Foundations of Science

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 323–325

Definitions of Life are not Only Unnecessary, but they can do Harm to Understanding


DOI: 10.1007/s10699-010-9208-5

Cite this article as:
Hengeveld, R. Found Sci (2011) 16: 323. doi:10.1007/s10699-010-9208-5


In my response to the paper by Jagers op Akkerhuis, I object against giving definitions of life, since they bias anything that follows. As we don’t know how life originated, authors characterise life using criteria derived from present-day properties, thus emphasising widely different ones, which gives bias to their further analysis. This makes their results dependent on their initial suppositions, which introduces circularity in their reasoning.


Definitions of life Methodological difficulties 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ecological ScienceVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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