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Birth and Death

posted May 23, 2019, 4:01 PM by Upali Salpadoru   [ updated Jun 22, 2022, 4:19 PM ]

Birth and Death

      Irrespective of nationality, race or creed, it is an inborn belief of the majority, that life starts with birth and ends in death. Of course some sects believe in previous lives and a sort of transmigration (An existence after death). There is no known valid experiment to verify any existence after death, or  prior to birth  but science can peep into the intricacies of the  two vital events, birth and death. 

    The dictionaries generally give the definition of birth as, The emergence and separation of off spring from the body of the mother.”. This is true for mammals and some other higher animals but not for the oviparous. What about a chick coming out of an egg ? 

1. Chick coming out of its shell.

Which is birth in this situation; Is it the laying of an egg or hatching out? 

            Extending this further to other living organisms we may consider the seed bearing plants. 

of a sprouting bean.

 Figure shows three stages

·         Stage1:-  Seed coat has ruptured and the radicle that forms the root and the lower part of the stem, that forms the arch above the ground (hypocotyl)  has developed.

·         Stage 2:- The hypocotyl pulls the cotyledons above the ground.

·         Stage 3:- The cotyledons turn green and the true leaves have developed.

Fig. 1  Birth of a bean plant.

  Which could be best considered as the birth of a new plant?  Emerging of the radicle, pulling the cotyledons up or the development of true leaves ?

(If a baby coming out of the amnions sac and the bird coming out of an egg are taken as birth, a seedling coming out has also to be considered as ‘birth’ although the botanists favour  the term ‘germination’). 


In the same tone mammalian reproduction may also be queried.

·         Stage 1:-The ovary produces an egg cell with 23 chromosomes . ( A living unit with a complete record of the mother’s heredity , which can fill several DVDs )

·         Stage 2:- The testes produce spermatozoa  with a nucleus  also with 23 chromosomes bearing the father’s heredity. These cells are mobile due to the presence of a flagellum.

·         Stage 3:-Only one sperm enters the egg and  the chromosome number doubles. After fertilization the cell is called a zygote.

·         Stage 4:- The zygote gets attached to the womb . The embryo develops inside a sac.

·         Stage 5:-  After the gestation period the amnion sac  bursts and the off spring is pushed out.

·         Stage 6:- The off spring starts to breathe.

 In a normal sense the stages 5 and 6  are jointly considered as birth. 

 Considering this sequence of events that leads to the birth of a new individual, in which stage does the new arrival starts life?

For life to propagate there should have been a beginning.

There’s no way, birth can be considered as the beginning of a living thing,  To begin with God may have created man and other living organisms. Or may be life started by a gradual process over a very long period in a spontaneous manner or may be life has  come from far away space.

Spontaneous origin of Life

      The theory of ‘Spontaneous generation of life’ was initiated by    Alexander Oparin, and  J. B. S. Haldane in 1920.  In 1952 Stanley Miller and Harold Urey conducted a classic experiment  at the University of Chicago. to verify this  theory. Starting from inorganic matter, he obtained a few organic substances only by subjecting them to primordial conditions for a few days.  In 2007 under the sponsorship of NASA eminent biochemists re analysed the sealed vials  from Miller’s experiment, using the latest teart codon' in the genetic code, which tells a cell's machinery to begin translating ( making proteins according to genetic cord)  the design for a protein," AnachniquesThey found many more amino acids and concluded as follows ."The sulfur-containing amino acids we found include significant biological ones like methionine, the product of the 'stlytical Astrobiology Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,

DR. Sidney Fox an eminent bio chemist also experimented with abiogenesis and the primordial soup theory. In one of his experiments, he allowed amino acids to dry out as if puddled in a warm, dry spot in prebiotic conditions. He found that, as they dried, the amino acids formed long, often cross-linked, thread-like, sub-microscopic molecules now named "proteinoids".

