To clarify, I'm not asking about the common properties of living organisms, such as reproducing and having a metabolism, etc. What I'm curious about is, what is the difference between organic molecules and actual living beings?

For example, if a person's heart stops beating, they are technically dead, but all the chemical compounds and molecules are still there.. I guess another approach to this question would be "If we bring together all the atoms of a living being in the same exact arrangement, would that new thing be alive?"

  • $\begingroup$ organic compounds are carbon based molecules. Living being contains several properties, some of which you have named! $\endgroup$ – Behzad Rowshanravan Oct 5 '14 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think you can ignore the common properties of living organisms (or the definition of organism) if you want to talk about life. Someone whose heart has stopped is no longer alive because they can't deliver oxygen to their cells any longer for metabolism to occur. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Oct 5 '14 at 0:21
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse I understand that, but what separates what was alive just a minute ago from the dead state of it? I just can't wrap my head around how these seemingly ordinary chemical compounds get together and do things with a purpose (which is to not die and to reproduce I guess). $\endgroup$ – Mertcan Ekiz Oct 5 '14 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ The minute a critical component stops functioning, the organism dies. That's why the definition of organism counts. For a highly complex organism, it has to be that organism, not all the cells which make it up. This can go on and on. If the cell membrane integrity of a single celled organism is lost, it dies. But what if enzymatic processes are still going on before cell lysis? Is that protein alive? No, it's not. Similarly, a person's death is not negated by how long it takes for all of his cells to stop metabolizing. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Oct 5 '14 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse That's a pretty good explanation. Thanks a lot $\endgroup$ – Mertcan Ekiz Oct 5 '14 at 9:23

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