According to dialectical materialism, living systems i.e. biological systems are directly issued from chemical systems, and are still chemical systems. Their movement corresponds to the movement of matter – and so, the question is: why does that kind of movement exist?
As dialectical materialists, the question “why does it exist?” is the same as “How does it exist?”, because following the law of transformation, what exists is a logical conclusion of a process; there is no matter that transforms itself “by chance.”
If life and death of biological elements exist, it is due to the transformation from chemical systems to biological elements itself; a proof for that is that the chemical parts still exist, in transformation. When a biological system dies, the hydrogen-carbon compounds of the body return directly to the global system.
Thus, biological systems are a special form of chemical elements, a special form of matter. The main aspect is matter, not the biological element, because the biological elements are a special form that, logically, exist in a general global system of matter.
Of course, this is not what appear first when we take a direct look to life. Life forms appear as isolated, unique, they seem to be distinct entities, separated from the environment.
Nevertheless, such a vision is not true, as there is always a process of transformation matter-energy; they are no elements that can live separated from the environment.
In fact, even biological systems are a gathering of bacteria, a synthesis of different merging. Not only did the bacteria shaped the world – they combined, took different forms, always more complex.
The first elements of this process were firstly the bacteria that began to use the process of photosynthesis. In this process, an electron in a molecule of chlorophyll get excited by a photon from the sun's light. There is an excess of energy, that goes to a molecule of ATP (Adenosine-5'-triphosphate) that is the first way of transporting energy in the cells.
Life is so made that all living beings are the children of the sun. It is the sun that brings the energy – an energy permitting the matter to get in movement. Life in the biosphere can only exist through an equivalent supply of energy, and it is the solar radiation.
The green colour is so a symbol of life, because it is the basic way to make the conversion of the solar energy. In not understanding this and in taking energy from the Earth itself, humanity modifies the biosphere that brought it to exist.
Lynn Margulis, in “What is life?”, expresses here this conception, explaining what Vernadsky understood:
“Austrian geologist Eduard Suess (1831-1914) had coined the word “biosphere”, but Vernadsky brought it into currency. Just as the sphere of rock is a lithosphere, and that of air an atmosphere, so the sphere where life exists is a “biosphere.”
In his 1926 book, The Biosphere, Vernadsky showed how Erath's surface was an ordered transformation of the energies of the sun.
“The biosphere”, wrote Vernadsky, “is at least as much a creation of the sun as a result of terrestrial processes. Ancient religious intuitions that considered terrestrial creatures, especially man, to be children of the sun were far nearer the truth than is thought by those who see earthly beings simply as ephemeral creations arising from blind and accidental interplay of matter and forces...
Living matter as a whole... is therefore a unique system, which accumulates chemical free energy in the biosphere by the transformation of solar radiation.”
Remarkably, Vernadsky dismantled the rigid boundary between living organisms and a nonliving environement, depicting life globally before a single satellite had returned photographs of Earth from orbit.
Indeed, Vernadsky did for space what Darwin had done for time: as Darwin showed all life descended from a remote ancestor, so Vernadsky showed all life inhabited materially unified place, the biosphere.
Life was a single entity, transforming to earthly matter the cosmic energies of the sun. Vernadsky portrayed life as a global phenomenon in which the sun's energy was transformed.
Emphasizing photosynthetic growth of red and green bacteria, algae and plants, he saw these expressions of living matter as the “green fire” whose expansion, feed by the sun, pressured other beings into becoming more complex and more dispersed.
Vernadsky set forth two laws. Over time, he claimed, more and more chemical elements became involved in the cycles of life.
Second, the rate of migration of atoms in the environment has increased with time. A flock of migrating geese was to Vernadsky a biospheric transport system for nitrogen. Locust swarms, recorded in the Bible, attested to massive changes in the distribution of carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, and other biologically important chemicals two thousand years ago.
As dams, factories, mines, machine construction, utilities, trains, planes, global communications, and entertainment systems have appeared, more chemical elements than ever have become organized into functioning parts of autopoietic systems.
Technology, from a Vernadskian perspective, is very much a part of nature. The former calf muscle severed into brochette cubes and the pine tree trunk into lumber pass through the hands of workers and the chutes of machines to emerge transformed into shish kebab and flooring.
The plastics and metals incorporated in industry belong to an ancient process of life co-opting new materials for a surface geological flow that becomes even more rapid.
And, with the fleeting synthesis in physicists' laboratories of radioactive isotopes, the noosphere begins to direct and organize atoms that have never before existed on Earth.”
Lynn Margulis expresses here a truth, with only a wrong aspect: the workers don't decide yet how what is to be done on Earth, and they don't want necessarily to transform calf into brochette cubes, as the Capital want it, like it want the total shaping of the Earth following the need of capital accumulation.
Undoubtedly, the working class here will remember the words of the materialist Lucretius, in De rerum natura:
« Nor in no other wise could offspring know
Mother, nor mother offspring—which we see
They yet can do, distinguished one from other,
No less than human beings, by clear signs.
Thus oft before fair temples of the gods,
Beside the incense-burning altars slain,
Drops down the yearling calf, from out its breast
Breathing warm streams of blood; the orphaned mother,
Ranging meanwhile green woodland pastures round,
Knows well the footprints, pressed by cloven hoofs,
With eyes regarding every spot about,
For sight somewhere of youngling gone from her;
And, stopping short, filleth the leafy lanes
With her complaints; and oft she seeks again
Within the stall, pierced by her yearning still.
Nor tender willows, nor dew-quickened grass,
Nor the loved streams that glide along low banks,
Can lure her mind and turn the sudden pain;
Nor other shapes of calves that graze thereby
Distract her mind or lighten pain the least—
So keen her search for something known and hers. »