Life And Organisms
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
As defined in the Century Dictionary, an organism is "A body exhibiting organization and organic life ; a member of the animal or vegetable kingdom ; an individual composed of a number of essential and mutually dependent parts, all of which partake of a common life."
An organism may be "living" or it may be "dead" when we come to observe it. These terms refer to specific periods in its individual existence. If it has ever been "organized" by nature's processes, it has been "alive." It has been organized by Life Elements. Some time it will surely be "dead." When an organism "dies," it is because the Life Elements have departed. Then its organs cease exercising their functions, and it is only a question of time before its physical form disintegrates.
The above distinction between organic and inorganic bodies still holds in Biology, but in Chemistry, since many so-called "organic" compounds have been made artificially from inorganic materials, the distinction has disappeared from the literature. Organic chemistry is now the chemistry of carbon and its compounds, and inorganic chemistry is the chemistry of all other elements and compounds. Carbon is called "the chemical basis of life."
For many reasons it would have been better if the first distinction had been preserved. Artificial chemical compounds do not make an organization which is "alive." When an organization has been produced by nature's process which is a "living" organism, it has been removed from the realms of Physics and Chemistry and it belongs in the department of Biology. For instance, rocks are integrated by the Electro-Magnetic Life Element, but a rock is not an organism possessing an individual life. Any part of it is as much organized as the whole of it. Any part of it may be taken away without affecting the organization of the remainder.
The difference between an inorganic body and an organic body is that the latter has at least one part or member which has a specific function by means of which some vital activity is, or has been, manifested, or by which some vital process is carried on. An inorganic body has no members with specific functions.
The number, activity, capacity and power of the "organs" of an organized body indicate the degree of its development above and away from the (comparatively) unorganized state of "matter." The organs of digestion, circulation, respiration, reproduction, locomotion, the "five senses," thought, speech, etc., are found in a more or less perfect state, according to the development of the organism and its degree in the scale of plant and animal life.
No one seems to know exactly what Life is, but we agree in general that a plant pr animal is "alive" when one or more of its organs is capable of performing its functions.
THEORIES REGARDING THE ORIGIN OF LIFE.
There are three distinct and independent theories in relation to the Origin of Life. There are several other theories regarding various phases of generation.
The three distinct and independent theories are :
1. ABSOLUTE CREATION of the first, living parents of all the present and extinct species through successive acts of the Deity. Those who hold this theory simply assert it ; they do not attempt to prove it.
2. SPONTANEOUS GENERATION, OR ABIOGENESIS, the supposed generation of living things from non-living matter. People who hold this theory assert the possibility of the production of living entities otherwise than through the growth and development of detached portions of a parent organism. There is no reliable evidence of spontaneous generation, and it serves merely as a theory, or as a possibility at some remote period under conditions prior to those which now prevail, and antecedent to any definite knowledge.
3. BIOGENESIS. This is the scientific name for the actual genesis or production of living beings from living beings, or generation in the ordinary sense. Biogenesis does not attempt to account for ultimate Origins. Biogenesis does not assume that there were, or that there were not, "first parents." It does not assume any knowledge of methods of reproduction other than of those which have prevailed during historic times.