Monday, April 26, 2010

Nature, Artifacts, and Machines 1

Dr Torley discusses one of the points which has been important in the fight between Dr Feser and ID, namely the difference between natural substances and artifacts. Feser has been insisting that living substances are different in kind from artifacts and cannot be reduced to them, and that God should not be understood as an artificer. This gave rise to some discussion about whether God could make something readily recognizable as an artifact, like a 747 jet, and conversely, whether man could in principle produce life out of non-living materials. Torley here wants to distinguish between different kinds of substances according to whether or not they contain "complex specified information", and compares (1) a water molecule, (2) a bacterial cell, and (3) a mousetrap.

About (1) and (2) he writes: "This is a natural object, or substance. It is more than the sum of its parts. A water molecule has certain properties which cannot be reduced to those of its constituents."

I have to say that I'm not sure what the second and third sentence have to do with the first. Is a natural object defined as something which is more than the sum of its parts? Not for A-T, not for Scotus, not for Aristotle, and not for me. Recall that Aristotle defines nature as that which has the principle of its motion within itself. That is, the reason that a natural thing behaves as it does is because of something intrinsic to it that makes it act that way, rather than being moved extrinsically. When a rock falls down, it's acting naturally. It falls down all by itself. When it flies up, this is contrary to its nature. For a rock to go up something has to throw it, whether a person acting intentionally or a volcano or tornado or tsunami acting on it by chance.

Now about (3) Torley writes, "This is not a natural object. It is an assemblage of parts, and there are no “higher-level” holistic properties of a mousetrap which cannot be reduced to those of its constituents."

Again I must say that I don't see what the first and second sentences have to do with each other, though both are true. But lacking ""higher-level" holistic properties" is not what makes the mousetrap artificial.

Let's look at that rock again. Torley takes a single water molecule as his paradigm of a non-living natural substances, but most natural substances we deal with are things like raindrops, lakes, mountains, and rocks, rather than free-floating single molecules. But a rock is not natural because of higher-level holistic properties. It doesn't have any. A rock more or less is the sum of its parts. It's not an assemblage, like the mousetrap, but it is an aggregate. Whatever properties it has which cannot be reduced to those of its constituents are due to its bulk or shape, but these are accidental to its substantial form, which I will call rockness or "silexity". Now silexity certainly adds something over and above the forms of the bare elements and the subatomic constituents of the elements, but on an immediate level the rock is not an aggregate unity of elemental atoms, but of rock-parts. Similarly a lake is a lot of water collected in a large natural basin. It forms a kind of unity - for instance, we rightly speak of the depth or temperature or animal population of *the* lake - and it would be wrong to say that what really exists are the trillions of individual water molecules, which, as constituting the lake, are not individual at all, except potentially. Nevertheless the substantial form of the lake is that of water, not of lakeness, and if you scoop out a cup you still get water.

I don't want to go into the question of grades of unity for natural non-living substances, though it is to me a very interesting one. My point is that naturalness cannot be defined simply as whether a thing is more than the sum of its parts, where "more" means "having higher-order holistic properties" rather than "there's more of it". The rock is just as natural as the carbon atom.

Moving on. Torley goes on to write:

"[1]There are laws of nature that tend to produce water molecules, under certain circumstances. . . .[2] However, as far as we know, there are no laws of nature that tend to produce a bacterial cell, under any circumstances. . . . [3] There are no laws of nature that tend to produce a mousetrap, under any circumstances." [My numbering]

There seems to be something wrong with these three sentences. I agree with [1] and [3], but not [2], which makes me suspect that Torley doesn't mean at least [1] in the sense I would mean it either. It seems to me perfectly clear that there are in fact laws of nature that tend to produce bacteria, in all sorts of circumstances. This process is called "generation". According to Aristotelianism of all stripes, when a natural substance comes to be in a natural way, this is natural generation, whether the object is living or non-living. Water is generated from other elements just as animals are generated from other animals, and so forth. Now I realize that Torley is speaking in the context of producing something "in the lab", but his statement sounds awfully general. It just is the case that bacteria are generated naturally according to laws of nature, in this case biological laws.

