Human pheromones and the definition of life

Planet of the Apes: Curiosity about the definition of life

August 13, 2012 By Faye Flam


After a triumphant landing, the Curiosity rover is ready to search Mars for signs of past life or suitability for life. Several readers have raised concerns that NASA scientists might fail to recognize life if it isn’t based on carbon or is otherwise radically different from our kind of life.

My comments:

1. I’m not sure how to define life, or if definitions of biological constructs are important to understanding the basic principles of biology or levels of biological organization. I find it mildly annoying, however, when articles like this include speculation on how other life forms might have evolved on other planets. Realistically, life on this planet involves human cells with the following characteristics: 3,000,000,000 base pairs of DNA; 3 metres of DNA; 20,000-25,000 genes; 10,000-20,000 protein species; 4,000,000 ribosomes; 60,000,000 tRNA molecules; 300,000 mRNA molecules; 10,000,000,000 protein molecules; 1,000 miRNA species.


Also, there are 50,000,000,000,000 cells in the body and 80,000,000,000 neurons in the brain Given the odds against non carbon-based life on other planets, perhaps some of us need definitions to tell us what life is. Others will look at what’s known about our adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction and perhaps laugh a little at the speculations of theorists who are not likely to have the last laugh.


2. Re: “Making up arbitrary definitions (like life/non-life) doesn’t help us in finding interesting stuff at all.” The ability of life to recognize self / non-self differences is what’s interesting. How does a virus recognize a potential host cell that does not recognize the virus. How does one cell of the organism called brewer’s yeast recognize the ‘sexual orientation’ of another cell it can mate with? The level of recognition we attribute to other sensory input, is olfactory/pheromonal in every other species on this planet. That suggests we should be sniffing around on other planets rather than looking to ‘see’ if there are other carbon based life forms — or any other life forms that recognize self / non-self differences as is required for nutrient acquisition and reproduction.


3. Re: Cynicism. I don’t want to be cynical about anything, I want to be accurate. The processes are not random, and cannot accurately be attributed to random mutations. In all species from microbes to man the chemical senses are responsible for self / non-self recognition, which is a requirement for nutrient acquisition; the metabolism of nutrients to pheromones; and the pheromonal control of reproduction. Some of us have known that for more than 15 years. “Parenthetically it is interesting to note even the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has a gene-based equivalent of sexual orientation (i.e., a-factor and alpha-factor physiologies). These differences arise from different epigenetic modifications of an otherwise identical MAT locus.” — From fertilization to adult sexual behavior. Diamond M, Binstock T, Kohl JV. Horm Behav. 1996 Dec;30(4):333-53.


About James V. Kohl 1308 Articles
James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones. Recently, Kohl integrated scientific evidence that pinpoints the evolved neurophysiological mechanism that links olfactory/pheromonal input to genes in hormone-secreting cells of tissue in a specific area of the brain that is primarily involved in the sensory integration of olfactory and visual input, and in the development of human sexual preferences. His award-winning 2007 article/book chapter on multisensory integration: The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences followed an award winning 2001 publication: Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, which was coauthored by disinguished researchers from Vienna. Rarely do researchers win awards in multiple disciplines, but Kohl’s 2001 award was for neuroscience, and his 2007 “Reiss Theory” award was for social science. Kohl has worked as a medical laboratory scientist since 1974, and he has devoted more than twenty-five years to researching the relationship between the sense of smell and the development of human sexual preferences. Unlike many researchers who work with non-human subjects, medical laboratory scientists use the latest technology from many scientific disciplines to perform a variety of specialized diagnostic medical testing on people. James V. Kohl is certified with: * American Society for Clinical Pathology * American Medical Technologists James V. Kohl is a member of: * Society for Neuroscience * Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology * Association for Chemoreception Sciences * Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality * International Society for Human Ethology * American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science * Mensa, the international high IQ society