Do you think viruses are alive?
1) Viruses simply don't fit into the scientific definition of life.
That is because there is no unequivocal scientific definition of life right now. There are only similar (not even identical) lists of qualities and the instruction that living things should have MOST of those qualities.
2) Viruses cannot reproduce, and do not have metabolism, outside of a host cell.
The most common argument; and it's true. But I don't think it has anything to do with viruses not being alive. Rickettsia and Chlamydia have exactly the same limitation, and they are considered alive. Not to mention the fact that every organism has limitations on reproduction; animals can't do it without male and female zygotes (except for a very few that can perform parthenogenesis). Some plants are dependent upon wind and random passersby.
3) Viruses do not respond to outside stimuli/adapt to their environment.
Believe it or not, I've heard this one. From biology majors. Yes, viruses do respond to outside stimuli; they react to cellular organisms by attaching and initiating the infection cycle. Yes, they adapt to their environment. They inherit genetic mutations and evolve by natural selection i.e. developing strains resistant to drugs, etc.
4) Viruses do not grow.
This one is correct. Viruses are assembled, and then remain the same size for the rest of their "lives".
5) Viruses do not respire, consume, or excrete wastes.
This is also true. Viruses do none of these things.
6) Viruses are not composed of cells.
I can't possibly refute that viruses are acellular. But why is that the basic unit of life? Because everything living you've seen so far is cellular?
7) Viruses have genetic material.
Yeah...again, this can't be factually refuted, but as a matter of definition, why does this automatically make them living? Because everything you've seen so far with DNA and RNA has been living? I think it's worth noting that viruses don't all have DNA; some only have RNA. And viruses don't just HAVE genetic material; they are almost nothing BUT genetic material. Is each and every DNA strand in your body alive??
8) Viruses reproduce by creating more individual organisms similar or identical to themselves.
So does fire. And several other chemicals in common, non-living chemical processes. It's worth noting that viruses are genetic in their reproduction, but it's still a matter of chemicals.
OK, that's it for the major arguments. But to lighten the mood, because I know some of you will get way too serious and intense, here are some of the...less intelligently formed pieces of logic I've heard. Most of these are direct, word for word quotes.
1) "Sensitivity - they are not aware of the surrounding expect [sic] for their survival"
First of all, how much of a reason is it if it already comes with an exception? Second of all, how can non-living things have survival instinct?
2) "A viruse [sic] is not a living thing because it cannot stand alone if you place one on the surface of an object (e.g. a table) it will perish or be incorporated into a bacterium for survival."
....Neither would I. I probably wouldn't be eaten by a bacterium, but I sure wouldn't survive on a table, by myself. Also, once again, how can a non-living thing "perish" or "survive"?
3) "...viruses are not considered living things..they can not survive by themselves..they rely on the host mechanisms for reproduction.."
Viruses are not considered living things because viruses are not considered living things?? No, I'm not taking it out of context, those ellipses are his. This is the full quote. And AGAIN with non-living things surviving? And surviving by itself? I'd like to see you survive by yourself. Maybe we can put you on a table.
4) "Viruse [sic] in science are considered non-living simply because they do not reproduce,..."
Again, I didn't cut this quote off. Those are his ellipses. In his defense, he might have meant "without a host cell". But it's still funny.
5) "Viruses are nonliving because they are much simpler and more primitive than other organisms."
Yeah? Bacteria are much more primitive than I am. And simpler? Simpler!? How does Simple=not alive??
Amy: Thank you for having the only valid point so far, and for presenting it so well.
Starbuckz: Thank you for showing people what not to do, by being unnecessarily defensive, irrational, and insulting to someone who merely asked a question. For those who post later, please do not shout, please do not claim that viruses do not have metabolism (b/c they do, when inside a host), please do not make points I have already refuted without a defense, and please do not call my question "drabble" or an essay, as it is neither.