In “Defining life foolishly” (Pleiotropy , 7/13/2012), evolutionary biologist Bjørn Østman comments, riffing off a recent talk by “no arsenic” Rosie Redfield, on conventional definitions of life according to which “living things would be those which evolve by natural selection.” He proposes a thought experiment. Noting that languages are not alive but do evolve in various ways, he asks,
Suppose we go to another planet and find one being there, looking exactly like a human being. Everything we can measure about this being confirms that it is just as much alive as you and me. It eats, moves, heals, replenishes, communicates, feels, defecates. Learning more about this being, though, we find that it has no ancestors, and that it does not age. It does not reproduce, and it is the only such being on the planet. Thus, there is no lineage of descent and no population that can evolve. So this being is then not alive? Of course it is. This definition does not work.
But Darwinism need not work. It need only ban competition and suppress competitors.
Note: He asks, Is R2D2 (if an actual, not fictional) figure alive? How would we know? Thoughts?
See also: Can we find “life” on other planets if we refuse to specify what it is?
Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista