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Friday, February 13, 2009

Point, counter point: What defines a single living organism?

Point, counter point: What defines a single living organism?
The burner has been turned to high on this weeks ever captivating, always stimulating never ending, debating series that pits normally amiable Buffalo Bulletin reporters against each other in a no-holds-barred intellectual death match.
Remember to weigh in with your own perspective and your vote for the argument of triumph.

It’s an easy answer: genetics.
If an organism consists of all the same genetic make-up, then, by nature, it is one single living organism.
The difference in genes is what differentiates one living organism from another.
Genetic make-up develops unique characteristics e.g. a duck bill is caused by a certain genetic make-up specific to ducks where as the luscious, supple lips of Farrah Fawcett are caused by another set of genes specific to stunning women with great lips.
This is why I think of the beautiful actor as one living organism and the dirty city-pond animal as another — their personalized characteristics set them apart and those characteristics are caused by genetics.
My opponent will argue that it is space that makes a single living organism.
“If that organism is all connected then it can be considered as ‘one’,” he will say.
Foolishly leveling that an aspen grove in Utah possessing a single root structure is ‘one’ giant living organism despite the fact that some of the trees possess different genetic make-up.
What folly.
If this case were to hold any water, you could consider a blood-sucking leech that had attached itself to your underarm after an afternoon skinning dipping as the same organism as yourself.
But you wouldn’t because you have a mind and you think things through rationally.
The fact is that genetics are responsible for developing the body, and the space it takes up, that’s why some of us are short, some tall, some ugly and some, like myself, mirror images of famous 1940 movie stars.
Those features are what distinguish organisms and those features are the results of genes.
The problem arises when we discuss clones.
Is the clone of an organism the same organism?
Yes.
That’s the value of having a clone.
Why would you want a copy of your late Grandpa Earl if it couldn’t be considered the same organism?
You could go pick up the closest looking man and that would qualify as having your grandpa back.
The value of cloning comes from having the same organism as what existed before. A clone is the same organism from whence it came.
Genetics distinguish a single living entity from another and they define what we consider ‘one living organism’.
Q.E.D.

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