Are Vampires Dead?

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ouisa
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Post by ouisa »

Alcyone wrote: Oh, shut up.
kind of hard to make me when you can't even leave the house. Oh it's good to be 30! Pass the rum.....
Alcyone wrote: Reproduction: making copies of individuals via the mechanism of genetic transfer: sections of DNA molecules that contain instructions for organization & metabolism
Can the bite process as Meyer proposes it be considered DNA transfer? In other vampire mythologies a person is turned by consuming the blood of their sire....blood = DNA (in a way) Can venom be considered DNA transfer?

As for evolution and adaption i think the Cullens have this one down in that they have found an acceptable alternative food source in animals instead of humans and are beating their bloodlust. No wonder Aro is quaking in his expensive italian boots. Change is frightening.

And speaking of bloodlust, when studying biology/life I've always read "react to stimuli" as a reaction to pain. This can be manifest in Stephenie's eloquent descriptions of the physical torture of bloodlust her vampires feel. See PC #12
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Post by Always_Hope »

While I appreciate the living checklist I see it as more objective than that, why can't the definition of life be as individual as the life itself? To me, I see the definition of living as being less about the state your body and more about what you are doing with yourself.

Sticking purely to the idea of vampires --
In my opinion, the vampires are generally viewed as dead because they aren't <i>living</i>. Not because they don't have to breathe or because they don't age but because they aren't really accomplishing anything, they aren't doing anything with their existence. Due to the limits of their sparkling bodies, or their never changing looks they can't really do much more than repeat basically the same actions. Carlisle can never make (or at least be credited with) an amazing discovery in medicine because the Cullens can't have that much attention on them. Edward can't become a famous pianist and play in a concert hall for thousands. Instead they are stuck in this endless repletion of high school and small town heroics. It is this that makes them dead to me. They have this endless existence but what are they doing with it? What are they leaving behind to better the world? It is just like how we would tell any other human that they aren't 'really living' if they don't actually go out and <i>do</i> anything. Bella wasn't living during her months of despair when Edward left, she was simply <i>there</i>.

<b>Bella gave life to the vampires.</b> She gave them purpose, she is the catalyst that infuses life into them. Just like others might argue that we only see the vampires as alive because Bella sees them that way, I would argue that we only see them as alive because Bella is there at all. And even once she is changed I still think that the life in them will continue on. Because with Bella, life with never, ever be normal or boring. They will never be able to go back to their complacent life again because as Edward put it " ". The Cullens are now, to me at least, as alive as any other human who is actually trying.

The vampires (Volturi, Victoria, ect') I see as less alive. Especially the nomads. I mean, at least the Volturi have found a purpose in enforcing the secrecy of the vampire world. But all of them still seem to be looking forward to their next meal as the next great event in their life. I know they have other concerns (Aro seems especially interested in Bella after her change) but it isn't something they are <i>doing</i>.

Biologically speaking I have to say that I agree with whoever first brought up the idea that we can't base their life on a human comparison because they are a different species now. We define our species by our DNA, it is what we say differentiates us from the monkeys and yet the vampires don't even <i>have</I> DNA, just venom. (Or so I seem to remember). So just because they have a different nutrition source and don't have a beating heart we can't completely write them off as dead.


I hate to make this a ridiculously long post but I really want to comment on all this'.

<b>December wrote:</b>
Ok. I really want to press all of you a little bit here. What about ghosts, angels, demons, spirits, shades, zombies, etc.? They all think and move and don't die a natural death (though they also CAN be destroyed).... Are these things alive also? Or is there some point in thinking that ghosts are dead? If so, what makes the Cullens different? To return to Bella's choice again, imagine for a moment that Edward were a ghost rather than a vampire. If Bella were to die -- in the ordinary way -- to be with him, knowing that she would still exist as a ghost, would we feel that she was still going to be alive? That this wasn't dying? I agree that becoming a vampire seems different, but why?
In keeping with my earlier theory on life -- Zombies, ghosts, spirits and the like just can't really do anything. Zombies are such a slave to their hunger that they are literally practically brainless themselves. What can they do? Ghosts and spirits can't really interact with us (I'm going with the idea of non-copreal ghosts here) and like <b>mandustries</b> pointed out they are generally thought to be here because they have unfinished business and they are devoted to that business.

Angels and demons'now that's a hard one. If we look at them as actually being able to influence human action than I could possibly see them as alive. They are living by affecting our course of action, by serving their own interests and agendas through us. But I tend to see them as non-interactive, as in not actually having contact with the humans world. Think more Dante's Inferno type, a separate hell where demons may exist but that doesn't have any true connection with humans. And can we really pass a living/dead judgment on something that truly has no place in our world?

