From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Biology (Rated B-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon Life is part of the WikiProject Biology, an effort to build a comprehensive and detailed guide to biology on Wikipedia.
Leave messages on the WikiProject talk page.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Tree of Life (Rated B-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Tree of Life, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of taxonomy and the phylogenetic tree of life on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Citizendium Porting (Last updated: Never)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Citizendium Porting, a collaborative effort to improve Wikipedia articles by working in any useful content from their Citizendium counterparts. If you would like to participate, you can visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks.
Note icon
This article is out of date with its Citizendium counterpart and needs to be updated.
Current with its Citizendium counterpart article as of: Never
Wikipedia Version 1.0 Editorial Team / v0.5 / Core
WikiProject icon This article has been reviewed by the Version 1.0 Editorial Team.
Taskforce icon
This article has been selected for Version 0.5 and subsequent release versions of Wikipedia.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the quality scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is one of the core set of articles every encyclopedia should have.
edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for Life:

Here are some tasks awaiting attention:
Priority 1 (top)

Philosofical & religious definitions[edit]

I don't think this article was meant to be purely scientific, although I can't find where the religious and philosophical definitions of life are supposed to go. Should we make a section on that here? Or is there a separate article on the religious and philosophical definitions of life?

In my opinion, philosophy gives us the scientific method of thinking. Is the western science uses another fundamental method? (talk) 01:57, 13 January 2013 (UTC)

Might Try The Following Wikilink => Purpose of Life - Also, If Interested, My UserBox on "The Purpose of All Life" May Be Somewhat Related - My Published Comment in The New York Times May Be of Interest As Well - In Any Case - Enjoy! :) Drbogdan (talk) 02:47, 13 January 2013 (UTC)
User, please see: Meaning of life, Creation myth, Mysticism. Cheers, BatteryIncluded (talk) 23:32, 13 January 2013 (UTC)

I think there should be some reference to philosophical and religious definitions/explanations of life (which is NOT the same as purpose or meaning of life). Otherwise, the article remains exclusively scientific and does not acknowledge that anyone looking up "life" in an encyclopedia may be looking for a philosophical conception. There should be reference to non-scientific explanations of life an its origins, even if just through a link to the Creation myth article (and, perhaps, Philosophy of life). Gabsvillalobos (talk) 03:36, 21 February 2013 (UTC)

I understand your request. However, the issue is not straight forward, as any philosophical definition of life seems to be a personal/individual assessment. Which one would you chose and why? Same for a religious definition; would you pick a specific Judeo-Christian religion? Why the bias? We can't include every single religion's doctrine/definition either. I am not aware of any widely-accepted philosophical definition of life, although they are trying,[1] and I am certain that there is none even within specific sects of the same religion. BatteryIncluded (talk) 17:11, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
I agree with the fact that this is not straight forward (although I doubt any philosopher would agree that philosophical views are individual; there certainly are schools of philosophical thought just as much as there are religious traditions. Moreover, major religious conceptions of life have been prevalent for far longer and shared by more people than any Western, modern scientific theory; so if anything, they are surely not individual). In any case, I am not proposing that every non-scientific conception of life is mentioned, much less that a particular one is chosen over others. I am simply requesting a section in this article, however modest, that explains that appart from the current scientific model for the origin of life that is accepted within Western, modern scientific scholarship, human beings throughout history have elaborated other explanations for the definition and origins of life, which take philosophical and religious approaches and many of which are still held to be valid. A couple of links to the aforementioned articles, and we're done. Gabsvillalobos (talk) 14:39, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
There is already a section titled "Early theories" that includes Materialism, Hylomorphism and Vitalism. But if what you want to include is/are current philosofical definitions, then why don't you create it and paste it in this talk page so we can dscuss it. The same regarding a religious definition, if you think there is in fact a broad religious definition of life. Cheers, BatteryIncluded (talk) 15:18, 22 February 2013 (UTC)

Working towards a definition that shows no circular reasoning[edit]

Dear editors of Wikipedia, after working more than 20 years now on this subject I like to point at an aspect of the Wikipedia definition of life which may well require your attention. It concerns a circularity in the separate definitions of what is life (In Wikipedia: "Any contiguous living system is called an organism") and what is an organism (In Wikipedia: "an organism is any contiguous living system"). From a philosophical point of view, circularity is considered as to be highly undesirable when constructing definitions. As an example of how a definition can be anchored and the circular reasonign may be solved, I invite you to find inspiration on the following page of my website:

One of the interesting aspects of a definition of life is that organisms are only living beings when they show physical activity, but not when they are for example Jager008 (talk) 14:36, 24 July 2013 (UTC)frozen. When they are frozen they are still organisms, but no longer living beings (because they have stopped living). Accordingly, it is necessary to first define organisms, then te define living being (an active organism) and finally to define life as an abstract group-property of organisms.

