[ExI] atoms and cells - what is shared between them?

natasha at natasha.cc natasha at natasha.cc
Fri Jul 20 22:59:41 UTC 2012

Anders wrote:

On 17/07/2012 21:47, natasha at natasha.cc wrote:

> All molecules are made of atoms which are, for the most part,  
> indestructible and, thereby, immortal. *If atoms are the elemental  
> components from which all cells are derived, then why does  
> programmed cell death occur?*

"Because atoms and organisms are phenomena on different levels. The fact
that water molecules cannot show waves or disappear doesn't prevent a
large collection like a puddle to have waves or to dry out."

"Programmed cell death is an adaptation multicellular organisms use to
construct or control their tissues. It has been favored because
organisms with the right apoptosis programs can function well in the
environment  and hence reproduce well. Note that there are no
unicellular organisms with apoptosis: there survival is all about each
cell doing well."

> Also, is it true that if apoptosis is a chemical process, it has no  
> connection with the atomic constitutionof cells?

"Cell chemistry, especially the dynamics of proteins and signals like in
apoptosis, is about molecules interacting - with a few chemical
exceptions individual atoms do not occur other than as constituents of
molecules. So if atoms disappeared but molecules behaved the same cells
would work the same."

Thank you ANDERS!  And thanks to Max who discussed this with me via telephone.

So, this is how I am stating it and I think it makes sense of my questions:

Atoms and cells are phenomena on different levels; yet, it is the  
organization of the molecules, which contain atoms, that forms a  
system such as a cellular system. The dynamics of apoptosis concerns  
molecules interacting, where individual atoms do not take place other  
than as constituents of the molecules. When the cells die it is  
because the molecules that form the them are no longer in the same  
position or organization and, therefore, not capable of performing the  
necessary cell functions. Thus, cell death occurs because the  
molecules, containing atoms, have been rearranged by metabolic  
processes or by the effects of random damage. Of consequence is that  
the atoms may still exist, but because the molecular position or  
organization has changed, they are prevented from performing their  
functions and unable to assist the efficacy of a cell’s role in  
relation to the entire system of the organism.


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