So -- if Bella were to die to be with a ghost Edward, would I still feel like she was going to be alive? I honestly don't know -- I think I would have to see how a ghost Edward behaved, the kind of change that human Bella had on him. But I don't think she would possibly have the same chance at life as a ghost than she would have as a vampire. It wouldn't be a true death, but I can't imagine that it would ever be a full life either.
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Post by sarahlynn »

Their bodies are dead. Their souls are still trapped inside their bodies. I think thats generally what becoming a vampire is about. The venom stops their heart, which stops everything along with it, but somehow their souls are still living inside their bodies.
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Post by Alcyone »

mandustries wrote:3. Check, if we consider blood to be a material from the environment. (See 2.)
Homeostasis does not involve utilizing materials from the environment (although it is necessary in many cases). Homeostasis is the process by which the body maintains a specific internal environment necessary for life. For example, right now, the temperature outside is 88 F. My body's temperature is 98.3 F (as told by my thermometer). A bit high (I'm on immunotherapy so I'm getting injected with what I'm allergic to. Body temperature will raise a few degrees), but it's a separate temperature from the outside and one necessary to prolong my life. Were my body temperature to plunge under the 90 F mark, something is wrong. So the body has regulatory mechanisms for temperature (and heart rate and respiration and transpiration and urination and...)

Do vampires have such things?
mandustries wrote:6. Half-check. Edward evolves through his love for Bella, but doesn't really change in the sense that he doesn't age.
Evolution is not measured in a single individual or even a single family. Evolution is the change in an entire population due to individual mutations that make the species better adapted to the environment and are then propagated through reproduction to future generations.

Take humans. The first human to stand on two legs, Homo Erectus, did so because the foramen magnum--the point where the spine joins the head--was higher. This meant, they could stretch out their spine more and hold their head high. Imagine that a small percentage of the population had this higher foramen magnum. Because they can hold up their head for a longer time, they can observe things farther away, among them food and enemies. This is incredibly advantageous to them. As such, they are far more successful in reproducing than those with a lower foramen magnum, so their genes become more highly propagated. Eventually, the population shows a high foramen magnum. Then, and only then, is it called evolution.

There is no evolution in individuals, or a single family, not in the true definition of the word.

ouisa wrote:As for evolution and adaption i think the Cullens have this one down in that they have found an acceptable alternative food source in animals instead of humans and are beating their bloodlust. No wonder Aro is quaking in his expensive italian boots. Change is frightening.
Humans can opt for a completely vegetarian diet and pass that on to their children. Are they evolving? Not really. A bodybuilder can have children who also grow up to be bodybuilders. Are they evolving? No. There is no gene being passed on labeled "vegetarian" or "bodybuilder". Those are acquired traits and acquired traits are not passed on because they are not genetic in nature. You learn them later, but they are not congenital. Feeding on animals is an acquired trait in vampires and so not an example of evolution.

mandustries wrote:5. Boo, no check. No little vampire babies running about. But, perhaps we can look at this in the sense that vampires reproduce through changing others into vampires? The newly changed are considered "newborn," after all ... Half-check?
ouisa wrote: the bite process as Meyer proposes it be considered DNA transfer? In other vampire mythologies a person is turned by consuming the blood of their sire....blood = DNA (in a way) Can venom be considered DNA transfer?
Is that really reproduction though? Let's say I have pneumonia and proceed to cough (accidentally, I assure you) all over ouisa. Ouisa may also develop pneumonia. We're both in the same boat, with the same symptoms, same problems. Does that mean I reproduced? (I bet ouisa right now is screaming "Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, ew ,ew! HELL NO!")

To take a fictional example, in the movie, I Am Legend, due to a virus, a portion of the human population is mutated by the symptoms. Hotter core temperatures, sensitivity to UV light, greater speed and strength. They haven't evolved, though. And, if they procreate, their children might have the disease as well, but it's not because of the parent's DNA that they're also abnormal. They're just sick. It's a separate entity that causes their symptoms.

The venom could be just like these pathogens. They cause certain mutations/differences/whatever you want to call them and can be propagated from person to person, but it does not mean the person is reproducing. The venom, just like deadly pathogens, can kill the host while it incubates (the three-day turning), but, if the host survives and adapts, it becomes a carrier. The pathogen doesn't kill him/her, but it can still be propagated to another. No actual reproduction from part of whoever has it.
Always_Hope wrote:While I appreciate the living checklist I see it as more objective than that, why can't the definition of life be as individual as the life itself? To me, I see the definition of living as being less about the state your body and more about what you are doing with yourself.

