The hard problem, that is, of “qualia”: The things we all know about and can discuss, whose limits are generally understood, but no one can define? So “life” is like “liberty” or “justice”?
Last night, I noted that we cannot even define life, but still … many are sure it must be a fully natural event. Why are they sure, under the circumstances?
We are trying to do far too many things at once with these definitions. Life doesn’t have to evolve to be life, for the simple reason that “liveness” is determined on a timescale of seconds to minutes (or possibly hours), whereas evolution is defined on a timescale of millennia to aeons.
I think intuitively we can tell the difference between a live dog and and a dead one pretty easily, or the difference between a live spider and a rubber one. In fact, we need to make this distinction pretty rapidly just to survive and swat mosquitos, for example.
So no, this is difficulty with defining life isn’t really a semantic or comprehension difficulty, its a philosophical difficulty. It gets in the way of promoting Darwinism, OOL, and abortion, for example. And that’s what all the contortions are about–attempts to find definitions that promote all one’s favorite philosphies and detract from one’s enemies. The best definition of all is “Life is what I say it is and not what everyone else falsely claims.”
Now that we’ve settled this definition, can we get on with the question of how OOL occurred and perhaps when?
Well, that is what I propose to do in the current “Science Fictions” series. Establishing that there isn’t a definition of life – as there was, say, for the Higgs boson – is at least some help in evaluating what we are about to see and hear. It may be that, if “life” is a quale (plural is qualia), a technical definition will never exist.
See also: Is there a good reason to believe that life’s origin must be a fully natural event?
The Science Fictions series at your fingertips