Cosmic  origin

In the 1980s, Sir Fred Hoyle developed and promoted, along with Chandra Wickramasinghe, the theory of “panspermia”. He calculated the chances of the simplest living cell forming out of some primordial soup as infinitesimally small, and described that theory as “evidently nonsense of a high order”.

They have just passed the baby to space without explaining the beginning. Even in outer space life could have been created or began on its own.  But a recent study by a few NASA scientists seem to be in agreement with panspermia.

NASA findings

 “   For the first time, we have three lines of evidence that together give us confidence these DNA building blocks actually were created in space.” Dr. Michael Callahan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center,  Here is an another extract from a report from NASA.  “Scientists think that the basic ingredients of life, including water and organics, began their journey to Earth on these lonesome ice particles. The ice and organics would have found their way into comets and asteroids, which then fell to Earth, delivering "prebiotic" ingredients that could have jump-started life.”                

Common Descent

    Whether the life originated in the plumes of volcanic ash or in the hot wells under the sea or far away in space, the pointer seems to be tilted to spontaneous generation. On studying all forms of life today it has been concluded that they all have had a common origin.

“Biologists have evidence that all life developed from a common ancestor that lived just under 4 billion years ago, and the concept is accepted by virtually all scientists working in the field. The structures and functions of all living organisms are encoded in the same basic nucleic molecules, DNA and RNA. Similarities in amino acid sequences between various organisms also suggest a common origin”.

There is strong quantitative support for this theory

Back to Birth

Let us get back to where we started. It is clear life started with just one or two strands  of RNA or DNA.  Then came the cells and unicellular organisms .  They produced young ones by’ a process called  ‘binary fission’. A mother cell could divide into two or more  cells.

Earliest multi cellular plants and animals also had a similar asexual process to reproduce. A hydra, an animal about a cm long, living attached to rocks in water develop branches called buds. These get detached growing into new individuals.  “Many hydras reproduce asexually by producing buds in the body wall, which grow to be miniature adults and simply break away when they are mature”.  Wikipedia. This is also a case of a new individual being born.

Except at the origin of life , a new life comes from detaching a living part of a living thing.  

The child is only a break away part of the parent. There is no BIRTH ; (in the sense a new life) but only continuation of life.

Life and Death

Death is considered as the most un avoidable finale of any organism.  Now consider the hydra. You can kill it but it may  not die due to senility. The body of it can divide and exist as new individuals.  The historic Bo tree (Ficus religiosa) at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka is over 2500 years old.  It may not die at all as new shoots can spring up   from the base.

Consider a multicellular animal such as a human being. There are trillions of cells of various sorts ranging from unspecialised stem cells to highly specialised cells performing a multitude of functions. Every cell is a unit of life.  Many have their own life cycle. The skin cells have a life span of  two or three weeks. As new cells come up to the surface of the skin old cells die and peel off. Red blood cells get specialised from the stem cells in the bone marrow and die after two days of yeomen service.  During the life time  man f a man Millions of births and funerals take place with little or no knowledge.

A multicellular creature is similar to a highly developed city. Unwanted buildings may be demolished and new structures may be built without affecting the city. If the power system fails, it would affect every individual in the metropolis.  A constriction in a blood vessel supplying oxygen to a heart muscle  may  cripple and permanently damage the heart muscles. If timely action is not taken the organism may not recover at all.

It is not easy to diagnose death.  From the earliest times cessation of breathing  was considered an unmistakable sign of death.  For the doctors stopping the heart beat and thereby the blood circulation became the legal point of death.  If an electric shock or Cardiopulmonary resuscitation can resume the heart beat man could not have died.   Loosing consciousness due to brain death could also be taken as a sign of death.  Yet a brain dead man can be made to live with life support systems.

Even if a person has been declared dead by the doctors, the corpse could contain several living organs at least for for a few hours. If so how can you say the man was dead? 

 In most cases birth and death cannot be considered as single events but events that take some time.  So we are forced to have doubts with regard to previous lives and transmigration.

 seedling coming out has also to be considered as ‘birth’ although the botanists favour  the term ‘germination’).