Sticking purely to the idea of vampires --
In my opinion, the vampires are generally viewed as dead because they aren't <i>living</i>. Not because they don't have to breathe or because they don't age but because they aren't really accomplishing anything, they aren't doing anything with their existence. Due to the limits of their sparkling bodies, or their never changing looks they can't really do much more than repeat basically the same actions. [...] It is this that makes them dead to me. They have this endless existence but what are they doing with it? What are they leaving behind to better the world? It is just like how we would tell any other human that they aren't 'really living' if they don't actually go out and <i>do</i> anything.
My dog looks forward eagerly to his next meal, mainly the slice of cheese I give him as a treat. That's his highlight in life. Does that mean he's dead? Plants don't exactly do much of anything either. Are they dead? Viruses* are only considered living when they're inside a host reproducing. That's their genetic purpose. Are they dead?



Slightly related, slightly off-topic, can a spiritual/mental/whatever life be carried out without a corporeal life? The soul is non-living. If it doesn't die, how can it possibly live? It's neither, a different state entirely, as one state is necessary to give birth to the other. To die, one has to live and, to live, one has to die. The body, though, can die so it can also live. Is the body living?

In the novel The Black Cloud, we have a cloud from outer space that can communicate. However, from the objective determine-if-body-is-alive viewpoint, it's not considered living. It talks to you (and not through use of AI). But it's not alive. It failed on one of the points, that of homeostasis. Poor baby.


*Viruses are made of awesome. They're considered non-living when outside a host and living when inside a host. The reason? They only present the characteristics of life when happily parasitizing some cell. I adore them.
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mandustries
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Post by mandustries »

Alcyone, you're awesome. And your post is extremely clarifying. Forgive my rash checklist ... I was at once trying to continue the debate, be funny and type a post in the five minutes before I left work. I also have very little recollection from my high school freshman biology class, as it was quite a few years ago.
Alcyone wrote:Homeostasis does not involve utilizing materials from the environment (although it is necessary in many cases). Homeostasis is the process by which the body maintains a specific internal environment necessary for life. For example, right now, the temperature outside is 88 F. My body's temperature is 98.3 F (as told by my thermometer). A bit high (I'm on immunotherapy so I'm getting injected with what I'm allergic to. Body temperature will raise a few degrees), but it's a separate temperature from the outside and one necessary to prolong my life. Were my body temperature to plunge under the 90 F mark, something is wrong. So the body has regulatory mechanisms for temperature (and heart rate and respiration and transpiration and urination and...)

Do vampires have such things?
Bella is constantly commenting on how Edward is cold. Like freezing cold. While humans are a toasty 98 degrees inside (on average), comparatively vampires are cold---and werewolves are hot. Neither have the same internal systems that they had when they were human. (Goodness, does this mean we have to start determining if werewolves are really alive too?) Yet they're still exisiting, so something inside them is keeping them running.

Coming from a background of reading and watching a whole lot of science fiction, I'm sticking to an earlier point I made that vampires are a different species. I don't think we can hold them to the same characteristics we hold humans, just like we couldn't hold a silicon-based lifeform (humans are made of carbon atoms) or The Black Cloud.

Think SM will write us up a vampire biology primer? That would make this all so much easier.
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ouisa
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Post by ouisa »

Always_Hope wrote: The vampires (Volturi, Victoria, ect') I see as less alive. Especially the nomads. I mean, at least the Volturi have found a purpose in enforcing the secrecy of the vampire world. But all of them still seem to be looking forward to their next meal as the next great event in their life. I know they have other concerns (Aro seems especially interested in Bella after her change) but it isn't something they are <i>doing</i>.
Hmm...So to be "alive" by your definition one must be passionately pursuing something? (medical advances or piano playing?) Well then I would have to submit that Victoria is the most alive of all the vampires. Victoria takes passion, hatred and revenge to extreme levels risking the wrath of the Volturi and her own death to relentlessly peruse her vendetta against a simple human girl who did nothing to her but be loved by a vampire. Yep, Victoria and all her firey hatred might make her the more alive than even me.


mandindustries wrote: Bella is constantly commenting on how Edward is cold. Like freezing cold. While humans are a toasty 98 degrees inside (on average), comparatively vampires are cold---and werewolves are hot. Neither have the same internal systems that they had when they were human. (Goodness, does this mean we have to start determining if werewolves are really alive too?) Yet they're still exisiting, so something inside them is keeping them running.
Homeostasis is the process of maintaining the body's status quo, what ever that might be. Alcyone's temperature example was illustrating the the body strives for a "normal" temperature by inducing sweating, thirst, shivering etc to reduce it's abnormal high temperature and maintain homeostasis. If the norm in the case of dear Edward or the wolves is higher or lower than ours it does not indicate an absence of homeostasis, just a different baseline definition of "normal."
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Post by Alcyone »

