Definition of Life

birney at birney at
Tue Feb 8 11:03:55 EST 1994

Douglas Adams wrote:

>I have to give a talk next week, for which it would be useful for me to
>know a couple of things:
>1  What is a good definition of Life? What are the criteria? Complexity?
>Self-organisation? Reproduction? Competitive reproduction/Evolution?

I have to say that I'm not one of the people who go for the textbook Growth, movement, reproduction etc...

I think life is a *consequence* of reproduction: that is that if something
replicates, in what ever manner then you should say that it is alive;
futhermore it will evolve into more efficient reproductive objects.

This encompasses everything that is alive by the text book definition
but doesn't have gaia as alive (which I think is good): however my
definition would certainly include chain letters in the post office (think
of them as paper viruses inhabating the postal service) and 
bionet.general newsthreads....

still, I think it is a good idea to turn the defintion on its head and reproduce hence you are alive. Eat that Descartes.


birney at

BTW I'm interested in what the biggest thing "alive" is...Zoologists, where
are you?   

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