God is not alive: He does not meet the basic criteria for living things

In biology the definition of life is a little tricky. It’s rather difficult to make a single, coherent statement about what life is. Instead, biologists have a list of descriptive traits that define life. For the purposes of this post, I will use teaching materials from New Mexico Tech, but this is a commonly used list that can be found in several sources.

Biologists say living things have the following seven characteristics: 1) They are composed of cells. 2) They have different levels of molecular and cellular organization. 3) They use energy. 4) They respond to their environment. 5) They grow. 6) They reproduce. 7) They evolve.

Let’s examine each of these and apply them to the concept of god as characterized in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and see if god is alive.

1. Living things are either single-cellular or multicellular 

Is god composed of cells? Many claim god made humans in his own image, but that doesn’t mean he’s composed of one or more cells. Indeed, he’s supernatural, and cells are natural. Plus if he’s omnipresent, we would be able to see his cells everywhere. Philosophically speaking, I can understand the argument that god does have cells, but I doubt anyone would ever make such a claim.

Result: God does not have cells.

2. Living things have different levels of molecular and cellular organization

Because god does not have cells, it’s unlikely god’s “body” can organize simple materials into complex materials in order to build tissue, his organs, his organ systems, and ultimately his own organism.

Result: God does not have different levels of molecular and cellular organization.

3. Living things use energy

The Abrahamic concept of god is an omnipotent god. Omnipotent beings have no need for an energy input. Indeed, this god’s energy happens all by itself. Followers of this god claim god is transcendent, which means he existed way before energy existed. A god like this likely has no need for energy.

Result: God does not use energy.

4. Living things respond to their environment

What the hell is god’s environment? That’s never really been clarified. In any case, if god is omniscient then he knows everything in advance, even his own responses. His behavior is therefore likely to be beyond his free will. If a change in his heavenly environment occurs beyond his control, his actions have already been pre-determined. Although changes beyond his control negates the omnipotent thing.

Result: God does not respond to his environment.

5. Living things grow

This one’s easy. The Abrahamic concept of god is transcendent and omnipresent. There is no need to grow. Besides, the growth of living things is based on cell division, which takes us back to the first point.

Result: God does not grow.

6. Living things reproduce

Well, god knocked up a teenage girl, so maybe he can reproduce. But he did it with magic, not sperm. I’ll give god this one.

Result: God can reproduce, but it’s irrelevant.

7. Living things adapt and evolve

Need I comment on this one?

Result: God does not adapt or evolve.

Scorecard

The Abrahamic god scores 1 out of 7, only having the characteristic of reproduction. But that’s not relevant because fire can reproduce, but it’s not alive. Viruses also reproduce, but they are not alive.

Clearly, based on the seven characteristics of life as defined in the biological sciences, god is not alive.

It would take an extraordinarily compelling argument with extraordinarily compelling evidence to suggest that god can somehow be alive without having the basic descriptive traits of living things.

Postscript

This is merely a tongue-in-cheek article. I’m aware that theists will always reply to this kind of statement with a “goddidit” argument. Besides, I don’t pretend to understand the concept of god. I take the ignostic approach when talking about the definition of god.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political and social activist.
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24 Responses to God is not alive: He does not meet the basic criteria for living things

  1. 2 (a) Living things exist

    god doesn’t exist.

  2. “God’s body” has nothing to do with the level of organization that is inherent in living creatures.

    That is like saying an artist’s body is physically dependent on his painting.

  3. It amuses me that living things would define the Giver of Life.

    • I’m sorry but this level of arrogance is absurd. Why on earth couldn’t we define the giver of life? Why are you restricting our knowledge and progress on the grounds of the unknown. You’re as uncertain about the existence of god as the staunchest atheist, neither of us know for certain. If you abandoned you religion, you could think for yourself and question things openly and honestly seek answers. Just a thought.

      • Thanks for the thought. I can heartily agree with you about me being as uncertain about the existence of God as the staunchest of atheist. Yes. Thank you. Sorry if I came off arrogant. Didn’t mean to.

