Living atom

Hydrogen (alive)
A general depiction of the "living atom" model, which is the belief that the hydrogen atom is alive, in some sense.
In hmolscience, living atom refers to a resonating question that arises in philosophies surrounding the chain of being, principle of continuity, evolution, hydrogen to human, molecule-to-man, mineral to man, etc., as conceptualized on timelines, such as the molecular evolution table or evolution timeline, according to which one, ingrained with the indoctrinated belief (see: unlearn) that (a) one is alive, and that (b) that one has evolved over time from earlier forms, which trace back to the chemical / molecular level, going back to the formation of atoms, e.g. the hydrogen atom, in the universe, that, accordingly, the thing we call "life" either had to have "emerged" at a certain definite point, or, conversely, the hydrogen atom has to be alive, in some sense, or way.

In 1714, Gottfried Leibniz, in his Monadology, argued for the existence of “monads”, conceptualized as the “basic substances that make up the universe but lack spatial extension and hence are immaterial” (Ѻ), though by him to be “a superior alternative to the theory of atoms that was becoming popular in natural philosophy at the time”. (Ѻ) This was an early proto-form of a living atom theory.

In 1768, Jean Robinet, in his Of the Nature, supposedly promulgated a living atom theory of sorts; the following is one take on this:

Robinet, a French naturalist, combined a traditional belief in the perfect hierarchy of species with the notion of continual progress. In five volumes, issued between 1761 and 1768, he argued that all matter contained both life and soul, and that organisms were simply combinations of these living atoms.”
— Stuart Curran (2012), “Contexts (Ѻ) to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus (Ѻ) | Science: Biology: Evolution (Ѻ)”, University of Pennsylvania [1]

Living atom (fence sitter)
A 1910 depiction of Henry Bray indecisive on the question as to whether or not atoms are "living substances".

In 1910, Henry Bray, in his The Living Universe, outlined what might be called the last of the great attempts at so-called "living atom theory", in the face of the march and progress of science. In the following, Bray is tentatively teetering on the panbioism fence, i.e. between living atom theory, the view that atoms are alive, and the defunct theory of life, the view that atoms are matter and force:

“On this ground very many atomic phenomena, not otherwise easily explained, are capable of ready solution. And while we may not have conclusive scientific reason for regarding atoms as living substances, it is more certain still that we are unable to say where life begins in the forces of nature.”
— Henry Bray (1910), The Living Universe (§8: Atomic and Molecular Worlds III, pg. 182)

Earlier, go note, Bray gave the following view:

“It is said the pure in heart see god. This saying is doubtless true. But he who has not eyes to see this god in the rippling brook, the sprouting seed, the budding tree, the suns that roll, or the hydrogen atoms, will look long ere he sees him elsewhere. I cannot doubt that one of the surest stepping-stones to a higher life, is the learning to love the beauties of nature as she displays them in her infinite variety of ever changing forms. The true student of nature sees in her not the dead thing which the unthoughtful imagine. Indeed, he is conscious that almost every form of power manifested by the highest human intelligence, is in some degree manifested by the most loathesome animalcule that we destroy without a thought of the wonderful powers shut up in this microscopic organism. As with the organic atom, so with the inorganic, — to the soul schooled to appreciate nature's revelations, nothing seems to be dead, nothing seems to be common.”
— Henry Bray (1910), The Living Universe (§6: Atomic and Molecular Worlds I, pg. 159)

Bray, in other words, jumps into the conclusion that the hydrogen atom is not a "dead thing", but rather has some type of life associated with it; albeit done so tentatively.

“What is life may be subject of dispute; but it is far from true that we are no better able to answer this question to-day than last century. For ourselves we hold that life is immanent in substance; and we think it may be safely stated that modern science does not believe that it needs a truly organized structure for the manifestation of life. It is true we do not recognize conscious stones, nor conscious trees; but this does not prove that life is not universally diffused, and that the whole of nature is not indeed and in truth alive.”
— Henry Bray (1910), The Living Universe (pg. 204)

Later, Bray, in the opening of his §20: “Infinitesimal Architects, Builders, and Guardians” (pg. 266), in cites atom size estimates by: Josef Loschmidt (1865), Marc Gaudin (1866), and William Thomson (1867), he speculates on whether or not he is a fool or mad for positing that atoms are ‘living’, ‘thinking’, ‘conscious’ beings:

“In considering the origin and manifestation of life, it would be foolish to suppose that a being with the very limited powers of man, could possibly discriminate between the manifestation of so-called dead force and so-called living [living force], when having under consideration objects of such infinitely small proportions. Because therefore man cannot see the muscles of an atom contract, or its lips articulating, or watch its organs perform their various functions, there is no reason for affirming that the atom is not a living being. When the thing itself is infinitely beyond the understanding of the greatest mind, it were only madness to suppose that we could know all its attributes and qualities. If I have affirmed, and if I believe that the atom is a thinking conscious being, it is not because I have scientifically demonstrated its intelligence or personality; but because of far higher reasons than those of physical science: I am a thinking conscious being; and whatever is in me, must be in the atom either actually or potentially, it matters not which.”

Re: “therefore man cannot see the muscles of an atom contract”, with the Bohr model (1913), wherein the “muscles of the atom” are explained in terms of photon inputs and outputs paired to electron orbital jumps and descents, respectively, and the Wald model (1958), wherein light induced molecular bending and straightening is explained (Ѻ), according to which the “muscles of molecules” explained mechanistically, we are now able to “see” atomic or molecular contraction, thus we must reevaluate many of Bray’s conjectures in the modern light, one of which is the conclusion that life does not exist, either in the atom or in man.

Abioism | Hydrogen atom is NOT alive
In 2007, Libb Thims, in his Human Chemistry, chapter: “Molecular Evolution”, in the context of the “molecular evolution table” (2005), was undecided on the question as where do situate the life / non-life divide?

In 2009, Thims, in his debates with Georgi Gladyshev, DMR Sekhar, and Ted Erikson, in respect to where life starts in terms of thermodynamics, physics, and chemistry, arrived at the “defunct theory of life” conclusion. In these debates, which lasted for a decade going forward, Thims began to query scientists, involved in this question, as to whether or not they believed that the “hydrogen atom is alive”, as this is a decisive point of one’s belief structure, e.g. emergentist or panbioist; the following is one response:

“There is no essential difference between ‘life’ and ‘non-life.’ The perceived difference is complexity. Old Faithful (Ѻ) has ‘life-like’ movement but is easier to understand than a paramecium (Ѻ). The hydrogen atom is NOT alive.”
Alfred Rogers (2014), curator of, “Email communication to Libb Thims”, Nov 21

In 2015, Thims coined the term “abioism” signifying the belief that life does not exist. The repercussions of this logic, in short, is that if the hydrogen atom is not alive, neither is a human alive. Generally, to note, as this tends to be a "you blew my mind" moment, for some, it takes about a decade to get the ramifications of this logic digested into one's mind.

In 2019, Thims, in his interview with Mirza Beg (see: Beg-Thims interview), curiously found that Beg does not believe in evolution, but does believe that the hydrogen atom is not alive.

See also
● Living earth | Gaia hypothesis
Living fire
Living universe

1. Curran, Stuart. (2012), “Contexts (Ѻ) to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus (Ѻ) | Science: Biology: Evolution (Ѻ)”, University of Pennsylvania.

External links
Is an atom living or non-living? (2015) – Quora.

TDics icon ns

More pages