Contrary to opinions which are broadly held by the public, the following properties do not define life, as can be demonstrated by means of simple test cases:

1. An organism can show the property of life even when it does NOT show reproduction (there exist many organisms which are alive but fail to reproduce)

2. An organism can show the property of life even when it does NOT show metabolism (frozen and dried organisms are still organisms when they are frozen or dried). A frozen organism does not show the property of 'living' though.

3. An organism can show the property of life even when it does NOT show signalling functions or mobility or the like (frozen organisms don't show dynamic aspects at all). Signalling and other dynamic functions are indications of the concept of 'living', which differs from the concept of 'life'.

I think it would be a challanging undertaking if Wikipedia would test its own definition agains such litmus test examples.

As a definition which has no problems with a broad range of test cases, I can suggest the following (page 94 of The Pursuit of Complexity):

'All 'operators' at least as complex as the cell are organisms' (this preparatory sentence is required to define the concept of organism, all the different operators are: the quark, the hadron, the atom, the molecule, the cell, the endosymbiont cell, the cellular and endosymbiont multicellular, and the organism with neural network).

Now we can define life as:

'Life is a general term for the presence of the typical closures found in organisms' (the typical closures are e.g. a memebrane and an autocatalytic set in the cell).

With the above I hope to have supported your valuable work.

Kind regards, dr. mult. Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis 14:31, 24 July 2013 (UTC)Jager008 (talk) 14:36, 24 July 2013 (UTC)[1] — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:45, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Crafting a definition to incorporate frozen organisms seems too much. Frozen organisms, although non-metabolizing, have the potential to be viable if thawed. Any way, if your living system definition ("Life is a general term for the presence of the typical closures (e.g. a memebrane and an autocatalytic set in the cell) found in organisms".)) was published in a peer-reviewed journal I think we could include it. BatteryIncluded (talk) 14:57, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

"Life is a State of Matter", Sekhar, DMR., Life as a State of Matter, In the proceedings of, 1st International Conference “Life Energy, Syntropy and Resonance”, World Institute of Scientific Exploration – Viterbo, Italy, August 1- 4, 2013,

DMR Sekhar (talk) 09:31, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

X mark.svg Not done - Hello Sekhar. I looked at your paper but stopped short at the intro. How do you know an amoeba or a tomato has "consciousness"? Can't use that as a factor to define life or determine if an object is alive. BatteryIncluded (talk) 14:38, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

Dear editors at Wikipedia, upon visiting this talk page again after quite a while, I appreciate that you ask for references that can support my above suggestion for a definition of life. In this respect, I can contribute in the following way. A first reference is my book "The pursuit of complexity" (reviewed by 20 colleques, KNNV Publishing, Zeist, The Netherlands, 2012) where I discuss the definition of life in three steps, on pages 27-29, pages 87-88 and pages 94-96. If I restate the definition on page 94 the abstract concept of life can be defined in two sentences as follows: First on has to define what is an 'organism'. This is possible by invoking the complexity ladder of the operator theory, and defining an organism as "any system with an organisation that complies with an operator type that is at least as complex as the cell (as an operator type)". As part of the operator hierarchy, every type of operator is defined by type-specific closures. Now that we have defined the organism, we can say that "life is a general term for the presence of the closure found in organisms". If the closure is lost a system is neiter an operator anymore, nor an organism. An organism is living, if it is dynamically activy. If it is not active, it can still represent life (not 'be' life!) as long as its closures are intact. This approach to defining life has also been published in the following studies:

1. Towards a hierarchical definition of life, the organism, and death. Jagers op Akkerhuis G.A.J.M. (2010). Foundations of Science 15: 245-262.

2. Explaining the origin of life is not enough for a definition of life. Jagers op Akkerhuis G.A.J.M. (2010). Foundations of Science 16: 327-329.

3. The Role of Logic and Insight in the Search for a Definition of Life. Jagers op Akkerhuis G.A.J.M. (2012). J. Biomol Struct Dyn 29(4), 619-620 (2012).

4. Contributions of the Operator Hierarchy to the field of biologically driven mathematics and computation. Jagers op Akkerhuis G.A.J.M. (2012). In: Integral Biomathics: Tracing the Road to Reality.

Additional information can be found at:

By the way, in so far as life is an abstract concept, it can only refer to a state of matter, no 'be' a state of matter ;-) Meanwhile, the operator based definition indicates WHAT states of matter comply with the abstraction of life: namely the states which comply with the organisation of the different operator types, from the cell and up.

I hope to have contributed to your noble work. Regards, Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis Jager008 (talk) 11:59, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

Hypotheses already exist[edit]

I would recommend changing the line

 "The mechanism by which life emerged is unknown and hypotheses are being formulated."