      • Well actually, I feel I was a bit harsh. Sorry for that. Didn’t expect the reply. Would you mind expanding on your thoughts that a human couldn’t possibly understand their creator?

      • Hi. No prob. You know, you write something. Sometimes it gets taken another way. Sometimes even when I speak it comes off wrong. Just ask my wife.
        Anyway, in regards to how can people not understand the creator. I think the Creator is evident from creation, just as all things here on Earth are created. Evolution, the Big Bang and other theories never address the question: Where did it all come from? In any case, you are right to turn the question back on me: Well, where did God come from? Because I’ll give you the lame answer: I don’t know. I guess I think Christians and atheists are pretty much on equal footing. You need faith to believe whichever scenario you choose to believe. Hope to be helpful.

      • Yea of course , thanks for weighing in. I too sometimes succumb to the illusion of design. The pull towards the supernatural appears to be something we all share to some extent. Yet, I believe, in order to distinguish fact from what we would like to believe is to test it and falsify it. This is where I reject your notion of faith. If the evidence points towards a theory, then, that theory is tested in an attempt to prove it wrong. When theories stand up to scrutiny, it is then taken more seriously and becomes probably or likely. Naturally, I think it is highly unlikely that any notion of the supernatural exists, based on what I know to be true about the natural laws. To say one doesn’t know is one thing, but to believe in the extraordinary claims of religious books is something that I will never be able to reconcile with what I know about the world I live in. Wouldn’t you think it makes more sense to believe the natural over the supernatural?

      • Sure, believing the natural over the supernatural is attractive. Really, I agree with pretty much everything you say. But I can’t take it to the extreme that you do. I appreciate science and all it has done to dispel stupid superstition and advance human causes. But I think science is limited. Even our poets despair of a world that is only quantified. Science cannot account for many things, emotions, mental illness, some physical sicknesses, disturbingly evil person like Hitler. I don’t mean to come off in a bad way, but I just want to reaffirm some simple notions: science has shown us the beginnings of everything. What began all of creation? Truly, I think science points toward some sort of God. Then, to me, it is just a matter of finding the right God. In any case, I really appreciate a little discussion, and I hope I’m not coming across as arrogant or anything. Thanks for engaging me in some discussion. At some point, it would be my desire to look for points of agreement instead of disagreement. I think we can and should work together to make this world a better place. Hope to be helpful.

      • Absolutely, I share your sentiments. With regard to the extreme, I would appreciate you elaborating on it if possible. Science isn’t just physical attributes, it is a process of discovery and education, a process of understanding. There are scientific discourses like psychology, psychiatry and criminology which all work at explaining the examples you have. Do you really think there is no method to understand emotions or the criminal aspect of one’s psyche? Mental illness is treated very effectively through advancements in science and medicine.
        Clearly we don’t know the answers to some of the deepest questions but that isn’t to say we will not know or shouldn’t know. Are you suggesting that because you don’t have the answer as to how did it all begin that you have attributed it to the god of Abraham? What you’re saying here is not only is it attractive to believe the supernatural over the unnatural, but science itself pints us in the direction of the supernatural? I think your understanding of science as a process of gaining knowledge is confused. If we consider extremes, I may be extremely rational in my approach, I may also be extremely reasonable in my assessment of he evidence available, but you appear to not only know there’s a god, but you appear to know which one. Considering your religion teaches you to believe things that you would usually refer to as impossible, I think the term extreme would apply to you and your desire to believe the supernatural. If you have evidence of your view then I apologise and take it all back… But please share.
        Of course you’re not coming across
        As arrogant, I appreciate you being honest and open about your views. It is only by honest inquiry can frankness can we begin to make progress on the god discussion. Cheers!

