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Anything that is signaling and self-sustaining is classified as being alive. Life continues until these functions stop and death occurs. Biology is the science of studying life in its various forms, such as human, animal and plant life. Things that are alive are known as organisms, and they have the ability to grow, to respond to outside factors known as stimuli, to reproduce and to evolve (in order to better adapt to their surrounding environments).

Within the planet’s biosphere, there is a rich array of living things. These are specifically categorized as plants, animals, fungi, protists, archea and bacteria.

History of Life

According to reliable scientific research, life began about 3.5 billion years ago. Several different ideas about how life actually began exist. Some scientists believe in the Big Bang Theory, while religious groups believe that God created life at a specific time, as per stories in the Bible. Since its inception so long ago, life has evolved to encompass an assortment of organisms.

Along with the biological processes of life, human beings also ponder the deeper significance of existence. For example, they wonder why we are here, what it all means and whether or not some divine entity or spirit is influencing our actions. Questions about the meaning of life are many, and they are often explored via philosophy and religion. As it relates to spirituality, life is about consciousness and the soul, rather than biological processes alone.

Many different philosophies and religions exist. Often, people adopt religions based on their cultural surroundings and upbringings, while others find religion or philosophies about life through their own searching. Those who embrace science alone are oftentimes atheists, who don’t believe in religious explanations for how life occurs and why we exist. Atheists do not believe in a soul or afterlife.

One famous example of a scientist who teaches atheism is biologist Richard Dawkins, whose book, the God Delusion, is very controversial. Dawkins and another prominent scientist, Stephen Hawking, do not believe that a God is behind the creation of the universe.

Early Theories of Life

One early theory of life is the materialist theory. This theory is centered on the belief that everything that exists is matter, and that life is simply a complicated grouping of matter. In the third century, Empedocles felt that all things in the world were created from a quadrant of elements, which were earth, water air and fire.

The ancient Greek philosophies of Empedocles and his ilk were embraced and improved upon by the famous French philosopher, Descartes. Descartes believed that animals and people were composed of parts, much like machines. This theory was later adapted into the theory of natural selection (through a process called evolution) by celebrated biologist, Charles Darwin, whose book, the Origin of Species, outlined the way that organisms become more impressive machines by adapting to their surroundings. In Darwin’s theory of life, only the strong survive.

Another ancient theory of life is the Hylomorphism theory, which stipulates that all organisms are a mixture of matter and form. Aristotle espoused this life theory, due to his lifelong interest in biology. However, Aristotle also believed in the existence of a soul, be it vegetative, animal or rational.

Evolution is Taught in Most Schools

Now that you know more about definitions of life, how life is classified, and how the world’s philosophers and scientists view life and its inherent meaning, you’ll have a richer understanding of living organisms and the schools of thought that attempt to explain them. There are plenty of resources out there for those who want to learn more about life. Starting with biology texts and then progressing to philosophy and religion may provide added insight into both the biological and spiritual elements of life.

Today, students learn science in school, and they are usually taught the scientific theory of evolution, which contrasts with most Christian schools of thought. Controversies about what life is and how it came to be are likely to continue forever, or at least, until science reveals some fundamental truth as an absolute reality.

However, for those of faith, scientific evidence that contradicts religious beliefs tends to be disbelieved and disregarded. It’s very possible that our vast population will never reach consensus on how life began and why it is happening.