About Various Definitions of Life

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The old question of a definition of minimal life is taken up again at the aim of providing a forum for an updated discussion. Briefly discussed are the reasons why such an attempt has previously encountered scepticism, and why such an attempt should be renewed at this stage of the inquiry on the origin of life. Then some of the definitions of life presently used are cited and briefly discussed, starting with the definition adopted by NASA as a general working definition. It is shown that this is too limited if one wishes to provide a broad encompassing definition, and some extensions of it are presented and discussed. Finally it is shown how the different definitions of life reflect the main schools of thought that presently dominate the field on the origin of life.

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