Originally posted by Palynka
An article about it:
It's interesting how something which seems so easy to grasp intuitively is actually very hard to pin down. Is life much less different from non-life than our intuition tells us?
-this answer to your question may seem like a non-answer but it simply depends entirely on exactly what you personally mean by the word “life”.
…It's interesting how something which seems so easy to grasp intuitively is actually very hard to pin down.…
What “life” and “non-life” is in reality is entirely dependent on how you would personally make the distinction -in other words, it is purely subjective.
This link just argues over the definition of “life” but fails to mention the fact there is no “correct” definition because what we mean by the word “life” (or, indeed, any other word) is, ultimately, purely up to us.
The best we can hope to achieve is to create a definition of “life” that conveniently expresses approximately what most of us vaguely mean by the word but preferably with a definition that is as simple as possible.
The link gives a number of possible definition of life including this one:
…This definition says that life is "a self-sustaining system capable of Darwinian evolution."
But Clark says most life forms technically are not self-sustaining. Animals feed on plants or other animals, plants need microorganisms at their roots to take up nutrients,
But why not just define “life” as anything which has either undergone Darwinian evolution or at least has the potential
for Darwinian evolution (regardless of whether or not it is “self-sustaining&rdquo
-I think that would be a much more “convenient” definition.
The link goes on to say:
…Clark says that Darwinian evolution is another problematic criteria. How could you tell if something has undergone Darwinian evolution? The time scales involved are enormous - scientists would need a complete understanding of an organism's fossil history before being able to declare that the object is, indeed, alive. .…
-but this is irrelevant to the definition
of life because this is just the practical problem of how do we find out if something it truly “alive” as opposed to what we mean
by the word “alive”.
Personally I would define life as simply:
“life is anything which has either undergone Darwinian evolution in the past or has the potential for Darwinian evolution in the future (if it was placed in the right environment) or both of these things”
This definition overcomes the problem of the issue of those life forms that are incapable of reproduction (such as sterile bees etc) and thus are incapable of Darwinian evolution in the future. This is because those life forms that are incapable of reproduction must have still come from life that WAS capable of reproduction and those life forms would have still come from life that had undergone Darwinian evolution in the past and thus, according to my definition of “life” above, would still be defined as “life”.
Don’t get me wrong -I don’t believe this is a “correct” definition for “life” because I know there is no such thing as a “correct” definition of a word! -I just personally prefer this definition over the alternatives.
-does anyone feel the same? -I mean, does anyone else prefer my definition of life over all others?