 "The mechanism by which life emerged is unknown although many hypotheses have been formulated."

and then perhaps provide a link to the page on abiogenesis. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:03, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done. Thanks, BatteryIncluded (talk) 23:36, 13 January 2013 (UTC)

Can we show Prokarya in the Domains and kingdoms tree diagram?[edit]

Do Prokarya rate a mention in the domains and kingdoms tree? Such as this:

Life (Biota / Vitae / Eobionti)
Plants in the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda
Scientific classification e
Domains and kingdoms

Life on Earth:


If not, I hope a domain expert will be kind enough to explain why not, given the article states:

"There are two primary types of cells. Prokaryotes lack a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles, although they have circular DNA and ribosomes. Bacteria and Archaea are two domains of prokaryotes. The other primary type of cells are the eukaryotes,..."

Thanks, Ubuntu2 (talk) 09:05, 28 April 2013 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done - BatteryIncluded (talk) 13:25, 28 April 2013 (UTC)

According to the article on Archaea, they form a third class, seperate from Bacteria and Eukaryota, so the tree is incorrect. References in the Archaea article. PizzaMan (talk) 23:15, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

My research tells me that this would be an improvement to the existing diagram and does put Prokaryotes correctly in the hierarchy. It is confusing leaving the word out of the diagram. I will contact an expert - and let you know what he advises. Hey BatteryIncluded. How's things? BSmith821 (talk) 18:30, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

No matter what apocalyptic disaster comes our way, we can be sure about one thing: All of our current methods of storing important data are going to be useless. After all, electronically-stored data is susceptible to electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), flooding, fire, power outages, and the age-old “having a building collapse on top of the server.” — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:19, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Western Australia[edit]

Western Australia is a proper noun. Please correct the reference contained in the introduction to Western Australia with appropriate capitalisation. Thank you! — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cjmicik (talkcontribs) 23:37, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

Rewrite This Article[edit]

The Life entry is need of a lot of work. It has a lot of unnecessary statements or at a minimum statements which don't read well in their current placement / context. Here are a few small examples.

This should be at the top of the article. It is a challenge for scientists and philosophers to define life in unequivocal terms.[25][26][27] This is difficult partly because life is a process, not a pure substance.[28][29] Any definition must be sufficiently broad to encompass all life with which we are familiar, and must be sufficiently general to include life that may be fundamentally different from life on Earth.[30][31][32]

This doesn't read well, and feels like it was tossed in. Life can survive and thrive in a wide range of conditions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by ClearConcise (talkcontribs) 18:50, 25 December 2013 (UTC)

Hello. Your request is not clear to me. You want to place that statement at the top, yet you claim "This doesn't read well and was tossed in". --BatteryIncluded (talk) 14:20, 20 March 2014 (UTC)


"abiogenic" should be "a biogenic"

Grammatical Edit[edit]

In the opening paragraph, the last sentence currently reads, "Biology is science concerned with the study of life."

I think this should be changed to read, "Biology is the science concerned with the study of life."

It would just be the addition of "the" in between the words "is" and "science".

JSimar (talk) 01:31, 25 June 2014 (UTC)JSimar

Earliest known evidence for life? - as of June 25, 2014[edit]

On the site is an article claiming problems with the earliest evidence from the Archean (3.5 bya) and concludes that it is abiogenic. It also references a 2004 article from Science (magazine) in which these are argued to be "Earth's oldest trace fossil". (which is prior to the two studies given in wikipedia, but never-the-less should have some bearing on the acceptance of these studies.) So, I am wondering how well accepted are the claims made in this article that graphite and microbial mat evidence indicate life existed at 3.48 - 3.7 bya? Specifically the author of the critical study states:"..the oldest bona fide candidate trace fossil comes from 1.7 billion year old rocks in China.." The difference between 1.7 and 3.7 billion years before present seems too enormous to ignore. My best guess to reconcile the Wikipedia view with this author's EXPERT statement is that the graphite & mat evidence is NOT generally accepted. This is in stark contrast to the absolute statement of fact that "The earliest life on Earth existed at least 3.5 billion years ago..." [Which seems to me such a religious and unscientific a statement as to invalidate its inclusion in a scientific discussion. NO qualifications? For Shame! That is NOT EVER what Science claims! (Science ALWAYS bases her claims ON THE AVAILABLE EVIDENCE!! (not some absolute concept of "truth")] — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:56, 25 June 2014 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 15 July 2014[edit]

Add the word organic as indicated in the following sentence, the first in the article: "Life is a characteristic distinguishing organic physical entities"

Paradigmatic Autodidact (talk) 04:20, 15 July 2014 (UTC) The reason for my request should be self-evident.

It's not self-evident to me. It just so happens that all life we know about is organic, but I've never heard it suggested that being carbon-based is a fundamental requirement for life. Life that is not carbon based has been widely speculated about (see Hypothetical types of biochemistry#Non-carbon-based biochemistries). The cited sources also say nothing about being organic as a requirement. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 04:37, 17 July 2014 (UTC)

    Cite error: There are <ref group=note> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=note}} template (see the help page).