes unavailable, another source may still exist.

For humans, diversity and adaptation are not just a matter of genetics, but also a matter of lifestyles and ideas. As large complex long-lived multi-celled organisms, our species cannot evolve as rapidly as many smaller and simpler life forms, but our large brains give us the ability to adjust our lifestyles to survive even extreme changes. We cannot always predict what changes may come along, so we may never know what may someday be useful or necessary. Therefore, our survival depends as much on our social and cultural diversity as it does on our genetic diversity and the genetic diversity of all life.

Basic Truths

It would seem that no matter what other meaning we may find in life, what ultimately matters is the survival of the genetic code. Given this, what basic truths can we derive about life and the survival of its genetic code? The following may be some of the more important of these basic truths.

  • The following are some basic truths about individual species.
    • Each given species has the same basic right to exist as any other species.
    • Each given species has the same basic right to habitat, food and resources as any other species.
    • To safeguard its survival, each given species must protect and conserve its food and its resources.
    • To safeguard its survival, each given species needs to have sufficient genetic diversity to evolve and to adapt to any possible changes in its environment.
    • • Although the human brain gives us more overall intelligence than any other species, it does not make us inherently superior to them in the same way that being larger, stronger or faster does not make any other species superior to us.
  • The following are some basic truths dealing with the interactions between species.
    • To varying degrees, each species has evolved in ways that make it dependent on one or more other species.
    • Interspecies competition puts pressure on each species to adjust, to adapt and to stay healthy and strong in order to safeguard its survival.
    • The extinction of any given species could contribute to or lead directly to the extinction of one or more other species.
  • The following are some basic truths about individual organisms.
    • Each living thing starts out with the same basic right to exist as any other living thing.
    • Each living thing starts out with the same basic inherent value as any other living thing, but can become more or less valuable to its species, to its environment or to the world.
    • Each living thing has a right to decide how to live its life, but must live with the consequences or die as a result of its actions.
  • The following are some basic truths dealing with the interactions between individual organisms.
    • Each living thing has an inherent right to protect itself and its environment from harm.
    • Some minimum level of competition between individuals is needed in order to ensure that only the fittest individuals survive and contribute their genetic code to the next generation.

Earth

It appears that our universe contains billions of galaxies and each one of them, on average, contains billions of stars, planets, moons and asteroids. In all this vast expanse of space, the only place where we are certain that life, as we know it, can be supported is on our own planet Earth. Although it does seem logical that life should exist somewhere out there beyond our little blue planet, we do not know where or in what form it exists. Even if life does exist beyond our planet, we do not know when, if ever, we will find it or it will find us.

Although our planet is presently capable of supporting life, it may not always be able to do so. Eventually, our sun will run out of fuel and no longer be able to provide enough warmth and sunlight to support life. Even before our sun goes out, numerous other things could bring about the destruction of life on our planet. For instance, our planet could be hit by a massive asteroid or comet that destroys it or knocks it into a different orbit around the sun, or global warming could cause a runaway greenhouse effect that cooks the planet.

Of course, our actions or inactions could change things so that life on Earth would end sooner or later. Perhaps, everyone alive today will be long dead and will not be directly affected by our world coming to an end. Still, it will affect the survival of our descendents and our genetic code. So, what will happen to life when Earth is no longer able to support it? Will the universe even notice that we have come and gone? Will our lives have had any real lasting meaning at all?

If the ultimate meaning of live is to protect and to propagate the genetic code, then life must find a way to survive after the Earth is incapable of supporting life. The answer may be found in the human race. We have already learned to take our first baby steps into space and we are already scanning the heavens for signs of life. It may very well be that our special purpose is to one day send or transport Earth’s life forms and their genetic codes to a new home. Maybe, our destiny will be to one day spread our planet’s life forms throughout our galaxy and the universe.

Humans

As human beings, we have more of an ability to help or to save the life that exists on our planet than any other species. Our technological advances may one day save our planet from some natural disaster such as an asteroid strike or allow us to spread Earth’s life forms to other worlds.

Unfortunately, we also have a greater ability to hurt or to destroy all life on our planet. In fact, we have already changed and poisoned our environment so much that many species have already gone extinct and many more are on their way towards going extinct. Unless we change course, our actions and our inactions could one day lead to the destruction of all life on Earth.

We currently have our chance at life. If we want our genetic code to survive, then we must give our descendents the best possible chance at life. We must leave them with a world that is best capable of supporting life, which means a world with enough resources, with a clean environment, and with a wide diversity of life. Someday our descendents may find a new place to live in the universe, but in order to give them the best chance to do that, we will need to postpone our planet’s destruction for as long as possible. Therefore, it would seem that we need to undertake the long-term goal of protecting and preserving all the life forms that we have here on Earth.

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Philosophy - A Philosophy that provides a Foundation for a better Future.

Last Updated:
Friday, November 19, 2021
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