Torley goes on to apply his principles to the case at hand:

"Scientists can take advantage of these laws to produce water molecules. For example, hydrogen and oxygen do not ordinarily combine at room temperature to produce water, but if scientists pass a spark through them, they will combine. . . . Hence, scientists cannot take advantage of any laws of nature to produce a bacterial cell. If they were to make one, they’d have to put it together, piece by piece, like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle where every part has to be in the right place. . . . Hence, scientists cannot take advantage of any laws to produce a mousetrap. If they wanted to make one, they’d have to assemble the parts together, one at a time."

It's not at all clear to me that this shows in any way that the bacterial cell is machine-like in the way that a mousetrap is. Torley seems to be doing what Feser has several times accused ID proponents in general of doing, which is to conflate what a thing is with how a thing came to be. Now whether a living thing can be put together in a lab piece by piece seems to me an empirical question. Presumably if one stuck a bunch of non-living goo in a dish it would ordinarily not come to life, just as hydrogen and oxygen do not normally combine to produce water. But what if you passed a spark through the goo, just like Dr Frankenstein did? Would it come to life or not? Is there a certain type or types of goo one could combine in the right proportions, and then pass a spark through, or perform some other operation on, to produce life? Personally I doubt it, but by all means try and see. But if it did come to life the operation of its origin would not in itself make it a machine. More on this in a moment.

First I'd also like to point out that it seems false to say that scientists "cannot take advantage of any laws to produce a mousetrap". Surely they take advantage of the laws of physics and mechanics? Is this merely quibbling? I'm not sure what is the relevance of "assembling the parts together, one at a time" to whether or not the laws of nature enter into the thing's construction. As I will say in a moment, I'm also not sure what the relevance is to whether the end-result is natural or artificial.

Torley writes: "A water molecule has no “good of its own”; it is not alive. Thus it has no immanent final causality. . . . A bacterial cell does have a “good of its own”; it is alive. Thus it has immanent final causality. . . . A mousetrap does not have a “good of its own”; it is not alive. Thus it has no immanent final causality."

I suspect that Dr Feser would agree with me when I say that being alive and having immanent final causality are not necessarily one and the same thing. For an Aristotelian, every natural substance whatever has an innate tendency to sustain itself in being and perform its natural operation. It's just that living things are by and large better at overcoming impediments to doing so.

Torley writes: "Is a water molecule made in a laboratory an artifact? That depends on how it’s made."

This seems to me to be a misunderstanding of what distinguishes natural from artificial things. Just as a natural thing is not defined as "being more than the sum of its parts", a natural thing is not characterized as "having come to be without an external agent". It seems wrong to say that you can show me two cups of water, indistinguishable from each other, and claim that one is natural and the other is artificial just because one cupful was harvested from a mountain stream and the other made in a lab. They're not two different kinds of things, they're both water! At least it's wrong for the purposes of the present discussion, because we're not asking about things' origins right now but about their being. Right now we're interested in what makes something an artificial machine, and whether something is an artificial machine is a fact about its essence, not about its origin.

If God were to create ex nihilo a tree and a 747 jet, in one and the same act of creation, still the tree would be natural and the 747 jet would be an artificial machine. This is because, no matter how they were created, the tree has its principle of motion intrinsic to itself, but the jet doesn't. The jet doesn't build itself, fly itself, or maintain itself, and left to itself it will act as though it is nothing but the sum of its parts, a bunch of metal and other pieces in a complicated heap. What is natural in the jet is its parts, not their configuration. And this is true about the jet whether it was built piece-by-piece from the ground up or created as a whole.

In apparent contradiction to this, Torley writes, "What’s the upshot of all this? A thing can be alive (with a good of its own) and yet still be a true artifact, because its parts have no natural tendency to come together. A bacterial cell is unquestionably alive, but if it has been produced by scientists in a laboratory, then it is an artifact."

Again, Torley is talking about the origin of a thing, when its origin appears to be irrelevant to what it is. If the bacterial cell is truly alive, then its parts have a natural tendency to be together. What distinguishes a living form is that it governs all of its parts from the top down - when the living thing is healthy the operations of all its parts are subordinated to the operations of the whole by the form of the whole. Jets or computers don't work that way. Each part operates according to the laws of physics or chemistry, and only work together to produce a result beyond any of them individually because of the way they have been connected externally.

