Reclassifying Viruses as Living?

Ethan Bright ethanbr at UMICH.EDU
Thu Mar 16 09:43:57 CST 2006

Richard Pyle wrote:
> The way I like to distinguish "life" from "non-living chemistry" is that the
> former is defined largely by the "flow" of information over time.  "Flow"
> not in the physical sense, but in the sense that the "information"
> transcends its physical basis in matter, and perpetuates imperfectly.
> ....
> So, I tend to side with others who regard viruses as within the realm of
> "life".  I find this a particularly easy conclusion to arrive at given that,
> as has already been pointed out, the information content of viruses is
> stored in the same basic material form as the information stored in
> everything else we lump under the umbrella of "life".
I apologize if this point's already been mentioned....
Would a reasonable test be to postulate a phylogeny for viruses (if this
is possible, either directly or indirectly using viral host taxa), and
then examine the most ancestral "taxa" for similarities shared with
non-viral (probably bacteria or bacteria-like) organisms? I know
something along these lines has already been done for immune-deficiency
viruses infecting primates (and other sorts of viruses affecting
vertebrates), to see where various strains of AIDS affecting man may
have originated. Not being knowledgeable with virus research, has this
been done regarding the "viral-life" issue?
Cheers, Ethan

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