General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

Why are offspring considered new life forms?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10277points) June 5th, 2010

I think that we are all the exact same creature as the very first cell that came into being. The only way that I think this is not correct is if life spontaneously erupted from different places.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

41 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

Because we are not we are not “all the exact same creature as the very first cell that came into being.” The building blocks of life, the cells, the “ingredients”, the chemical composition, the DNA that we are all made up of are all different.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Each organism is different, and capable of acting independently. If we were unable to stop cooperating with every other living thing you may have had a point, but we are perfectly capable of being independent, and we often use that to define a self that is separate to the rest of the biotic world.

LostInParadise's avatar

The cells do not always faithfully reproduce themselves. There are mistakes, otherwise known as mutations. Being random, the vast majority of mutations are injurious and die off quickly. A very small proportion offer a slight advantage and over time those with the mutation increase their presence in the overall population. Over millions of years, the advantageous mutations accumulate to the point where new species are formed. The process is known as evolution. Please tell me this is not the first time you have heard this.

trbryant's avatar

Are you quoting some text or ruling? Your question seems fairly technical and your response ontological. Are you trying to resolve some conflict between faith and science?

cazzie's avatar

Interesting concept, but of course, arguable on many levels. Besides the genetics and biochemical differences, we could also argue consciousness and get all philosophical. Life on Planet Earth is so amazingly diverse the only thing we really have in common with our fellow organisms is that we are all carbon based. Our needs, consciousness… it causes us to destroy some of that life. To say that we are all one, is to imply that when we cut a tree down, or eat a hamburger, we are cutting off or consuming a piece of ourselves, or when a lion eats a zebra… similar concept. Even when we kill the bacteria on our toilet seat.

Following on to your logic we could even go farther and say that we are the same being as the entire matter of the Universe, because what we are made up of is ‘stars’. The material in the Universe led to life on Earth coming into existence. What do you think of this?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@cazzie Sounds like new age rubbish. Sure, all organisms (at least from each kingdom) are related in some way, but that is completely different from calling them the one organism.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Well, to answer, I think that individuals are individual, but I think that seeds on a tree are part of the tree. If they fall and grow a new tree even if it is different it is still the extension of the same tree. I would then apply this backwards all the way from the first reproduction up to the very latest.

I am not saying we’re all one, I’m saying, arguably, the very first thing that reproduced never died.

I would not say that we are like the entire matter of the universe, but I would say that the flourish or combinacione that wrought the first life intentionally or unintentionally deserves mention.

It is my opinion, but what I was asking is why a component of a single organism is thought of as a new organism.

I understand that mutations cause differences between parents and offspring. I don’t see why such differences would make the offspring a new separate life form, since it grew up out of it’s predecessor.

I would not argue that new cells in my body are new life forms. Even if a cell forms that had a genetic mutation.

Now, consciousness is a different story. I think consciousness has nothing to do with whether the first organism is still alive as long as there is any living descendant.

Consciousness is like the program running on board a seed, that replicates the parent life form.

I would say replication itself is prima facie evidence for saying that the first organism lives on to its last descendant.

If the first life succeeded in replicating, I believe it did so with the intention of self presevation not preservation of another life form that did not exist.

So, please consider my question, not my reasons for believing that offspring are not new life forms.

BTW this is not about abortion which I do not believe in. I think that regardless of whether all descendants of the original organism are still part of the same organism, they can still have a “natural individuality” that makes self reliant sentient individuals deserve every opportunity to live once so conceived.

laureth's avatar

We are all made up of the same matter, but that doesn’t make us all one organism in the same way that having been born from my mother makes me the same as my mother. (Heaven forfend!!)

You may be interested in the Ship of Theseus paradox. To wit:

An example deriving from a story in Plutarch, and often used to illustrate problems with the identity of composite objects. Theseus has a ship, and in the way of things parts need constant replacement. There comes a point at which none of the original components remain. Is it the same ship? Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore, 2, 11, 7) asks whether if someone went around picking up the discarded parts and constructed a ship with them, which would be the better candidate for being the original ship?

I may have been derived from my mother (or single-celled algae, your choice), but all of my parts have cycled around and are new. Nothing of me is left that was ever part of her, and by the time your tree has sprouted and lived a few years, nothing is left of the original seed that once hung on the parent tree. It’s like a copy of a copy of a copy. At what point does that cease to be the original?

