One of the reasons I rarely post to this list is that many people here
seem trapped in an eternal series of meaningless essentialistic
debates.  Nothing objective or conclusive ever comes from
essentialistic arguments where people bicker over what some word or
concept "really means".

Science used to suffer from this.  About 120 years ago, biologists
used to argue about the meaning of "life".  Were viruses alive?  Were
sperm alive?  What they could or could not consider "alive" was really
important to the old-school biologists, and there was endless debate
between them.  (People on both sides of the abortion issue still make
these kinds of empty arguments.)

But today, biologists don't care what "life" means.  They accept an
arbitrary definition for "life" because they're scientists, and as
scientists they realize that the definitions we use do not define
reality.  Definitions of words and concepts are merely tools for
describing things to one another in a consistent manner.  Real truth
stems from examining the relationships between observable phenomena,
by using operational definitions rather than essentialistic ones.
Anything less than this is semantics.


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