If you object that the whole point of ID is to inquire precisely into how things arose, not to dispute about their essence once they already exist, I say that the only evidence being used to inquire into the origins of living things is to look at their essences - what they are and how they naturally behave. And it seems to me that if their essences are not machine-like then we cannot infer a machine-like origin for them. It seems, though, that Dr Torley is not in this post anyway talking about the essences of things, that is, of organisms, but about the essences of parts of these things, namely, the machine-like parts. Is this relevant? Stay tuned for the thrilling sequel!

14 comments:

Brother Charles said...

Thanks for this; as someone who has experienced metaphysical discomfort with ID, it's good to be introduced to an articulation of these concerns. Since I don't believe in evolution either, and believe it to be a capitalist plot to enforce competition on the totality of human imagination, I hardly have anywhere to lay my head.

Thanks again. :)

David said...

"It forms a kind of unity - for instance, we rightly speak of the depth or temperature or animal population of *the* lake - and it would be wrong to say that what really exists are the trillions of individual water molecules, which, as constituting the lake, are not individual at all, except potentially. Nevertheless the substantial form of the lake is that of water, not of lakeness, and if you scoop out a cup you still get water."

What isn't clear to me is how we draw the boundaries that identify this or that as the substantial form. There are various ways of carving up the world that are more practical or convenient to us, of course, but surely what would matter is how God divides things up, and it is no more or less convenient to Him to consider the-lake-and-the-bed to be one single thing, or a million-water-molecules, or half-the-lake, or half-the-lake-and-a-rock-on-the-moon. Why the cow, and not the living cells that make it up, or why the ants and not the colony? Do multiple substantial forms apply here? (I.e. the colony has a substantial form of colonyness, while each ant has its own form?) Would Scotus allow that the lake [water] had one form, while lake+bed had another? If he knew modern atomic physics, would he divvy up substantial forms any differently?

David said...

"The jet doesn't build itself, fly itself, or maintain itself, and left to itself it will act as though it is nothing but the sum of its parts, a bunch of metal and other pieces in a complicated heap. What is natural in the jet is its parts, not their configuration. And this is true about the jet whether it was built piece-by-piece from the ground up or created as a whole."

I was wondering about that very question (God creating a 747 ex nihilo, etc.). The thing is, modern jets can fly themselves (at least a bit, and anything they don't do yet can be remedied by giving them fancier computers (especially in a jet created by God!)). We can build robots that move on their own, or even "reproduce" in primitive ways. I don't think we can make the distinction we want to based on what a machine or an organism does... so what are we left with?

Of course, we can choose to distinguish between something made by God and by man, and that's a perfectly good distinction to make, but as you point out, that's a matter of origins, not of natures. If God wanted to create a "natural" jet, how would it differ from an artificial one? And if the distinction is purely metaphysical (not physical), how could we ever tell the difference?

Burl said...

Left to itself, a 747 will decompose into its chemical components. Can we not say the same of a tree that is not provided with necessary external nutrients? Also for a puppy, or an infant human?

As for organisms, given proper care and external sustenance, artifacts can endure.

Isn't the real crux of the Aristotelean vs ID argument simply that the modern scientific approach to understanding eschews essentialism?

Michael Sullivan said...

There are various ways of carving up the world that are more practical or convenient to us, of course, but surely what would matter is how God divides things up, and it is no more or less convenient to Him to consider the-lake-and-the-bed to be one single thing, or a million-water-molecules, or half-the-lake, or half-the-lake-and-a-rock-on-the-moon.

David, it's not a matter of "considering" or "carving up", since whatever is produced by such reflections would be beings of reason, i.e. merely conceptual entities. The question here is not exactly how God divides things up most conveniently, but what things are in themselves.

"Half-the-lake-and-a-rock-on-the-moon" is a being of reason. Such a "thing" has no unity in itself, and so it has no being. I take it as a principle that something has being insofar as it is one.

The lake has a kind of unity. It has the species-unity that all water has, and it has an additional unity insofar as the lake as a whole has its own operations and accidents - for instance, as I mentioned before, temperature, weight, or population. But a lake is less one than a stone, which is less one than a tree.

My own thought is that it is hard to call a lake "a substance", while it is proper to call it "substantial". The substantial unity of the lake is the form of water, while the additional unity of the lake is accidental to it but still real.

Why the cow, and not the living cells that make it up, or why the ants and not the colony?

