The Nature of Life

A review of The Nature of Life by Rob Mason

The nature of life: classical and contemporary perspectives from philosophy and science

Mark A Bedau and Carol E Cleland (eds) 

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2010 |440pp ISBN 9780521517751

1. Facts and puzzles about the phenomena of life.

Life is amazing. It is all around us in a diversity of forms, ranging from microscopic bacteria to ancient towering trees, from almost inert lichen to transient insect blooms, from birds flocking in the sky to thriving colonies of tube worms at inky deep-sea vents. The first forms of life on earth spontaneously arose out of a preexisting prebiotic chemical soup. From those simple origins has evolved a diverse hierarchy of forms of life, which includes the most complex objects in the known universe. 

A skeptic might question whether there is any single, all-inclusive account of life. The demise of vitalism taught us that no non-physical substance or force is distinctive of all instances of life.

How bizarre, the idea of life, the sense of being alive, are the most familiar and the most difficult to understand of the concepts we meet - James. Lovelock.