Latest issue of Synthese: Should scientists even try to define life?
|February 5, 2012||Posted by News under Biology, Intelligent Design, News|
Synthese 185: “Philosophical problems about life” looks interesting …
Here, for example, is “Why I stopped worrying about the definition of life… and why you should as well” by Edouard Machery:
In several disciplines within science—evolutionary biology, molecular biology, astrobiology, synthetic biology, artificial life—and outside science—primarily ethics—efforts to define life have recently multiplied. However, no consensus has emerged. In this article, I argue that this is no accident. I propose a dilemma showing that the project of defining life is either impossible or pointless. The notion of life at stake in this project is either the folk concept of life or a scientific concept. In the former case, empirical evidence shows that life cannot be defined. In the latter case, I argue that, although defining life may be possible, it is pointless. I conclude that scientists, philosophers, and ethicists should discard the project of defining life.
Warning: Clinical cases of the “What is life?” virus – heaven forbid you should catch it – spend the rest of their days swinging gently in hammocks, and progress to wondering, why, why, why, without adding any terms to the question. Recently, cold shower therapy has been demonstrated to help borderline cases.