Defining Life

01colldnaknolll I’m not so sure if this is any improvement on Dawkins’ definition.  Steve Davis in Secular Web Kiosk:

In 1943 the eminent physicist Erwin Schrodinger gave a series of lectures in Dublin that were later published in book form under the title What is Life? Its success was considerable as it kick-started the new field of molecular biology, but Schrodinger deliberately avoided an investigation into a definition of life, believing that the time was not ripe.

In more recent times, Fred Adams, professor of physics at Michigan University, in The Origins of Existence–How Life Emerged in the Universe, wrestled manfully with this question, but he eventually concluded that “Achieving a universal definition of life is unquestionably of fundamental importance, but no such definition has yet been forthcoming.”[1]

There is a noticeable reluctance among scientists to grapple with this question of life. All are happy to speculate about the conditions that need to exist for life to originate, but none seem inclined to actually define life itself. In The Selfish Gene, for example, Richard Dawkins devoted a page or so to explaining the conditions necessary for its origin, then stated that “At some point a particularly remarkable molecule was formed by accident.”[2] He then went on to speculate about the further development of this molecule that he calls a replicator, but failed to explain to his readers what life actually is. A strident critic of Dawkins, Professor Gabriel Dover, in his wonderfully quirky but scientifically illuminating Dear Mr. Darwin, described the conditions necessary for life from a galactic viewpoint, but like Dawkins he omitted a definition.[3] Professor Freeman Dyson, another critic of selfish gene theory, in his excellent Origins of Life, did go so far as to provide the characteristics of life, as did Fred Adams, but these characteristics provide a description, not a definition. These approaches seem to typify the attitude of the scientific community to what appears to be perceived as a difficult subject, but as we press on I hope to show that perception to be misplaced.