      • This is very good analysis. Yes, I believe the God of Abraham is God, for many reasons. Yes, I believe science points to the existence of a God. Yes, I believe that while sciences like psychology and criminology are useful for scientifically analyzing and treating issues people have, they come up short. I believe there are demons that explain what science cannot. I believe in evil in the world. Rationalism and science have brought much good to humanity, but they have been largely ineffective against evil. Evil is inside all of us, in some it appears to take over. How can we explain massacres? How can we explain wars? How can we explain psychopaths? I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to explain them, study them, alleviate them. But what I’m saying is that God could and should be part of the solution. I’m pushing for a holistic approach. Well, I hope my opinion doesn’t offend you. I would rather try to show Christian love to you as my brother, my fellow human being. After all, regardless of what we believe, we are stuck here on this Earth together until we die. So we might as well try to work together to make it a better place. Yours, Mike

      • Hi Mike, of course you won’t offend me, you’re not insulting me, and even if you did, it would take a lot to upset me!

        You are raising questions that can be easily explained. How can we explain massacres/wars/psychopaths. Science and social sciences all aim to explain these things. You may benefit from enrolling on a course or something to get to grips with these issues. I reject your notion that evil is inside all of us, mainly because how you arrived at this conclusion – i’m assuming you’re talking about original sin here, how we’re all inflicted because of the insubordination of Adam and Eve so many thousands of years ago. You’re free of course to believe that but there’s no evidence for it. In fact, besides the ancient book of stories and documents that you refer to as the Bible, there isn’t anything to even suggest it to be true.

        The problem I have with what you’re trying to say about science is you state that science points to the existence of god. I’m sorry, but science points to where there’s evidence and then works on theories from that evidence. You as a person may look at the world and believe you see things that are attributed to a god of some kind, but to say science points towards the existence of a god is utter nonsense. If anything, science proves that there’s no need for a god at all. Science tells us that the laws of nature cannot ever be broke or suspended, which rules out any aspect of the supernatural whatsoever. You say criminology is useful but falls up short. I’m sorry but what other discourse do you have that aims to study the criminal elements of the human mind? It doesn’t fall short at all. You may have gaps in your understanding but that doesn’t mean those gaps are there.

        Although I admire you and anyone who aims to make the world a great place, I don’t think we can do that from the same position. I consider myself a humanist and take very seriously our shared responsibilities towards each other and the Earth we will live on. I don’t palm off important issues such as abortion, death penalty, marriage and so on in the direction of a god, I consider it our collective responsibilities to face up to these issues and decide for ourselves what the right course of action should be – with each other in mind. I’m afraid that someone who looks to god for these answers and lessons on how to live life fundamentally negates some of those responsibilities. If we left our health to god, how many of us would die? If we followed gods example of treating of animals and so on, would we be moral at all?

        Thanks for the Christian love, although, Christianity and I don’t have our morals aligned. When science identifies a gap in our understanding, scientists simply roll up their sleeves and get to work – they don’t fill in those gaps with ‘god did it’ like you have done .It is intellectually lazy and insulting to be told ‘god did it’ so that is that. Life is far more impressive and interesting without the need for a supernatural dictator!

        I’m throwing a bit of humanist love your way. Thanks for your thoughts.

      • In relation to my last comment, I don’t want to suggest that you don’t take any of your responsibilities seriously. I’m sure you do. I also think there are many things we agree on despite our different views on the supernatural. I didn’t mean to go all militant atheist on you 🙂

      • Hi Rational! Sorry I didn’t respond earlier. I just back from a mini-vacation. I appreciate you taking the time to write all this. One of the phrases I would like to hone in on a bit is the one of existing evidence. Would you agree that violence, crime, mass murders and suicide are growing worldwide? Robin Willams’s suicide underscores this. An article: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/robin-williams-death/deadly-stigma-robin-williams-suicide-exposes-silent-epidemic-n179206 What accounts for this evidence? I would respectfully submit that as Western civilizations become more godless, the tendency is towards hopelessness and lack of moral restraint. Evil is growing. Please don’t take this as a personal attack. It’s not meant to be. I just mean to say that I think there is ample evidence for the Christian worldview. Again, I think we Christians could fairly lay claim to an equal footing when looking at “existing evidence.”

        I enjoy a healthy dialogue, an exchange of ideas. So thanks ahead of time if you want to respond. If not, i understand: I get really busy too. Blessings, my friend. Mike

      • Hi no problem. Glad to have you back. Funny enough I went away with my family for a few days too, just got back. I love the sport Rugby and went to the Museum of where it all started and the first rules etc. My partner was bored but she let me by out boy a new ball so I’m happy!

