Once, during a Compared Evolution class, in college, my professor asked me the question:
How could the proposal on the meaning of life, derived from the biochemical and biological concept of life, be reconciled with the human aspiration of transcendence?
The biological concept of life says that life is a functioning metabolic system and relatively independent of another, like a cell that performs its functions and is separated from other cells. For a strictly scientific mind, these are the prerequisites for considering a "unit" as being alive, but this concept brings problems when faced with peculiar situations such as viruses, for example. Taking strictly this idea that a system is only alive when it consists of a functioning and individualized metabolic system a virus could never be considered alive, because it does not have a metabolism and to replicate it needs a living cell.
What to do when you are on the threshold between living and inanimate? What is life? What is the meaning of life?
These are questions that we are always faced with and the biological concept of life is not always able to answer us.
It is doubts like these that have made the human being since the beginning of his existence to create theories about the origin of everything, about the meaning (reason) of his existence. Hence God has arisen, it is so embedded in our culture that it is almost impossible for us to think of life without a motive, a transcendental force that drives it.
It is astonishing, too, how easily man believes in transcendental explanations wholly without factual basis to be formulated while a so-called scientific explanation needs all the factual arguments of the world.
It is this transcendental urgency that normally blinds man to the perception of truth, let us look at biological life well; What is a metabolic system?
A metabolic system is nothing more than a set of molecules interacting with one another, in order to transform the energy around them, to maintain, to grow, to reproduce. But these molecules are not life itself, for you can take each one separately and claim that it is not alive! "This is not alive, it's just an enzyme!" An organism which we call "living" is but one set of these molecules which are separately said inanimate, so what is the difference?
A system, to be considered alive, does not need something transcendental, like a soul, or a God to function, just be organized in a way that all particles can interact.
Let us see then the origin of it all: Great theories try to explain the origin of this thing called "life". An interesting theory is that which suggests as the origin of life the moment of union of two groups of molecules, nucleic acids and proteins. This theory is interesting because it creates a self-sustaining world where the metabolism represented by proteins gains perpetual support in the form of replenishment (transcription and translation) and reproducibility (reproduction). Prior to this union there existed proteins that interacted with each other at random almost without reproducibility, and nucleic acids that existed without the sense of serving as the basis of heredity.
See that the system was not created but built, it "evolved". From simple individual molecules to interaction systems. See also that there is nothing transcendental about it.
Once, a Buddhist monk wrote a letter to an Englishman, the monk who did not want to be identified wrote thus:
"... The idea of a God is not an innate but acquired notion, and we only have one thing in common with theologies - we reveal the infinite. But while we ascribe material, natural, sensible, and known causes (by us at least [Buddhists]) to all phenomena which proceed from infinite space and time, and from infinite and unlimited movement, theists ascribe to them supernatural, intelligible, and unknown causes. .. ".
It is possible to refute the need for transcendental elements for the emergence of living organisms by other arguments. The universe is all governed by an important law: "Cause and effect." Every cause generates an effect, even if we can not see it or measure it, it causes an effect, and therefore is called a "cause." Thus it is easy to imagine that for the existence of any thing it was necessary that before causes arose compatible with the "outcropping" of the consequence in question, nothing arises from nothing as nothing ends in nothing. It is interesting to note that even causes are consequences of previous causes, these in turn are consequences of previous causes. Thus we can infer that the appearance of "living" beings are only consequences of previous causes (already discussed previously).
Life is a concept that we use to discriminate things that we think are special in the world, things that man thinks are more important simply because they have some in common with himself: METABOLISM.
By CREATING the concept of life, we create concomitantly, a very comfortable situation, we can destroy everything that we do not consider alive simply because it is not alive! We do not realize that because of this almost arbitrary concept that everything in the universe is the same, everything shares the same nature, the carbon and water that make us up is the same thing that can be found on earth, on the rocks. We are made up of the same elements that once were a tree but were once just a piece of stone.
How to reconcile the concept of life with the transcendental aspiration of man? They are both created by the same driving force, the need for discrimination, which without it would be very difficult to interact with the world. Explain the inexplicable. But in the strict sense of the question it is not impossible to reconcile the BIOLOGICAL concept with the human "spiritual" urgency.
If you ask me now what the meaning of life is, in my opinion, the answer would be: to be born, to grow, to reproduce, to grow old and to die!