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(Sorry that I'm on mobile, so I can't make a good formated question (no links). I will add them later. Just can't resist the urge to ask)

In the recent hot question about whether mitochondrial is alive or dead (it's technically dead), the top answers don't only explain whether it is dead or not, but also further explain why it doesn't matter: they just do what they need to do. This provokes me a question:

Q: Biologically, do life and death matter? Is the functionality of something the only thing that life cares?

We human are scare of death. Because of that, we tend to apply that idea into everything we can observe, even if it's meaningless. But why is death scary? Isn't it because when you die, you stop function anymore? So ultimately, isn't what we really mean when discussing whether something is dead or not the functionality of that?

Not only that, "there is no consensus regarding the answer to the question as to when does life begin". If we approach this in a different way: the time when an individual function begins to work, will there be a consensus? I mean, just don't think if an organism is alive or not, just think that how much functions of it have started to work.

If we are the combination of the numerous of selfish genes, would "humanity" be a collection of functions?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by canadianer, kmm, AliceD, rg255, MattDMo Aug 4 '15 at 0:50

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ " Isn't it because when you die, you stop function anymore? " Your body still has use after you die, Bacteria and fungi can decompose you and recycle your elements like Nitrogen to put it back into the Cycles that exist. Like the Nitrogen Cycle. I also feel like your question is still vague, since you haven't really set a definition to use for "life" or "death". A "function" is a bit vague too, since as I stated before, there can be the concept of recycling to allow for various functions, whether the source is living or dead. $\endgroup$ – Ro Siv Aug 3 '15 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ The "death" definition is taken from the discussed question which I haven't linked to this. A "function", well yeah, it isn't defined well. But I would define it like a mathematic function: output = f(inputs). (Thinking a while). Ahh, what I mean is the metabolism. $\endgroup$ – Ooker Aug 3 '15 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ I feel like your question answers itself almost. I mean I feel this topic is becoming more philosphy than biology, but could there be something biologicaly existing without a function? If not then I suppose functionality would be important. And I personaly can not think of some object(s) that are biological and that lack a function. Maybe that is just my lack of imagination though. $\endgroup$ – Ro Siv Aug 3 '15 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ Then we have to define what is "biologically existing", or specifically, "biological". I think we will lead to the point that there is no such thing "biological". Anyway, why the downvote? $\endgroup$ – Ooker Aug 3 '15 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ Man fear death because he does not know what happens after that. No one knows if we really cease to exist or if there is a life after death as many claim. Biologically the concept of life after death can't be researched as of now, I mean with our current level of technology. It is mostly a fear of unknown. $\endgroup$ – One Face Aug 5 '15 at 9:48
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We human are scare of death. Because of that, we tend to apply that idea into everything we can observe, even if it's meaningless. But why is death scary? Isn't it because when you die, you stop function anymore?

Fear of death is hard-wired into our nervous systems. A thirsty wildebeest will approach crocodile-infested water very, very reluctantly. The wildebeest isn't thinking about the selfish gene or the loss of his function in the world; he's hardwired to be afraid of the situation. The same is true for any prey animal: fawn, rabbit, gazelle, mouse. The difference (maybe; simplifying for convenience) is that we are rational, and like all of our primitive fears (e.g., of the dark, when there really were sharp-toothed predators with better night vision than ourselves), we try to rationalize them. We also rationalize our existence.

Is the functionality of something the only thing that life cares?

Nature is red in tooth and claw. If you want to anthropomorphize Nature, then sure, we matter (we're destroying the earth at unprecedented speeds). If you believe in a spirit, we matter. But if you believe in none of it, the only purpose we serve is to propagate ourselves, and when the last of our species is gone, Nature will not care a whit. Just as it doesn't care that dinosaurs, wooly mammoths, passenger pigeons, tasmanian tigers or baiji river dolphin are gone.

It can be argued that in the grand scheme of things (and here I'm speaking of the entire Universe), biological life doesn't matter at all.

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  • $\begingroup$ Then the sun, the earth and everything else don't matter at all. Sorry, I think my question is not clear. "Is the functionality of something the only thing that life cares?" should be read as "Is the functionality of something the only thing that we should care at all?". I don't intend to anthropomorphize nature. $\endgroup$ – Ooker Aug 4 '15 at 4:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Ooker - That's a very different question! The answer to that, I think, is very, very different. I can't answer that because of the words "functionality" (who gets to define that?) and "should". Should, to me, implies a moral perspective. I believe we "should" treat life in and of itself as precious. If everyone agreed with my moral perspective, there would be no starving people in the world, livestock would be raised much more humanely, etc. etc. Clearly, everyone does not. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Aug 4 '15 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ Nice comment! @anongoodnurse $\endgroup$ – One Face Aug 5 '15 at 9:50

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