What is Life?

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Lesson Overview

In this Wonders of Nature eLesson, students will discuss the source of life, explore the various qualities of living things, and reflect on their purpose in life in view of our special dignity as human beings created in God’s image and likeness.

Lesson Materials

Activity Instructions

  1. Begin by having your students work in pairs or trios to contemplate the images on Wonders of Nature: What is Life?, using the conversation questions to guide their discussion.
  2. After a few moments, call on groups to share about their discussions. Allow the conversation to go in unexpected places, while directing it towards an appreciation for the mystery of life, and especially the sacredness of human life.
  3. Close by reading aloud Job 12:7鈥10 as prayer followed by a few moments of silent prayer:

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.

Answer Key

  1. The rock is inanimate, the flowers are alive. Purposes should be in line with each thing鈥檚 design. Students may say the purpose of the flower is to produce fruit, to beautify the landscape, nourish insects or animals, and so forth. The purpose of the rock may be to provide resources for industry, to climb, to beautify the landscape, and so forth.
  2. Students may say things like growth, change, movement, transformation, reproduction, ability to respond to the environment, or to heal from injury. Accept other correct answers.
  3. Neither fire, computer algorithms, nor artificial intelligence are alive, while mules (of course) are alive. Direct class discussion towards the difficulty of defining life. For example, most biologists would say that viruses are not alive because they are not made of cells, they do not grow, and they cannot make their own energy. Yet they replicate as well as evolve. Emphasize to the class that whatever it is that animates every living thing, and that causes it to exhibit the qualities of a living thing, no scientist can extract it, observe it, separate from the organism, or define it 鈥 let alone create it.
  4. Accept reasoned answers. If needed, prompt discussion by asking, do most brides want a real flower bouquet at their wedding, or artificial flowers? What鈥檚 the difference between holding a rock, and/or a flower, and/or a kitten?
  5. A new human being cannot be made from dead or inanimate things. Living parents are co-creators with God when a child is conceived in the marital embrace, helping create the physical form of the child. Parents do not create the child鈥檚 soul, however, the spark of life, which is given by God.
  6. From God. Its source is God Himself.
  7. Accept reasoned answers.

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