Will We Figure Out How Life Began?

We may determine what started it all--but that might not tell us whether life was inevitable or just a lucky accident

A deep problem--philosophical rather than factual--stymies all our attempts to define the nature of life. Scientific generalizations require replication, the demonstration that a given set of forces and substances will yield the same result when brought together under the same conditions. Ideally, we test for replication with time-honored procedures that scientists call controlled experiments--artificially simplified situations manipulated by human observers to guarantee (within the best of our ability) an exact repetition of all timings, forces and substances. If we achieve the same result in each of several replications, we then gain confidence that we may be witnessing a predictable generality based...

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