Regarding homeostasis, thank you ouisa! In fact, the vampires cold temperature raises a different question. Something that does not produce heat, say a table, can still feel warm as they will take on the temperature of their surroundings. Stick the same table in a freezer, take it out and it will be freezing. Leave it out in the sun (particularly the sun felt near and at the equator) and the table will be hot. Vampires, though, appear to be constantly cold, odd considering how all objects--living and nonliving--fluctuate between warm and cold depending on what they're being exposed to. How much of that cold comes from the fact that they appear to produce no heat and how much could be of their own production? If they require cold and maintain the temperature, then that's an argument pro-life for them.
mandustries wrote:Coming from a background of reading and watching a whole lot of science fiction, I'm sticking to an earlier point I made that vampires are a different species. I don't think we can hold them to the same characteristics we hold humans, just like we couldn't hold a silicon-based lifeform (humans are made of carbon atoms) or The Black Cloud.
Actually, all life on Earth is based on carbon molecules. Silicon-based organisms are a hypothesis due to silicon's ability to form multiple bonds but it still doesn't match carbon's affinity. Carbon's pimping.

It's that large variety of organisms that allow the characteristics of life by which scientists base themselves on to be so objective. They're constantly tested and re-tested and they've managed to pull through every time, so they're bound to be as accurate as possible.

Most of the science-fiction examples come from outer space where, as you mentioned, life could even be based on a different molecule. However, even if vampires constitute a different species, they still stem from humans so their human nature must still exist in some form. And, as such, some human limitations must still exist by which we can judge them. But, while I have used some human examples, I haven't been judging them by human standards at all. Else, I'd be arguing the point that they can communicate and can think. Both points are practically obsolete seeing as there exist varying degrees of AI, which, while not alive, can be argued to be capable of communication and intelligent thought.


Forget the primer. I want the doctorate-level textbook.
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Post by AnnaxxEdwarsWifey »

Personally, I have always concidered vampires as 'dead'. That's maily because the vampires I am--or was--familiar with were dark, sadistic, and quite literally evil. They we truly demonic and heartless, and thought of humans as stupid mindless children. But even the worst of Meyer's vampires seem like fluffy bunnies to the ones I know. So this leads to my point:

I think weather a vampire is 'dead' or 'alive' depends on the amount of humanity in them. Even the darkest of Meyer's kind have the ability to love, a key human emotion. I think this is what makes her vampires truly alive. In a spiritual and more pure way than blood pumping through veins. It's almost like a mind set.

But that's just my opinion (:
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Post by ouisa »

AnnaxxEdwarsWifey wrote: I think weather a vampire is 'dead' or 'alive' depends on the amount of humanity in them. Even the darkest of Meyer's kind have the ability to love, a key human emotion. I think this is what makes her vampires truly alive. In a spiritual and more pure way than blood pumping through veins. It's almost like a mind set.

But that's just my opinion (:
That is an interesting opinion Anna. Of course then it begs the question given your stated reasons, are human serial killers alive?
Alcyone wrote: Evolution is not measured in a single individual or even a single family. Evolution is the change in an entire population due to individual mutations that make the species better adapted to the environment and are then propagated through reproduction to future generations.
Ah yes my very intellectual friend, but as you so brilliantly point out evolution is a slow process that STARTS with individuals and single families. It is an adaptations that insures survival. Could not the Cullen's unique ability to resist bloodlust and adapting to a new food source be the start of an evolutionary trait. The Volturi resist the human populations finding out about the vampires because (as you hypothesize in AB Type) it leads to potential deaths in the vampires. (such as the danger from the Quilutes) The Veggie Vamps and their ability allows them to coexist better with humans and wolves and increases their survivability. I submit my first idea about evolution and vegetarianism still could fall under adaptation if not yet full on evolution.
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Post by December »

Well I swore I wasn't going to get dragged into this biological discussion, since my interest is more in what it does (or doesn't do) for the story to think of vampires as dead, than whether or not they count as technically alive. But I do just have to briefly mention something that I happened to hear tonight: apparently TREES are now thought to have a homeostatic mechanism which keeps their internal temperature constant. Who knew?...

About vampires....I'm not sure that Stephenie is altogether consistent about the regulation of their body temperature. That is: it certainly seems as though something is keeping them cool whatever the ambient temperature. Yes, stone is famously surprisingly cold to the touch even in hot weather (one reason you get tile and stone floors in hot climates), but it does heat up a bit -- especially if left in the sun. Which suggests that if Edward doesn't feel like a sun-baked rock even after several hours lying in the meadow, there must be some internal mechanism which is keeping his marble skin at cellar temperature.

On the other hand, when Edward sits for ages with his head pressed against Bella's heart, she is startled afterwards by how warm his cheek has become from contact with her own warm body. As though it were only the absence of natural warmth which made his body so cold to the touch ordinarily, rather than that chill being something endogenous.

So maybe there isn't a consistent answer to this one.

It's too late at night here for more complicated thoughts now, but tomorrow, Ouisa, I really do want to respond to your reply to my earlier post...
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