The cells are only explicable in terms of the whole cow, which is prior to all of them. I think it's clear that in a cow every part is subordinated to the whole. This is less clear for the lake. In an ant colony there seems to be a different kind of unity than either. But to be in colonies seems to be a property of the ant-species taken aggregately, not of a particular ant. The ant is explicable in on his own as one individual thing, while his cells are not. So I take it that it is not the case that cell:ant::ant:colony. There are two different kinds of part/whole relationships in play here.

Would Scotus allow that the lake [water] had one form, while lake+bed had another?

I think that the lake bed should be understood as being the place of the lake, as "place" is defined in Aristotle's Physics.

If he knew modern atomic physics, would he divvy up substantial forms any differently?

I doubt that a knowledge of modern physics would change his mind about the unity of a cow vs. its constituent cells. What he would think about atomic entities themselves is difficult to know, and I won't consider it just now.

Michael Sullivan said...

I don't think we can make the distinction we want to based on what a machine or an organism does... so what are we left with?

Right now I still think that we can make that distinction. The jet or the robot has no natural operation other than that of its constituent parts. The fact that they work together to produce an effect not possible to the parts is due solely to their connection and motion imparted on them from an external agent. The jet flies itself in just the same sense as a boomerang comes back by itself, although in a more complex way.

Whether or not we could ever construct something which would then act in every way like a natural thing - whether we could produce a new nature, in other words - is a different question. What if nanotechnology someday allows us to make little molecular machines that reproduce and grow, etc.? Well, that would require some more thought but we're certainly not at that stage yet.

As for the last paragraph in your present comment, I think I've already addressed it in this series of posts.

Michael Sullivan said...

Burl,

Left to itself, a 747 will decompose into its chemical components. Can we not say the same of a tree that is not provided with necessary external nutrients? Also for a puppy, or an infant human?

Some artifacts endure far longer than any living thing. That's not the relevant consideration here. It's not a matter of decomposition or endurance over time, but of the relations between whole and parts. If I remove the engines from a jet, the rest of the jet will just sit there unaffected. If I remove the heart from a man, the man is dead. The jet has no organic unity. Furthermore, my entire body as a whole and all its parts are constantly working to maintain the unity of the heart with the rest of the body. But there is nothing in the jet working to maintain the unity and proper operation of the jet.

Burl said...

Michael

I first want to join Dr. Torley in congratulating you on your PhD defense. And I thank you for your reply to my comment. I have been to several new blogs following this discussion, and now to yours.

You replied: Some artifacts endure far longer than any living thing. That's not the relevant consideration here. It's not a matter of decomposition or endurance over time, but of the relations between whole and parts. If I remove the engines from a jet, the rest of the jet will just sit there unaffected. If I remove the heart from a man, the man is dead. The jet has no organic unity. Furthermore, my entire body as a whole and all its parts are constantly working to maintain the unity of the heart with the rest of the body. But there is nothing in the jet working to maintain the unity and proper operation of the jet.

I would first note that if the plane is flying and you take out the engines, it dies. And if a man is dead and you remove his heart, you do not change him.

All points you make in the reply above are correct. In my original comment to you, I should have quoted your words below upon which I was basing my comments on trees and jets.

Right now we're interested in what makes something an artificial machine, and whether something is an artificial machine is a fact about its essence, not about its origin.

If God were to create ex nihilo a tree and a 747 jet, in one and the same act of creation, still the tree would be natural and the 747 jet would be an artificial machine. This is because, no matter how they were created, the tree has its principle of motion intrinsic to itself, but the jet doesn't. The jet doesn't build itself, fly itself, or maintain itself, and left to itself it will act as though it is nothing but the sum of its parts, a bunch of metal and other pieces in a complicated heap. What is natural in the jet is its parts, not their configuration.


Perhaps there is an inverse relationship at work between organic 'essences' and inorganic ones.

True, a jet plane in action is not an organic unity, and so its 'essence' is not animate, but it does have (to stretch Dr. Torley's phrase) a built-in (designed) 'good in itself' – an inanimate essence, if you would. A properly functioning 747 has an 'in'organic unity of all its parts, fuel, and navigation systems in order to make use of aerodynamic principles. This unity is designed-in via the intelligence of aerospace engineers, and the resulting plane has a telos to transport hundreds of humans comfortably and quickly. As for a jet that is not in action or being cared for, it is potentially a pile of metal junk.

