Are Viruses Alive?

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Defining viruses is truly a challenge to scientists, who constantly debate on whether or not they should be classified as living. To be called "living" the organism must qualify under the seven categories; they must have order, be able to reproduce, be able to grow and develop, utilize energy, respond to their environment, maintain homeostasis, and adapt through evolution. Viruses qualify under all of these categories except metabolism and reproduction, for which they act as a parasite and use a host cell to do it for them. Viruses are the boundaries between biology and biochemistry, and may eventually lead to finding an ancient genome pool. Many nonliving things are needed to make a living organism. Life and consciousness require emergent systems, and require a level of complexity and interaction to be considered living or conscious. For example, a neuron, or even a network of nerves is not conscious, the entire brain is needed. A virus is not alive, but is on the verge of life because it fails to reach the level of complexity and combination of emergent properties, even though it is made of the same emergent properties as all other parts of life. Viruses even have genes thought to only exist in cellular organisms, yet lack emergent properties and complexity. Philip Bell and the author believe that the cell nucleus itself has a viral origin. He believes that the great difference between the nucleus in prokaryotic cells and those in eukaryotic cells cannot be adequately explained by the gradual evolution from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. Instead the nucleus may have come from a large virus which made a permanent home inside prokaryotes. A gene very similar to that of a eukaryote which codes for a DNA polymerase is found inside of the virus T4, which infects bacteria, showing that this theory is possible. So, are viruses alive? Well, it depends on the scientist. A

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