Understanding Life: New Perspectives from Philosophy and Biology

Thursday, 2016/05/26 - Friday, 2016/05/27

Chloroplasts within plant cells shown here

Source: Anton Hartinger

What is life? And what are the characteristics of living beings? Discussion about these questions has recently gained momentum. One reason is that, in the last few years, earth-like planets have been discovered. The prospects of finding extraterrestial life have thus significantly improved. But before we intensify our search for such life, we had better know what exactly we are looking for. Unfortunately, so far, the notion of life has escaped attempts to define it in a clear-cut and general way.

Event organizer: Andrea Loettgers und Claus Beisbart (University of Bern)
Speaker: Mark Bedau (Reed College, Portland OR), Sara Green (University of Copenhagen), Marcel Weber (University of Geneva), Alvaro Moreno (University of Basque Country), Olivier Poch (University of Bern), Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo (University of Basque Country), Andrea Loettgers & Richard King (University of Bern), Carol Cleland (University of Colorado Boulder), Maureen O'Malley (University of Bordeaux), Andreas Wagner (University of Zurich)
Date: 2016/05/26 - 2016/05/27
Time: 09:15 Time
Locality: Kuppelsaal
Hauptgebäude University of Bern
Hochschulstrasse 4
3012 Bern
Characteristics: open to the public
free of charge

Why have attempts to define life failed? Is the problem simply that we do not yet have enough knowledge to answer the question of what life is? Is “life” a term that refers to a natural kind that needs more scrutiny? And should we replace our search for a definition of life by trying to develop a theory of life? Or is it more realistic to expect progress from a multiplicity of models? And if no definition of life is forthcoming, how can we nevertheless make progress in understanding life?

The aim of this workshop is to answer these questions and to advance our understanding of life. Experts from biology and philosophy join forces to address the notion of life.

The organizers gratefully acknowledge support by

the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH)

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