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Definition of life wars: Darwin’s house divided?

In “Defining life foolishly” (Pleiotropy , 7/13/2012), evolutionary biologist Bjørn Østman comments, riffing off a recent talk by “no arsenic” Rosie Redfield, on conventional definitions of life according to which “living things would be those which evolve by natural selection.” He proposes a thought experiment. Noting that languages are not alive but do evolve in various ways, he asks,

Suppose we go to another planet and find one being there, looking exactly like a human being. Everything we can measure about this being confirms that it is just as much alive as you and me. It eats, moves, heals, replenishes, communicates, feels, defecates. Learning more about this being, though, we find that it has no ancestors, and that it does not age. It does not reproduce, and it is the only such being on the planet. Thus, there is no lineage of descent and no population that can evolve. So this being is then not alive? Of course it is. This definition does not work.

But Darwinism need not work. It need only ban competition and suppress competitors.

Note: He asks, Is R2D2 (if an actual, not fictional) figure alive? How would we know? Thoughts?

See also: Can we find “life” on other planets if we refuse to specify what it is?

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

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2 Responses to Definition of life wars: Darwin’s house divided?

  1. The late Lynn Margulis said that clear and overwhelming empircal evidence shows that all organisms have consiousness and intelligence.

    It is true that Dr Margulis didnt always play with a full deck. She claimed 9-11 was a conspircay. And she said “The idea that only people are conscious makes me laugh.” Did she think that some people deny that doggies and kitties are conscious?

    Nevertheless, what se said was true, obviously true. Indeed tautolgical. Consiousness and intellegigence are what defines a living organism, rather than the other way around.

    Remarkably, consiousness and intellegigence are the attributes of a “soul” Thus we have the definition of a living organism…….”An entity with a soul”

  2. That we disagree on how to define life does in no way imply that we disagree about evolution, mind you. Biologists do of course disagree about some details of evolution, but not that it occurs.

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