Discussion Essay: Viruses and Prions: Are they alive?

Objectives: Review and become more familiar with the unifying principles of life discussed in Chapter 1. Use internet resources to learn basic information about viruses OR prions. Apply the unifying principles of life to determine whether or not viruses OR prions should be classified as living organisms. Alignment: This discussion question is designed to supplement the materials covered in Chapters 1-3 (Weeks 1-3). In this discussion, you will choose either viruses or prions to learn more about and then determine whether or not they are alive. To answer this, you will need to apply the information you learned in Chapter 1 on the unifying principles of life as well as the information in Chapter 3 on organic molecules. Background: Two different groups of pathogens are the viruses and prions. Viruses are responsible for diseases and illnesses such as influenza, chicken pox, measles, and AIDS. Prions are responsible for mad cow disease and its human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). Don’t be fooled. The answer to the question of whether or not these are alive is more complex than a simple yes or no. The argument as to whether or not at least one of these groups is alive is still raging in the scientific community. You will need to learn about the structure and characteristics of the group (viruses or prions) that you have chosen and then use the unifying principles of life (Chapter 1) to determine whether your group meets each principle. Based on this analysis, make a decision about whether or not YOU would classify your group as alive or not alive. Support your argument with specific details. Procedure: Choose viruses or prions to research using internet resources. Find reliable sources to learn more about the characteristics Describe the characteristics of the group (viruses or prions) Analyze whether or not your group (viruses or prions) satisfy each of the unifying principles (particularly principles 1-8) Decide whether you would classify your group as alive or not. Explain what criteria you used to support your decision.

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