Being structurally composed of one or more cells, which are the basic units of life. Yet within a cell, there seems to be the same behaviors that define life:

  1. Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state;
  2. Organization: Don't most cells have organs?
  3. Metabolism.
  4. Growth ~ not sure about this one.
  5. Adaption ~ Think this is accurate, but I'm not well versed in cellular biology at all.
  6. Response to stimuli. Cells interact with external whatnots.
  7. Reproduction - Cells do this, at least many of them.

Most of what lead me to this question came from chapter 5 of Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil, M.D.. I'll type the parts relevant to the discussion below - in case he's wrong and I'm basing my thoughts on wrong information. bold sections indicate my interjection

DNA takes the same form in all organisms, from human beings to viruses - an enormous molecule with a double-helix structure made up of two chains of sugar molecules, with "rungs" linking the two chains. The rungs form between complementary pairs of nitrogen-containing subunits 'nucelotides', whose specific sequences differentiate the DNA of one organism from that of another. Only four different nucelotides occur in DNA; they are the "letters" of a genetic code spelling out "words" of information that direct the construction and operation of all forms of life. The so-called Central Dogma of modern molecular biology states that DNA replicates itself in order to pass its genetic information on from one cell to another and from one generation to the next reproduction; DNA also transcribes its information into another macromelecule, RNA, that can travel out of the cell nucleus; RNA, in turn, transslates this information into the manufacture of specific proteins that determine the structure and function of organisms. regulation? These three processes - the replication, transcription, and translation of genetic information - are the most basic processes of life. They are also amazingly intricate and risky, because there are so many points at which things can go wrong.

Snipped for relevance.

Therefore, sophisticated mechanisms have evolved for the repair of this molecule in order to assure nearly error-free transmission of genetic information from one generation to the next, even in the simplest forms of life. organization, regulation, reproduction - evidence of response to stimuli?

All of the mechanics of replication, transcription, and translation are directed by a special class of proteins called enzymes. A great deal of the genetic code specifies the manufacture of enzyme molecules, which, in turn, oversee the chemical reactions that develop the genetic code into biological reality. evidence of intelligence?

much snipping.

In practical terms, they (enzymes) function as ingenious machines that alter the substrate molecules: cutting them apart, putting them back together, snipping particular pieces off them, adding others back, all with astonishing precision and speed.

more snippage

Therefore, polymerase I actually proofreads its own work, editing mistakes as it directs the synthesis of new copies of DNA.

He goes on to talk about plasma membranes, which seem to be how cells interact with the "outside" world..

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Is there a question somewhere in here? $\endgroup$
    – AGS
    Sep 21, 2012 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ Is there "sufficient" evidence that human beings are intelligent? $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Sep 22, 2012 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ Hi! You need to edit your question to make it more obvious as to what you actually want answered, then please flag it for reopening :) $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Sep 24, 2012 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ something you would need to clarify is your definition of intelligence $\endgroup$ Sep 24, 2012 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


You seem to be asking if single mammalian cells are capable of intelligence. Yet, in your introduction, you mention that within a cell there are these seven characteristics that are fundamental in defining life. Then, you target more of your supporting quotations and interjections toward the definition of life. Of course cells are alive. You are alive, and so are the bacteria on your skin. Your title question is:

Is there sufficient evidence that human cells are not intelligent?

You have strayed from your question in your line of reasoning. Let's get back to answering the title question.

Is there sufficient evidence that human cells are not intelligent? The definition of "intelligence" is controversial, but let's look at Wikipedia:

Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including, but not limited to, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving.

Human (or any mammalian, fungal or bacterial) cells are able to communicate, and solve problems, but most likely lack abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, reasoning, and emotion. Retaining and planning are somewhat more difficult. Cells are able to retain information about a state of "being" and transmit that to progeny, a recent phenomenon known as epigenetics. Does this qualify as retaining and planning? I don't know. Cells also change based on environmental pressures through stochastic processes (a process known as evolution). Does this qualify as learning? Probably not, since the changes are usually pre-existing. The human equivalent would be finding out that you can swim by falling into water and not drowning. Did the person "learn" how to swim, or did they already possess an aptitude for it?

  • $\begingroup$ but most likely lack abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, reasoning, and emotion... I'll give you abstract thought, but what are the grounds against self-awareness vs. proofreading? $\endgroup$
    – user1432
    Sep 25, 2012 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ Proofreading is an entirely mechanical/chemical process. When a nucleotide is inserted into a double stranded DNA molecule, it pairs with the complementary nucleotide by hydrogen bonding. Complementary nucleotides also possess a space-filling quality such that an incorrect pair produces a "bump" or "dip" in the helix. All proofreading does is look for this type of physical inconsistency. Hardly self-awareness. $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2012 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ Why is the nucleotide inserted? How does it look? Why does it look? $\endgroup$
    – user1432
    Sep 26, 2012 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @user1432 I couldn't parse that. It's inserted to replicate DNA. Proofreading looks for this physical inconsistency in a variety of complicated mechanisms. And the "why" is simply to reduce the error rate in DNA. $\endgroup$
    – forest
    Mar 22, 2018 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Intelligence in evolution and in the field of AI is often defined as the ability to apply previous or existing abilities to successfully solve entirely novel problems that were not present or trained for in the first place. Intelligence is always adaptive. For instance, I've never ever in my life performed the addition of 10 plus 10.1234 but I'm intelligent insofar as I understand the operation well enough to be able to apply it to new numbers. I know the answer is 20.1234. A proofreading enzyme is very inflexible in its catalysis and does only one thing, regardless of context. $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Dec 7, 2018 at 15:04

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .