Towards a Definition of Life: The Impossible Quest?

  • Antonio LazcanoEmail author
Part of the Space Sciences Series of ISSI book series (SSSI, volume 25)


“Life” is an empirical concept whose various definitions and phenomenological characterizations depend on historical frameworks. Although analysis of existing literature suggests that attempts to define life will remain, at best, a work in progress, the history of biology shows that some efforts have been more fruitful than others. There is a major distinction between natural selection—which is clearly a defining trait of biology—and the changes that result from purely physical chemical evolution, which can be observed in nonbiological complex systems. Accordingly, it can be concluded that life cannot be understood without considering the presence of genetic material and Darwinian evolution. This shows the usefulness of the suggestion that life can be considered as a self-sustaining chemical system (i.e., one that turns environmental resources into its own building blocks) that is capable of undergoing natural selection.


Life’s definition Autopoiesis Complexity Natural selection 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, BV 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de CienciasUNAMMexico D.F.Mexico

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