life Life is a stage of cosmic evolution that arises from the organisation of matter.

I believe - no, i am absolutely certain - that life is ubiquitious thoughout the universe, and arises wherever conditions will allow it.

Life, having arisen, is tenacious and adaptable, and not only modifies itself to better suit its environment (evolution), but even modifies it's envoronment to better suit its own functioning (Gaia).

What is Life?

It is hard to define the essential characteristics of life.  The following have been suggested:

The Study of Life

Limited as we are to a planet-bound perspective, the study of life can be divided into two broad fields:

life in the universe
life on Earth

The Origin of Life

Depending on what paradigm you prefer, there are various theories as to how life arose

According to the Religious / Creationist Paradigm (based on the Dualistic assumption of an external supernatural deity) Life comes about through the supernatural agency of a God.  (Personally, I don't have much sympathy for supernaturalist theories).

according to the Scientistic Paradigm (based on the Materialistic assumption that all that exists is Physical Reality), Life comes about through the progressive self-organistaion of complex molocules under suitable environmental conditions.

according to the ET hypothesis life was seeded from earlier civilisations (which doesnt explain how those earlier civilisations came about!)  Again, like the religious position, this involves an arbitrary belief in a "higher power"

according to the Esoteric/Occult Paradigm (based on the Emanationist assumption of reality as an ontological spectrum from spirit to mattter) Life comes about through the manifestation of the vital principle (Ch'i, Prana, Orgone, Etheric) in physical matter.  The philosophical term for this is called Vitalism.

The exaplanation suggested here combines the Scientistic with the Esoteric.  Life is an emergent property that occurs when physical/material evolution reaches a grade of complexity (infomation richness) that allows bodily expression of Etheric phenomena in Physical Matter.

The Tree of Life

Life evolves as a branching tree of evolutionary lineages.  The tree of life grows not through space, but through time.  It is a single organism extended through the "fourth dimension".  The relating of teh various branches and tracing them back to their origin is called Phylogeny.  On planet Earth (The Gaian superorganism) there are three domains (Archaea, Eubacteria, Eukaryota) with seven broad kingdoms (Archaeabacteria, Eubacteria, Protista, Vendobionta, Fungi, Plantae and Animalia) of life.  The classification of the various branches and twigs of the tree of life, according to their common ancestry, is called Systematics.

Hierarchies of Units of Life

Life is organised in a fractal (self-similiar) manner over several hierrachical levels.

organic molecule 
organism (individual)

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page history

page uploaded 11 June 1999
modified 4 December