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SETI Talks: Can we define life? Should we? - Livestream

What is the difference between you and a rock? Are stars alive? Is a computer virus a living being? These may seem like easy questions, but scientists have struggled to formulate a universal definition of life, to draw the line between the living and the inanimate. Can life even be defined? Is such an endeavor even helpful?

We think we can intuitively recognize whether something is alive or not. But nature shows many examples that are difficult to categorize as life or non-life. The challenge may intensify as other worlds in our universe open up to exploration.
“It is commonly said,” the scientists Frances Westall and André Brack wrote in 2018, “that there are as many definitions of life as there are people trying to define it.”  Is it possible to find life beyond Earth if we disagree about what life represents?

We invited two scientists to join us for this month's SETI Talks to discuss this state of affairs. Haley Sapers, an astrobiologist at Caltech who studies living organisms we might find on Mars, and Carol Cleland, a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who wrote “The Quest for a Universal Theory of Life: Searching for life as we don’t know it.”

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Wednesday, 08/18/21


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SETI Institute

, CA