        Anyway, I’m devastated by Robin Williams. I grew up on his fills and admired him. I really struggle with the idea of suicide. The idea that people choose to ‘check out’ early, never coming back. The idea that they trade whatever pain and discomfort for zero anything – non existence is a testament to the extent of the suffering he felt. I wonder if a conversation at the right moment would have stopped him? A phone call from his daughter? Either way, we obviously won’t know.
        That’s another discussion for another day im sure!
        No I know you’re not aiming your comments at me that’s cool, but I still reject what you say about evil. This time from a moral and humanist point and a historical perspective. The first point is that we don’t have evil inside us. I consider evil something that harms to impacts negatively on someone. There’s a lot of crimes that fit this description of course, but what your god teaches to be evil we as a society and civilisation don’t agree – other gods, lust, theft in some extreme conditions, adultery, lack of belief in the supernatural, sex before marriage, homosexuality and so on. This is where religious teachings actually drift away from what a secular society considers human rights. I don’t think an evil act or an immoral act can exist without the presence or impact to a fellow human. For instance, if someone was to behave in an in advisable way on their own, with no one present, it cannot be considered moral or immoral. They may behave in ways that are harmful to themselves, but they choose to do so. They may behave in ways that could lead to the manifestation of behaviours that directly harm others, but until it effects anyone, it is not immoral or moral, good nor bad. I think the obvious exception here would be child pornography or similar crimes.! This is unpardonable and directly supports the cruelty and inhumanity towards children, despite them not actually harming them or not.
        Anyway, it says a lot about your view of humans. We aren’t all evil nor are we all guilty. We choose how we behave and how we act, with the exception of a tiny minority of course. It is our recognition of empathy, choice and solidarity towards one another that creates ethics. Without consciousness morality or well being cannot exist. No matter the conditions on Mars, without any life form it is neither good nor bad. There is no well being to be considered.
        This moves me to my historical point. what we now consider ethics and morality can be summed up in the greatest human achievements and recognition ever to emerge from our species – the guarantee of human rights and equality protected by law. Freedom of speech and of course, conscience and religion, along with democracy. These are moral and ethical systems of living and they took thousands of years to recognise and achieve. The very parties of god, or representatives of your god of Abraham have systematically denied these rights over the years, and it is only when the secular system is introduced is there change towards morality and both individual and collective well being. It is the abolition of religious back politics and governments that has allowed human rights to flourish. I cannot understand what part in our history would you prefer to live in other than a democratic one. If you look at the theocratic governments now and how little they even know about human rights responsibilities and entitlements is evidence that secularism and democracy will help lift their people out of the dark ages to a life of freedom and choice, all protected by law. We have arrived at this, not the other way around. Western nations aren’t more immoral at all and if you didn’t agree, try going to a theocratic nation and having this discussion – you’ll be hung!
        I look forward to hearing you’re thoughts. Feel free to put me in my place if I have written anything you disagree with…

      • This is all fantastic discussion and I value it.

        First let me say that I love soccer. I learned about it when I was a missionary in Guatemala, and I really enjoy watching and reading about it. I don’t know if you see a similarity between soccer and rugby: they are both sports appreciated mostly by other countries, not so much the U.S. Glad you had a good get away.

        In regards to sin (if I may call it that), I really agree with you almost 100%. It is hurting others. And I think it can be established that it is growing exponentially worldwide. I myself fled Guatemala after organized criminals held us up at gunpoint and got all our papers. I feared further attacks from them (kidnapping), so I felt it was an extreme way of God telling me it was time to move on. Child porn is really bad, but also drug trafficking that has taken over Latin America. Human trafficking. The list goes on. Why are these evils growing?

