BIOLOGY:Defining "Life"

Romana Machado (
Fri, 10 Jan 1997 01:50:35 -0800

David Musick wrote:
>Sometimes categorizing things is useful, sometimes it's not. Categorizing
>systems into "living" or "non-living" is utterly useless. It adds no useful
>information or generalizations to systems. Besides, the whole idea that there
>is a singular quality that marks a system as lving or non-living is bogus; it
>is a relic from the days when people beleived there was a mystical
>"life-force" in living things. (Which, apparantly, is still today. Oh, well.)

Just in case some may think that I mean my definition of "extropy" is a
singular or mystical quality - well, no, it's been designed to avoid it.
First, I have defined it as a subjective quality, like beauty or morality,
not a Pirsigian capital-Q Quality. This definition isn't mystical unless
you consider subjectivity mystical.

Next, I chose "the quality of creative order CHARACTERISTIC of living
systems" rather than a more restrictive phrase, such as, perhaps, "... that
DISTINGUISHES living systems." The "quality of creative order" that I hope
to indicate appears in some systems that some would more strictly consider
non-living, or even quite abstract, from economic systems to computer

By the way, though David Musick clearly understand this already, I
recommend Stephen Levy's terrific book, "Artifical Life", if you need to
relax your boundaries in the living vs non-living "mock controversy", or
need help figuring out what's interesting about life. (Hint: it's not a
single feature.)

Romana Machado
erotic site: "Romana Machado's Peek of the Week"
personal site: "Romana Machado World Headquarters"
transhuman site:

"There is perhaps no phenomenon which constitutes so much destructive
feeling as moral indignation, which permits envy or hate to be acted out
under the guise of virtue." - Erich Fromm