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.
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.
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.