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Border between Life and Death

by Reinarto Hadipriono Monday, Jun. 23, 2003 at 3:23 AM 62 231 206980 Jl. Lemahwungkuk 37 Cirebon - Indonesia

If the presence of the life process is considered to be one of the exclusive characteristics of living creatures, what then are we to say about seeds? Does it ever occur to you that in those monocellulars “that have survived till today” the life process has virtually never come to a stop since the very beginning of their existence? Because of the obscurity of the line separating the living from the dead, is it not possible for us to claim that there is “life” in atoms?

Border between Life and Death

The two words, life and death, are normally used only for living beings, not for objects, as the latter are normally considered lifeless. In biology, we can say something is alive when it has vital signs of life. First, it should have a certain form, size and structure. Second, it has vital activities, such as taking in food (air and nutrients) and circulating it throughout the body. It should also be able to process the food, and excrete substances that the body does not need any more. There should be processes that control all vital activities, growing, regenerating, and adjusting to the surroundings. Death means that the vital processes or activities have stopped.

Let us observe the two conditions and their differences. Sometimes we find that a plant or dried branch does not show any of these vital signs of life. It is as if it is dry because it does not get enough nutrients from the soil. However, if we give it enough water and fertilizer, it will come to life again. Of course, this can happen only if conditions both internal and external to it enable it to continue living. Thus, the condition in the first instance is (from the layman’s view) called “dead”, while the latter condition is called “alive”.

Some of us have kept insisting that men are creatures having superior status in this universe. They simply do not want to equate themselves with inanimate objects. Consequently, they posit that the non-living are made up of inorganic matter, whereas the living are made up of organic matter. Such a classification is indeed reasonable in that the various combinations of similar basic materials can indeed result in the emergence of objects which, according to the human perception, are different from each other. The fact, however, is that no matter how much men try to draw a distinction between these objects, the whole content of the universe has always been made up of the same basic material, that is, sub-atomic particles, which in the old theory are called electrons, neutrons, protons, or leptons and quarks as they are named in the new theory.

By acknowledging that man and the rest of the contents of the universe are made up of the same basic material, human beings may have a clearer vision of the relationship between man, animals, plants, and inanimate objects.

1. Let’s consider some of the physical features that man and animals have in common, apart from the basic material that forms their bodies.

• The first common feature lies in their life processes themselves. Both man and animals obviously undergo similar life processes.

• The second common feature, a very conspicuous one, lies in their symmetrical body shapes. Symmetrical here means that when a man standing upright on a piece of horizontal board is cut through with an imaginary plane right from the middle of his head straight down until the plane meets the board at right angle, we will have two relatively congruent parts of him. The left part and the right part are relatively similar to each other. The same thing holds for almost all mobile creatures.

• The third common feature lies in the functions of their bodies and their cellular tissues such as their eyes, ears, noses, mouths, brains, lungs, hearts, intestines, etc.

With the addition of these three commonalities, it is now high time that man realizes how close the relation between human beings and animals is.

2. How close the relation between animals and plants is and how obscure the borderline that separates them is can also be seen in a bacterium, which, while it resembles an animal, can yet be classified as a plant. This is particularly true of those bacteria having chlorophyll, which consequently makes their classification even more confusing.

3. And as it turns out, the viruses that we have in this world of ours can be classified as animals too, because their bodies contain protein; on the other hand, however, they are manifestly crystals by appearance, very much alike inanimate objects. Thus, it is evident how close the relation is between animals and inanimate objects and how obscure the border that separates them is.

Upon digesting all these, it becomes clear then how obscure the borderline that separates living creatures from inanimate objects is. However, if the presence of the life process is considered to be one of the exclusive characteristics of living creatures, what then are we to say about seeds, objects commonly regarded as being inactive or dormant? Is it not evident enough they are all void of the life process? How about those monocellulars—creatures that still exist till today and which, since their very existence billions of years ago, have kept increasing their numbers by splitting themselves up and have since then never experienced death? Does it ever occur to you that in those monocellulars “that have survived till today” the life process has virtually never come to a stop since the very beginning of their existence? What they have been experiencing is only a process of evolution for billions of years. These are naturally creatures with the longest life span in the world. This is proof enough that there may be other variations of life which are much different from the one we experience. On the other hand, however, man—despite the fact that the human offspring originate from sperms and ova—has always been proclaimed dead once his life process stops.

What all this implies is that the obscurity of the dividing line between the living and the dead is attributable to three things: virus, seeds, and monocellulars.

It is only by man’s initiatives that the different combinations of matter acquire their respective names and meanings, and are later classified accordingly on the basis of man’s assumptions. Thus, we have such terms as animate objects and inanimate objects, all of which are but just man-made classification based on his interpretation of nature. Now that you are aware that all the contents of the universe are made up of the same basic material, that is sub-atomic particles, which combines to form atoms, in which there are energy and extremely fast continuous movements, what have you to say about all these? Because of the obscurity of the line separating the living from the dead, is it not possible for us to claim that there is “life” in atoms? Those who look down on these creations of God will, however, find it difficult to accept this.

Reinarto Hadipriono

Quoted from: and


Mailing address: Lemahwungkuk 37, Cirebon - Indonesia. Fax 62 231 207569, Phone 62-231-206980

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