        In regards to the historical argument, I believe that democratic society evolved out of Christian minds who, recognizing the presence of sin in the human heart, refused to concentrate power in the hands of any one man. I’m not in favor of theocracy. The Bible itself demonstrates its failure. That node in Biblical history was not the high ideal, as some wrongly assume, but a step in the path of God’s ultimate plan to bring Jesus to the world as its Savior. The path in broad terms goes: Promise of a Savior (post Garden of Eden), Choosing of a Man (Noah), Choosing of People (Abraham), Establishing of a Nation (Israel), Punishing of a Nation (captivity), Promise of Enlargement of God’s Plan to All Nations (in prophecy), and finally Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection with the subsequent spread of the gospel with starts and stops to the world. With the spread of Christianity, liberating notions such as equal rights for women, democracy, human rights abounded — because they come from the Bible. Perhaps this is where we differ most, the historical interpretation. It is much in vogue to cite the horrible abuses of supposed Christians in so-called Christendom, but in reality such are so far behind the abuses of atheism (millions killed by atheists Stalin and Mao, for example) as to quiet this argument. Where democracy exploded without a God factor (French Revolution) it spun out of control into senseless beheading and reprisal until a strongman (Napoleon) took control to restore order (a failure for democracy).

        Whatever moral system you espouse, I find it completely incomprehensible that such is a result of evolution. Evolution admits no such nonsense as morality. the fact that we human beings have a conscience knowing right and wrong shows that we are not evolved from animals. We are created. We can dispute what is right morality. You can disagree with some stipulations from the Bible. Fine. But can you believe that morality (even such notions as human rights) evolved? That takes a whole of spin. Survival of the fittest is simple a question of beating your fellow animal, not observing right conduct.

        Thanks for the invitation to opine. I hope a discussion can be lively without being offensive, that we can dispute ideas and still be friends who respect each other.

        Yours kindly, Mike

      • Rayan Zehn says:

        Hey Mustard,

        I haven’t gotten a chance to read all of your discussion with Rational, so please forgive me if I’m being redundant. Your claim that godlessness correlates with mass murder, suicide, and other horrible acts is not supported by science. Ronald Inglehart has been studying religious decline and the growth of secularism for 40+ years. We have to look at the variables another way. What causes secularism (or the decline of religion)? He finds that an increase in existential security is positively correlated with secularism. The decline of horrible acts, corruption, and death tolls is likely to cause people to naturally leave religious belief because religion no longer provides comfort. The state and society provide the comfort. In this case godlessness is not the independent variable; it’s the dependent variable. He has done extensive research into this, but most of his work is behind pay walls. For a great overview of his work, I recommend ‘Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide’ and ‘Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic and Political Change in 43 Societies.’ If you need something peer-reviewed, I can send you his academic research that became these books.

      • Rayan,

        Here is you arguing with yourself and losing once again:

        Your claim that godlessness correlates with mass murder, suicide, and other horrible acts is not supported by science.

        The atheist mass murders and tyrannical criminality are a matter of history.

        If science meant anything to you except for a meaningless buzz word, you’d never mention it again.

        Atheist thought is as far from science as that of the monkey who still lives in the trees.

      • Hi Rayan, Welcome to the discussion. I haven’t read Ronald Inglehart, so it’s pretty much hard to comment. I’ll have to brush up on “independent” and dependent” variables to see what you mean. I don’t know what “behind pay walls” means. I thank you for the tips on the reading. I don’t think I’ll need the peer review. So after ackowledging my shortcomings on the subject, let me say that it appears correct in general terms that people “existential security correlates with secularism.” So I don’t think I really much to dispute with that. But in general, I agree that our society is destroying itself in terms of broken families, crime, drug use, alcoholism, divorce, marital unfaithfulness, etc. And I see the lack of the fear of God (reverential fear, not terror) as a major cause, whether it is “dependent” or ‘independent.” I’ll try to look up some of this stuff. Thanks.

  4. would define life to for the Giver of Life and thus exclude Him.

  5. In any case, no hostility meant by making a comment here. I appreciate what you are trying to do.

  6. Pingback: God is not alive: He does not meet the basic criteria for living things

  7. Does it make sense to try to define the Creator by the way His creation define itself?

  8. Very clever post! In your face theism.

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