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.
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Machery, E. Why I stopped worrying about the definition of life... and why you should as well. Synthese 185, 145–164 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-011-9880-1
- Synthetic biology
- Molecular biology
- Evolutionary biology