This dynamic was artfully explored by physicist Brian Cox in the very thoughtful BBC series Wonders of Life. Cox used Erwin Schrödinger book What is Life as the basis for his entertaining and educating musings.
In introductory biology classes, students are taught that 'Life' is found along a spectrum of complexity. From:
- the collection of DNA and protein molecules we call viruses that can implement an immune system;
- to bacteria that can survive high doses of radiation;
- to humans with highly evolved neural circuitry that provide some evolutionary adaptations.
In 1996, Stephen J. Gould argued that bacteria should be considered the most successful life systems evolution has produced so far. More recently, scientists like Bonnie Bassler are researching the mind-boggling, complex, competitive and symbiotic dynamics bacteria participate in. We're now learning that our bodies are hosts to (or human cells are tolerated by) 2,000 species of bacteria whose cells outnumber the body's own by a 10-1 ratio in both competitive and symbiotic relationships.
- if one uses the same argument in The Thoughtful Universe of distilling a dynamic to its essence;
- and consistent with Brian Cox's and Schrödinger's arguments that the organization of energy and matter in 'complex' structures going against the entropy grain distinguishes/identifies 'Life';