In the year 2000, an international conference considered the question “What is life?” Every participant was asked to draft a definition, and every speaker was required to address the central question. According to David Abel, who was one of the speakers, no two definitions of life were the same. This finding replicated that obtained by Rizotti who, in 1996, published a book with the title Defining Life. Abel considers that definitions can be grouped into two subsets: one of which perceives life as an essentially physicochemical phenomenon, and the other has an emphasis on coded information superimposed on material systems (developing Hubert Yockey’s seminal ideas).
“Yockey was among the first to realize the linear digital nature of genetic control. Many others have appreciated that life was somehow different, but could not put their finger on exactly what this difference is. Ernst Mayr argued that physics and chemistry do not explain life. Monod and Bohr argued the same. Bohr pointed out, “Life is consistent with, but undecidable from physics and chemistry.” Kuppers agreed.” (p.107)
David Abel’s paper has been the subject of several blogs on UD, but the discussion of this important paper has been very limited. I have attempted to capture some of the key arguments – which I hope will be useful. The paper contains much more than the issues highlighted in my blog, so the open access paper is well worth reading. For more, go here.