Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Life

  • Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo
  • Alvaro Moreno
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_879-2

Definition

Although it is rather controversial whether the term “life” will ever fit into a definition, it could be conceived as “autonomy in evolution”: a complex network of self-reproducing autonomous agents whose individual (far-from-equilibrium, metabolic) organization is instructed by material records generated through an open-ended, historical process, in which that complex (collective-ecological) network evolves. In a minimal – and more operational – sense, this involves that any living system should be ultimately based on the dynamic intertwinement of a semi-permeable boundary (membrane), an energy transduction apparatus, and, at least, two complementary types of macromolecules: (enzyme-like) catalysts and (gene-like) templates.

Overview

In spite of its multifarious meanings and the intrinsic difficulty it has shown over the years to become a well-defined unanimous generalization, the concept “life” can still be regarded as a proper scientific target, with its own specific...

Keywords

Synthetic Biology Natural Kind Artificial Life Living Form Cooperative Relation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
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References and Further Reading

  1. Benner SA, Ricardo A, Carrigan MA (2004) Is there a common chemical model for life in the universe? Curr Opin Chem Biol 8:672–689CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  3. Dupré J, O’Malley MA (2009) Varieties of living things: life at the intersection of lineage and metabolism. Phil Theor Biol 1(e003):1–25Google Scholar
  4. Gánti T (2003) The principles of life. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gayon J et al (eds) (2010) Special issue on “definining life.” Origins Life Evol Biospheres 40:119–244Google Scholar
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  16. Rizzotti M (ed) (1996) Defining life: the central problem in theoretical biology? Padova University Press, PadovaGoogle Scholar
  17. Ruiz-Mirazo K, Peretó J, Moreno A (2004) A universal definition of life: autonomy and open-ended evolution. Origins Life Evol Biospheres 34:323–346ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schrödinger E (1944) What is life? The physical aspect of the living cell. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Shapiro R, Feinberg G (1990) Possible forms of life in environments very different from the Earth. In: Leslie J (ed) Physical cosmology and philosophy. McMillan, New York, pp 248–255Google Scholar
  20. Varela FJ (1994) On defining life. In: Fleischaker GR, Colonna S, Luisi PL (eds) Self-production of supramolecular structures. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 23–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ward P, Brownlee D (2000) Rare Earth: why complex life is uncommon in the Universe. Copernicus, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science, FICE, UPV-EHUBiophysics Research Unit (CSIC – UPV/EHU)DonostiaSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Lógica y Filosofía de la CienciaUniversidad del País VascoSan SebastiánSpain