The Classification of Life Forms

Robert Howard Kroepel

Copyright © 2003

What is life?

What is nonlife?

Are there characteristics, features, that all life forms have that we could call generic life?

Are there characteristics that some life forms have that other life forms do not have that we could call specific life?

Characteristics of generic life:

1. Consumption of food.
2. Usage of energy.
3. Elimination of wastes.
4. Reproduction.

Specific characteristics of life:

1. A/Appearance. [Physical Characteristics]
2. B/Behavior. [Capability/Performance Characteristics]

Could we then classify life into (1) generic life, life forms which have all the characteristics of life, and (2) specific life, life forms which have all the generic characteristics as well as the specific AB characteristics?

For example, an individual human is thought to have generic life characteristics as well as AB-type specific life characteristics, by which each human life is said to be unique.

Cells are considered life forms. They have the generic life characteristics: they consume food, nutrients, sugar, they process energy, they eliminate wastes, and they reproduce.

Among the cells are gametes, the egg and sperm of mammals, and other life forms, which are, before the age of cloning, the only life forms capable of creating individual life forms and therefore the only life forms capable of going forward into the next generation. Each typical gamete has one-half the DNA and therefore the number of genes as found in the zygotes, which is the result of the fertilization and therefore conception process when two gametes, and egg and a sperm, fertilize each other and thereby conceive.

Gametes, subject to the mutation processes, including radiation, are thought to be unique and therefore specific life forms.

When gametes conceive, they produce zygotes, with the full complement of DNA/genes.

If all gametes were identical, then, assuming no environmental influences in the womb, the gametes from the same parents ought to produce the equivalent of identical offspring, the equivalent of identical twins/triplets/etc. All brothers should therefore have similar if not identical AB characteristics; all sisters likewise should have similar if not identical AB characteristics.

Of course, if there are significant environmental processes in the womb that could alter the biology and chemistry of the zygote, to cause mutations in the zygote, then that fact alone could account for differences of specific characteristics among the offspring of the same parents.

Is it possible that the gametes have specific characteristics which are nonsimilar to other gametes from the same individual that gametes qualify as specific life forms?

What are the odds that gametes are, therefore, specific life forms, each having unique AB characteristics, perhaps mutations, just as zygotes are specific life forms?

In my opinion, the odds are high that gametes are specific life forms, and are the reason which brothers or sister who are not identical twins more often than not do not have the same characteristics.

If gametes are specific life forms, each unique though not having the complete DNA/genes of a zygote, then we have the following classification of life:

1. Generic Life.
2. Specific Life: (A) Gametes; (B) Zygotes.

The classification of life into (1) generic life and (2) specific life: (A) gametes and (B) zygotes has implications for politics, specifically, the medical ethics involved in treating pregnant women who have diseases and disorders which threaten the life of the woman and the zygote and the abortion debate.

In the abortion issue, the debate rages over (A) "Sanctity of life!!!" which basically translates as "If it's human and live it must be kept alive!!!" and (B) "Reproductive choice!!!"

Anti-choicers/anti-abortionists claim that in the zygote = fetus = baby = individual life form, which is certainly true, and, therefore, they justify their "Sanctity of life!!!" and "If it's human and alive it must be kept alive!!!" mantras as their justification for claiming that abortion = murder.

Anti-choicers/anti-abortionists therefore want to outlaw abortion to 'protect' the zygote/fetus/baby/etc. Their reasoning: the zygote/etc. is a specific life form.

The gamete is also a specific life form. Yet the anti-choicers/anti-abortionists do not consider the gamete to be a specific life form.

If anti-choicers had to consider the gamete to be a specific life form, then they would have to consider 'protecting' gametes just as they 'protect' zygotes by their anti-abortion/anti-choice philosophy/policies.

How would 'protecting' the specific life inherent in gametes translate into poplitical policies and medical techniques?

Would all eggs and sperm have to be harvested if not to be given the chance for conception? And stored for future use? So no individual egg/sperm would be 'lost' or 'unprotected'?

If we were to distinguish between recreational sex and reproductive sex, then would we not have to pass laws dictating that the eggs/sperm involved in recreational sex would have to be harvested and stored for future use?

Are we to require heterosexuals to harvest their gametes?

Are we to require homosexuals to harvest their gametes?

And what about individuals who are, more or less, asexual, but who nevertheless produce gametes? Are we to require that their egg/sperm. their gametes, be harvested?

How would we detect individuals who did not harvest their eggs/sperm?

What is the possibility that any such legislation would ever be considered? Or enacted and implemented?

Here is, therefore, a point of hypocrisy: If anti-choicers/anti-abortionists refuse to 'sanctify' and thereby 'protect all specific life forms including gametes in addition to zygotes, then they are hypocrites in not applying to all specific life forms their "Sanctity of life!!" and "If its human and alive it must be kept alive!!!" mantras.

The reciprocal is thus: If anti-choicers/anti-abortionists choose to refuse to 'sanctify' or 'protect' one specific life form, the gamete, then they ought to choose to refuse to 'sanctify'/'protect' the other specific life form, the zygote.

Claiming that a gamete is not an individual and therefore is not a specific life form will not work, because, as shown, the odds are excellent that a gamete is a specific life form, no combinations of gametes from the same parents producing from different conceptions the equivalent of identical twins, and, therefore, inherent in its genetics, the individual gamete is an individual life form, only needing conception to go forward into the next specific life form, the zygote, the individual organism.

Thus, if we justify, for any reason, not giving seeds the chance for continuing their lives, then we ought to be willing to justify, for any reason, not giving babies the chance for continuing their lives. To avoid hypocrisy.

We then come to the fact that the born living ought to have priorities over the unborn living, if not for any other reason than to make possible legal decisions when medical crises arise in which the life of the woman as well as the life of the unborn baby are both threatened and a legal medical decision cannot be avoided, meaning either the woman lives and the baby dies, or the baby lives and the woman dies.

If we justify choice between fertilizing gametes as well as choice for terminating unwanted pregnancies, hence terminating unwanted zygotes, then we can set priorities thus:

1. The born living.
2. The unborn living: (A) zygotes; (B) gametes.

Thus, there are political as well as practical advantages for classifying life forms as (1) generic and (2) specific; (A) gametes and (B) zygotes.