LostInParadise's avatar

Okay, I see what you are asking. There probably is a small kernel of that first organism embedded in our genes. It was an extraordinary development and nothing in evolutionary history has been quite so dramatic. Still there have been significant changes, like backbones, warm bloodedness and brains that have been significant enough to note the differences.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Meh, I am unconvinced of the contrary of my assertions.

Ltryptophan's avatar

I feel that reproduction is self preservation. This is my tenet.

Nullo's avatar

Offspring are discrete organisms with no connection to the parent, for one. In most cases (non-mitotic) that you encounter, they also have somewhat different genes.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@Nullo no connection, fallacious. It’s called an umbilical cord in humans!

laureth's avatar

If the umbilical cord counts as a connection making me one with my parent (even at age 30something), than I must also be one with the soda I suck through a straw.

The umbilical is like a straw through which nutrients pass. It connects the baby to the placenta, not the mother (although nutrients from Mom’s blood pass through the placenta, down the cord to the fetus, all on the fetus’ blood supply – not mom’s). The cord, placenta, and umbilical sac form from the division of cells that the embryo goes through, not as part of the mother. Your navel is where the cord was connected to you. Your mom has no such scar, as both the cord and the placenta were expelled after you were born, just as you throw away an empty cup of soda.

Nullo's avatar

@Ltryptophan If I stick my hand in the wrong part of a meat grinder, I do no physical damage to either of my parents.

The umbilical cord falls (or more typically, is cut) off.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Thanks for you insight, but I disagree. A human mother, with help from a human father, produces a child which comes right out of her own tissues(and dad’s), just as she came from her parents before her.

I am not claiming that dependency lasts a lifetime. I am claiming that when the first organism reproduced it did so for self presevation. This is still the same with the new and improved “divisions”(us) of that first cell.

laureth's avatar

Babymaking (or cell division, etc.) is certainly a cell’s way of making copies of itself. I think what I fail to see is how this equals the same organism. Is a Xerox copy the same piece of paper as the original, or is it a copy of the original?

ninjacolin's avatar

Reductionism is a lot of fun, I partake often. You just have to be careful that your reductions are practical and you have to consider context.

The term organism defines a unit of self-sustaining life. That unit is expected to be born, mature, procreate, then die. A child isn’t a part of the organism anymore than wad of spit is a part of the organism. A child is a separate unit of life that functions independently of the parent.

Parent and Child are linked through behaviours, but not through vitals. Which is what makes them definable as distinct organisms.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@ninjacolin I think that the definition of organism is wrong then. That is a practical definition, but does not go to the heart of what I am saying.

When a sheet of paper has within it the ability to separate itself into a replica of itself autonomously, and I see that this replica can also replicate then I will say it is the same paper.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ltryptophan your question was: Why are offspring considered new life forms?
Or paraphrased: “What features distinguish offspring from parents?” and the exact answer is: Vital Independence.

I can sense what you’re trying to get at but it’s hard to wrap my head around. I think the term “organism” is the wrong one for your purpose. The definition of organism is accurate for it’s context, but it doesn’t seem to describe what you’re talking about.

laureth's avatar

Ah, here. You say, “If the first life succeeded in replicating, I believe it did so with the intention of self presevation not preservation of another life form that did not exist.”

This may have been the intent (if a single celled organism, or such simple life as first started to divide, can be said to have intent), but that doesn’t mean it succeeded. A failed attempt to preserve itself by splitting may have resulted in a life form that did not yet exist.

If it is my intent to cross the street, and I am struck and killed by a bus halfway across, it doesn’t mean that my intent to cross the street resulted in my getting to the other side.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Wonderful I think this is going better, now. I believe the organism succeeded and did not fail. Since the new cell was at one point part of the whole it remained always a remnant of the very information that was replicated.

Also, I do not believe that my own ineloquence in expressing myself would shake what I believe I am doing a fair job of expressing.

To reiterate, that first cell and all others which formed by reproduction thereafter I view as successes at the avoidance of at bare minimum inanimacy(death, or the state of simply being a mineral). I posit that the mechanism of life as we know it is snuffable, and that the first cell and every generation have successively avoided it, and they have done so in many directions, and I dare say that it is that original cell that lives on in its very furthest extremities aka any known life on this planet and possibly depending on the origin of that first life, elsewhere.

