Ever since his birth as a species, man could not put up with the obvious fact: that sooner or later he has to die. Kicking against the pricks, so to speak. Not only in metaphysical terms, but also in a scientific sense, as we can see it in the example of research work carried out at the A. N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology (Moscow State University). Our correspondent Igor GORYUNOV has approached its director, Academician Vladimir SKULACHEV, to spell it out.
Articles in this rubric reflect the opinion of the author. - Ed.
- Now, what is life and what is death? Is life eternal possible at all? That's the philosophy as old as the world...
- This very question-what is life and what is death?-has been the subject of long and abstract discussions. They concern the gist of the matter, not definitions only. Anyone can tell a live horse from a dead one. And yet a mechanistic approach held sway in science for many years: living organisms were compared to sophisticated machinery, just like that-a machine is bound to break and go out of commission sooner or later. And this means death.
This point of view, however, has its opponents. It's hard to imagine that a horse is subject to wear as a cart is. The horse is a living creature capable of sustaining its own existence and even of self-cure. But the cart is an inanimate thing-if broken, it will keep so until man fixes it up. On the other hand, it's a hopeless undertaking to flog a dead horse.
That is to say, any living organism is endowed with a powerful and complex system of debugging and of sustaining life. Thus, strictly speaking, there is no cogent proof of the inevitability of death where a living creature is concerned. But, if say, a brick falls on your head, you may die, sure. Yet as \bland, the famous personage depicted by the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, has put it, bricks will never fall on your head for no particular reason.
- But suppose a brick spares your head. What then ... Read more