Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 203–213 | Cite as

Defining Life or Bringing Biology to Life

Defining Life


In the present, post-genomic times, systemic or holistic approaches to living phenomena are compulsory to overcome the limits of traditional strategies, such as the methodological reductionism of molecular biology. In this paper, we propose that theoretical and philosophical efforts to define life also contribute to those integrative approaches, providing a global theoretical framework that may help to deal with or interpret the huge amount of data being collected by current high-throughput technologies, in this so-called ‘omics’ revolution. We claim that two fundamental notions can capture the core of the living, (basic) autonomy and open-ended evolution, and that only the complementary combination of these two theoretical constructs offers an adequate solution to the problem of defining the nature of life in specific enough—but also encompassing enough—terms. This tentative solution should also illuminate, in its most elementary version, the leading steps towards living beings on Earth.


Basic autonomy Open-ended evolution Life definition Systems biology Origin of life 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Juli Peretó
    • 3
    • 4
  • Alvaro Moreno
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Lógica y Filosofía de la Ciencia, Universidad del País Vasco (UPV/EHU)San SebastianSpain
  2. 2.Unidad de Biofísica (CSIC—UPV/EHU)BilbaoSpain
  3. 3.Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Institut Cavanilles de Biodiversitat i Biologia Evolutiva, Universitat de ValènciaValenciaSpain
  4. 4.CIBER de Epidemiología y Salud PúblicaBarcelonaSpain

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