Also I believe that the avoidance of death is the truest hallmark of life. And I love life.

laureth's avatar

Well, I can’t say as I agree with you. Genes seem to want to make more genes, but (especially in organisms that reproduce sexually) it’s not always the same genes passed down as a carbon copy. I am not my mother, nor am I my father- I am a fine blend. I am clearly f the same species, and I resemble them physically, but I have differences from both. I have even more differences from maple trees, trilobites, and algae.

I do think, however, that we are all copies of copies of copies of ATCG sequences, but they sometimes get rearranged, flipflop, or bits shuffle hither and yon, which is why I think it’s a serious failure to replicate the same organism exactly. As they were saying up there before, we’re all recycled dust and carbon, but that doesn’t make us rocks.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Ltryptophan , I have no problem with what you are saying. It is really a matter of interpretation. At some point, some set of molecules discovered the trick of perpetuating itself by making copies and all other species that descended from that first cell are just performing variations on that original idea. There is a kind of poetry to this way of looking at it. It also fits in with Richard Dawkins’ idea of selfish genes.

Coloma's avatar

I think reducing everything to a scientific equation completely dilutes the beauty that is the final outcome of whatever original blueprint, be it a flower or a zebra or a redwood tree or a human being.

I prefer to look and truly see the living form in question instead of reducing it to a scientific construct no matter how true or untrue.

Science may explain a lot…but all life is MAGIC!

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Ltryptophan On reading your further posts, I think you are just confused with terms. What you are advocating is certainly the case, but we call the offspring of the primordial cell biota, rather than a single organism. The term ‘organism’ implies a living entity distinct from all others in its actions.

@Coloma It seems you have not studied any form of science in depth. When you study things from a scientific point of view, their beauty is amplified and you grow to appreciate them in more intense and varied ways. Science does deal with facts sans emotional bias, but that should not prevent you from appreciating them in your own way as long as you don’t blur the lines between subjectivity and the scientific method.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@firemadeflesh k, care to elaborate?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Ltryptophan The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘organism’ (meaning one) as “an organic structure”. Under ‘structure’, the biological meaning is stated as “the mutual relation of the constituent parts or elements of a whole as determining its peculiar nature or character; make, frame” [emphasis mine]. So a biological organism is an organic (carbon based) entity that possesses a unique nature or composition, distinct from external entities.

However meaning 2b supports your ideas – “the theory that in science everything is ultimately an organic part of an integrated whole.” It states this as a philosophical meaning. I was previously unaware of this use of the word, which indicates in my experience at least that it is uncommon, and the usual use of the word implies the first meaning.

Coloma's avatar


I am very aware of science…doesn’t discount the magic anyway.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Coloma I am not attempting to discount the magic. I would just rather see it described in terms less susceptible to ideas such as non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA).

Coloma's avatar


In other words, from the limited realm of logic?

The truly well balanced know that logic and emotion, like science and spiritual mystery complement each other and are not mutually exclusive.

Ltryptophan's avatar

I don’t think Biota is what I was talking about.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Coloma Not at all. Logic is the basis for understanding, and emotion is the basis for the sense of awe a person can feel for the natural world. They are distinct approaches, and are somewhat unrelated. The danger is simply that someone could discount a scientific conclusion based on their emotional judgements. For example, Einstein rejected the idea of an expanding universe because his intuition misguided him, and so he let it affect his science. I also want to dispell the idea that science denys someone the ability to marvel at the natural world. I also want to avoid this.

Ltryptophan's avatar

I am also not saying that we are all part of one organism, although this may also be true. I think the only point I am trying to make is that the first cell has never really died.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Ltryptophan “I think that we are all the exact same creature as the very first cell that came into being.”
It sounds like that is what you were saying. The first cell has certainly left its legacy, but to our knowledge there are no organisms currently living that are simple enough to have been our primordial ancestor.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh well to survive parts of that cell’s reproduction had to become more and more advanced, and had to compete with parts of itself that went in separate directions. All those avenues contain life derived from that first life; which I would argue is still the same life form “in a way”.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Ltryptophan ‘In a way’, yes. Now I’m wondering what the point of this statement is.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh if you are wondering what the point of me saying that we are all part of the first life form, it is merely to say that, in a way, that first life was able to survive for hundreds of millions of years. so far

ninjacolin's avatar

i think you’re right, @Ltryptophan

Ltryptophan's avatar

@ninjacolin thanks for your support

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther