Definition of Life

birney at molbiol.ox.ac.uk birney at molbiol.ox.ac.uk
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
argument...ie 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
say...you reproduce hence you are alive. Eat that Descartes.

ewan

birney at molbiol.ox.ac.uk


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



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