Similarly, an animate tree has organic unity of its parts IF it is allowed to act as designed and is rooted in nutritive soil and gets sunshine. It has a particular organic 'essence', and a telos to strive to live. Otherwise, if like the plane, it gets neglected, it is potentially a pile of carbon.

My point was that essences and causality are not limited to God's non-manmade things, and intelligence and purpose are discernable in nature and artifact. We are God's hands in creation, and we share his intelligence when we design and improve the world.

I see no reason for metaphysics and science to battle, as we see here with theology and ID.

Burl said...

In my last comment, where I said Perhaps there is an inverse relationship at work between organic 'essences' and inorganic ones.

I was rederring to I would first note that if the plane is flying and you take out the engines, it dies. And if a man is dead and you remove his heart, you do not change him.

Sorry for the poor arrangement of paragraphs.

Iain said...

"[1]There are laws of nature that tend to produce water molecules, under certain circumstances. . . .[2] However, as far as we know, there are no laws of nature that tend to produce a bacterial cell, under any circumstances. . . . [3] There are no laws of nature that tend to produce a mousetrap, under any circumstances." [My numbering]

There seems to be something wrong with these three sentences. I agree with [1] and [3], but not [2], which makes me suspect that Torley doesn't mean at least [1] in the sense I would mean it either. It seems to me perfectly clear that there are in fact laws of nature that tend to produce bacteria, in all sorts of circumstances. This process is called "generation". According to Aristotelianism of all stripes, when a natural substance comes to be in a natural way, this is natural generation, whether the object is living or non-living."

What is the natural way in which DNA and all of its processing proteins "generates"? That is the point that you seem to be missing. When you speak of nature producing bacteria what you're talking about is bacteria creating more bacteria as per their nature. Where you miss the point is that Torley is not talking about bacteria reproducing when he says that there isn't a law in nature that tends towards the CREATION of bacterial cells, i.e. the first cells. That is, at least, no laws of nature related to chemistry and physics. Obviously, they were created somehow and obviously they exist. The point is to ask what is necessary to do such a thing.

David said...

—Dr. Sullivan: "David, it's not a matter of "considering" or "carving up", since whatever is produced by such reflections would be beings of reason, i.e. merely conceptual entities. The question here is not exactly how God divides things up most conveniently, but what things are in themselves."

But how do we get that without circularity? (I guess that's more an epistemological question; we could say that God made our minds, so we should expect them to just get this more or less right....) And yet something is what God thinks it is... that is, I have no problem agreeing that it is a "being of reason", but I ask rather platonically, what other kind of being is there? You and I certainly can think of something that doesn't exist; and God can understand something without creating it; but given that the lake+rock do exist, and God surely understands that form of lake-plus-rock-iness, how is that different from the substantial form? Does one participate in the form of "substance" and the other not, a matter of God simply saying "this is a substance and those aren't"?

"My own thought is that it is hard to call a lake "a substance", while it is proper to call it "substantial". The substantial unity of the lake is the form of water, while the additional unity of the lake is accidental to it but still real."



OK. And I accept that something has being insofar as it is one (and of course machines have various degrees of unity too). In this case, "water" has a kind of unity or order that "lake" doesn't: water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, but there's also "information" (to phrase it in an ID-like way). You need exactly 2 H's to one O, and the angle between them has to be exactly 104.45°, etc. So water = H plus O plus some very specific forms. A lake on the other hand is not some special arrangement of water molecules, but simply any old heap!

(Just as any hand of cards has a specific value, and is in one sense "as good as" any other hand; but only certain hands have specific [winning] meanings. So what does the precise form of a water molecule mean? Does it "mean" that it's a substance (and the lake has no such meaning, so it's not)? But then again, apart from God's arbitrarily declaring it so, why is the precise form of water significant, and the precise arrangement of the lake not?)

David said...

"In an ant colony there seems to be a different kind of unity than either. But to be in colonies seems to be a property of the ant-species taken aggregately, not of a particular ant. The ant is explicable in on his own as one individual thing, while his cells are not."

