George Harrison asked What Is Life? in a song, but he had a spiritual bent. The question is actually even more fundamental. Science has no settled meaning of what life is. Some posit that a virus is not life, and there is a multicellular organism discovered here on earth that requires no oxygen to survive. So when we are looking for signs of life on other planets, what is it that we are looking for exactly?
I spend a lot of time calling out weasel words, but we can’t even reliably define something we fundamentally are, which is alive. What is life? Forget about truth, justice, love, and freedom. These are abstract concepts, but not life. We live. We see life—experience life. We are a subset of it, but how do we know we’ve accounted for the full domain? Could something non-living be intelligent?—have intelligence?
It’s late and I am heading into a new year, AD 2023 BCE. And I was just thinking. If I am to believe Descartes, at least I’m alive parce que je donc, but I’ve got no answers in this realm.
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Maybe the greatest trick is to think you are real, or alive. But science isn’t sure about that, even Niels Bohr and others were unable to explain why nothing really exists at the core.
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