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The Quest for a Universal Theory of Life

The Quest for a Universal Theory of Life
Searching for Life As We Don't Know It

$79.99 (P)

Part of Cambridge Astrobiology

  • Publication planned for: December 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from December 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521873246

$ 79.99 (P)
Hardback

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About the Authors
  • Integrating both scientific and philosophical perspectives, this book provides an informed analysis of the challenges of formulating a universal theory of life. Among the issues discussed are crucial differences between definitions and scientific theories and, in the context of examples from the history of science, how successful general theories develop. The central problem discussed is two-fold: first, our understanding of life is still tacitly wedded to an antiquated Aristotelian framework for biology; second, there are compelling reasons for considering that familiar Earth life, which descends from a last universal common ancestor, is unrepresentative. What is needed are examples of life as we don't know it. Potential sources are evaluated, including artificial life, extraterrestrial life, and a shadow biosphere right here on Earth. A novel strategy for searching for unfamiliar life in the absence of a definition or general theory is developed. A valuable resource for graduate students and researchers studying the nature, origins, and extent of life in the universe.

    • Integrates philosophical and scientific material in a manner that is both sophisticated and yet accessible to specialists in both areas as well as the educated public
    • Explores the problems associated with defining life and the challenges involved in formulating a universal theory of life.
    • Advances an innovative solution to the oft-stated problem that a definition of life is required for searching for extraterrestrial life.
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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: December 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521873246
    • dimensions: 247 x 174 mm
    • availability: Not yet published - available from December 2019
  • Table of Contents

    Acknowledgments
    Introduction
    1. The Enduring Legacy of Aristotle
    2. Why Life can't be Defined
    3. What is a Scientific Theory
    4. How Scientific Theories Develop
    5. Challenges for a Universal Theory of Life
    6. Rethinking the Traditional Paradigm for Life: Lessons from the World of Microbes
    7. Artificial Life: Could ALife Solve the N=1 Problem?
    8. Searching for Extraterrestrial Life
    9. A Shadow Biosphere: Alien Microbes on Earth?
    Conclusion
    References
    Index.

  • Author

    Carol Cleland, University of Colorado Boulder
    Carol E. Cleland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA, where she is also Director of the Center for the Study of Origins and a Co-Investigator at the Center for Astrobiology. She teaches advanced interdisciplinary courses in the philosophy of science, including graduate seminars on central issues in astrobiology. She publishes papers in major science and philosophy journals, and is co-editor of the anthology The Nature of Life (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

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