We take the position that petrified wood counts as a non-living thing.
But others might disagree.
Confused? Let us explain.
Is Petrified Wood Living or Non-Living? (EXPLAINED)
What makes something living vs nonliving?
This part of this article might be the most important.
How you define “living vs non-living” guides the outcome and our opinion.
People differ on what counts as living and what counts as non-living.
Laypersons might assume that anything dead cannot be counted as “living.”
After all, it is no longer alive.
This makes sense.
However, scientifically, the definition of “living vs non-living” is different.
Living includes anything that eats, grows, moves, reproduces, and/or has senses.
Examples of living things include plants, bacteria, animals, humans, fungi and insects.
Obviously something living doesn’t have to do all of these things to be considered living.
Non-living is are the things that don’t eat, grow, move, reproduce, or have senses.
Examples of non-living things include sun, wind, clouds, moon, stars, water, lightning, fire, and rocks.
Finally, something that previously did the things living things did/do (eat, grow, move, reproduce, has senses), count as living things even though they are no longer alive.
(Dead things that previously lived still count as “living” in the living vs non-living debate).
A shirt might not seem like it could be considered “living.”
But a 100% cotton shirt is made up of plant material that is no longer living, but once lived.
Technically, that shirt is made up of a living thing (scientifically) though no one would want to go as far as calling the shirt a living thing.
Where Is Petrified Wood?
Petrified wood is no longer wood.
Let’s talk about how it is made.
Petrified wood starts as wood (like a tree, branch, etc).
That wood gets covered somehow (by water, ash, bog, earth) sufficiently that oxygen is deprived from it.
The lack of oxygen prevents the organisms which break down the organic materials for decomposition from doing their job.
However, over thousands (millions) of years, small amounts of decomposition occurs.
Different materials in the wood decompose quicker than others.
The ones that decompose first over time break down, and the space left behind by the cells is actually filled by mineral deposits, carried in by groundwater flowing around and through the material.
Since the structure of the wood doesn’t break down as quickly as the interior cells, the minerals actually form up within the structure of the tree.
Eventually, all of the cells which had lived previously decompose and are replaced by minerals.
Petrified wood is now made up entirely of minerals.
This is why petrified wood is so heavy.
This is why petrified wood doesn’t burn.
What’s The Argument About Petrified Wood?
We take the position that petrified wood is non-living.
However, given the definition of a living thing (anything that eats, grows, reproduces, etc) even after its death counts as a living thing.
Petrified wood did begin as something alive, growing, producing energy, absorbing water, moving, and reproducing.
A dead tree, even though it no longer grows, reproduces, or moves, still counts as a living thing.
Bone, by itself, cast far away from its body, dead and gone, still counts as a living material.
By this argument, you’d think that petrified wood should count as a living thing.
The reason we disagree with this analysis is that petrified wood changes.
Every single organic cell that once lived in the material is replaced with something that does not live.
Minerals do not move, eat, or reproduce.
Rocks do not move, eat, or reproduce.
By the time something can be considered “petrified wood,” all of its parts and components have been replaced with minerals.
All that remains is the shape of the tree, branch, or stump.
Since there is nothing left of the wood except for the shape (and the fact that petrified wood is scientifically considered a mineral), petrified wood should not be considered a living thing.
Could Petrified Wood Be Considered Living?
Sure, but again, this depends on what your definition of living vs non-living.
If living means everything that eats, grows, or reproduces regardless of its current form (dead, alive, in pieces), then someone could strongarm petrified wood into that definition.
But we think that goes too far, and looks well beyond what petrified wood really is.
It’s a rock.
In the shape of a tree.
It probably shouldn’t even have the term “wood” in its name.
This is why we disagree.
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