I'm certainly agree that there are differences of degree in unity, or perhaps even in kind; it's just not clear to me how and where to draw the lines, or why any one line is more significant than another. (An animal is certainly a different unity from a rock; but a rock is different unity from a sole electron; if organism vs. machine is especially relevant, then so should be machine vs. rock, or rock vs. electron.) So the cell and the ant and the colony can each be explained — at least to an extent — as its own individual thing; but at the same time, the colony cannot be completely explained without the ant, nor the ant without the colony. (At least, the ant's behaviour cannot, but that's part of the ant's nature.) Similarly with the cell, which can clearly be identified as "a cell" because it has a certain unity.

I'd also add that there is a lot in the jet that works to maintain its unity and proper operation. It's not just that the jet won't fly without its engine, but if, per impossibile you could fly it without the engine, it still wouldn't work — the weight distribution would be all off. You can't build the tail without taking into account the nose, and vice versa. To a great degree, the jet has to be considered as a whole, with a unifying end, in order to make it work; it's still orders of magnitude less complex than an organism, but that doesn't obviously make it a difference of kind rather than degree.

"The fact that they work together to produce an effect not possible to the parts is due solely to their connection and motion imparted on them from an external agent. The jet flies itself in just the same sense as a boomerang comes back by itself, although in a more complex way."

So is the origin of the jet, and knowing it, necessary to ascertain its nature? Suppose an alien spaceship lands, and something emerges that is either a primitive organism or an advanced machine. We don't know whether it was "grown" or "built", so how can we know whether the things it does that go beyond its parts are owing to an external agent or not?

Also, you can remove a man's heart without killing him — if you replace it with a suitable mechanical "heart". If we continued, Tin-man style, to replace his heart and his legs and his lungs, etc. until he was all machine... he still wouldn't really be a machine. Yet how is that different from building a machine-man from scratch? Other that in one case God does the "building". Well, it would have to turn out that it's only an unusual form of "generation", but still would be natural. Um, I think...!

I would argue that we are at the stage yet of being able to build "new natures": maybe not with nanotechnology, but we can build computer programs that react and reproduce, etc. (I'm not sure why a computer program itself couldn't qualify, but even if you want to insist that it be physically embodied like a robot, that surely is an issue of time and money, not of capability.) But a computer program acts "naturally" according to its given design and environment... can software be considered artifical from the outside, but "natural" from the perspective of the artificial world "inside" the computer?

eric said...

Back on April 28, a comment above stated, "Whether or not we could ever construct something which would then act in every way like a natural thing - whether we could produce a new nature, in other words - is a different question. What if nanotechnology someday allows us to make little molecular machines that reproduce and grow, etc.? Well, that would require some more thought but we're certainly not at that stage yet."

Yet, on May 20, less than a month later, the J. Craig Venter Institute announced that their researchers had created the first, self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. Although they did not create a cell entirely from scratch, they did succeed in replacing a cell's DNA with DNA that had been entirely constructed artificially according to a modified sequence they chose. (Their synthesized DNA included revisions to add artificially encoded identifying "watermarks" containing the names of 46 authors and other key contributors, three quotations, and an email address.)

Thus, although we are still more like little children playing at the keyboard of an adult's computer ("What happens if I do this?"), we are now at the stage where humans could begin to revise the behavior of cells by reprogramming the instructions in their DNA.

This doesn't directly answer the question of the origin of cells, and Dr. Sullivan was correct when he emphasized (in the nature-artifacts-and-machines-2 thread) the value of clarifying the nature of cells before one attempts to deal with the question of origins.

The relevant significance of this development is for understanding the nature of cells. The potential to revise cell behavior through reprogramming instructions is possible because and only because cells already depend on such programming in the first place as a necessary aspect of their essential nature.

Cells have no ability to grow their needed protein parts through duplication from original copies. They could not operate except by having stored knowledge and coded, detailed instructions to guide the controlled and timely assembly of their parts and molecular machinery just as needed.

eric said...

I see now that Venter also recognizes the same implications concerning what a cell is.

"Venter also points to what the [synthetically constructed] cells -- powered by genomes made in a lab from four bottles of chemicals, based on instructions stored on a computer -- reveal about what life is. "This is as much a philosophical as a technological advance," he says. "The notion that this is possible means bacterial cells are software-driven biological machines. If you change the software, you build a new machine. I'm still amazed by it." "
http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/25362/page2/

It will be easy for some to make over-reaching statements, such as to incorrectly conclude this proves that is all that life consists of.

Nevertheless, it is becoming plain that a cell at least includes software-driven biological machines whose programming potentially can now be changed.