Should Viruses be Classified as Living Things? -Scientific Discussion

Title says it all.

I’m not really sure what I believe, but what do you think?

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By the current scientific definition of “living”, viruses are not alive, because they are unable to reproduce on their own.

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The science isn’t exactly clear cut on it. Viruses exhibit certain characteristics of those we use to define a living organism, but not all. Even then, the definition of a living organism is also vague.

As to what I would say? Personally, no. A virus, if we think about it in computer terms, is more like an algorithm or a couple of commands. They aren’t necessarily complete programs with a user interface or specific function. They exist solely to replicate.

In strictly biological terms, viruses may be able to reproduce and adapt and carry genetic material, but they aren’t composed of cells and they don’t really exhibit any sort of intention. They sort of just “do” according to their programming.

Well, they do self-replicate. They require a host cell to do so, but independent reproduction isn’t a generally agreed upon requirement for life.

Take humans for example. We don’t just divide, we require another human to replicate.

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True, but I humans require other organisms of the same species to reproduce. Viruses don’t need another member of their own species in order to replicate; they need a different organism.

However, that said, I’m not sure if the inability to reproduce should prevent an organism from being considered living. Mules can’t reproduce at all, but I think most people would agree that mules are alive. Similarly, human red blood cells are incapable of reproduction and evolution, yet, as far as I know, they are considered living things.

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It still counts as reproduction, though. It doesn’t matter the method.

Something inanimate, like a rock, doesn’t make new rocks. Things that are living, though, do. Plants produce pollen and seeds that get spread via wind or animals. Individual cells undergo mitosis. Viruses inject themselves into host cells and use their mitosis to replicate, or use them as incubators and hijack their protein synthesis mechanisms.

True, but mules are genetic hybrids. Even still, the individual cells that comprise a mule replicate all the time. They just are incapable of producing another mule.

Well, as said before, they do replicate through mitosis.

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I didn’t mean to suggest that it wouldn’t be considered reproduction. A potential characteristic for living things might be that they have to be able to reproduce with by themselves, or with members of their own species.

I don’t think that’s true. According to a google search, the nucleus of the cell is responsible for reproduction. Fully mature red blood cells don’t have a nucleus, or any other organelles (to my surprise). Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow.

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According to the definition of being able to replicate by oneself, either asexually or sexually, this requires either one or multiple of the same kind of organism in order to reproduce.
Viruses require other living cells in order to reproduce, which isn’t classified under asexual or sexual reproduction.
Additionally, they don’t exhibit standard behaviors of living organisms, such as requiring sustenance or, as stated many times, reproducing through normal means.

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Everyone keep in mind that this is a major point of contention in the world of science, and there is a lot of grey area that is not satisfied by current definitions.

I think as far as viruses are concerned, they are not generally considered to be alive, since they require an entirely different organism to replicate, unlike other organisms.

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You are correct, and my science brain totally forgot.

And now I feel stupid.

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the fact that you had the information to forget shows you aren’t.

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Don’t feel stupid.

I didn’t know before today, when I started doing research on this. :stuck_out_tongue:

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This just a case of: Yeast is an organism so that technically makes bread a meat

Oooo I like this quote mind if I steal it?

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It is?
I thought this was just something that was widely accepted lol

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Maybe “major point of contention” is a little dramatic. Regardless, the definition of life is highly imperfect and has led to a lot of disagreements over the very things we’re discussing right now, at least in places I’ve seen.

noitsallmineyoucanthaveit

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Plants are organisms too though. Does that technically make all food meat? :stuck_out_tongue:

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You cannot be vegan.

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I’m not, but I was under the impression that vegans only had to avoid animal products. Avoiding organisms would be practically impossible, since that word just refers to all life forms, be they animal, plant, or fungi (like yeast).

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This is the new dividing by zero topic.

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yeah, I might ask the mods to close/unlist this topic. I feel like the discussion isn’t going to go anywhere, and that the MB might not be the place for such a complex topic.

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I have a contribution to the discussion! Viruses are not living because they aren’t made up of cells. A thing needs cells to be a living thing. They also don’t produce their own energy, and they don’t grow.

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