Professors Alex Purves (Classics) and Gina Konstantopoulos (NELC) recently delivered papers at the “What is Life? Ancient Answers to Modern Questions” Conference, hosted by the UC Santa Cruz Humanities Institute in coordination with their astrobiology initiative.
The conference aimed to address problems and inconsistencies in modern definitions of life by appealing to explicit and implicit definitions of life offered in ancient texts. This problem is becoming increasingly urgent as astrolologists come closer to being able to detect biosignatures or signs of life on extrasolar planets, since the forms of life that exist on these planets may not fit within the definitions of life generated by biologists for studying life on Earth. Ancient answers to this definitional problem may suggest furtiful directions in which contemporary, operating definitions of life could be expanded.
Professor Purves’ paper was entitled “Life in the Space of the Sea” and Professor Konstantopoulos’ paper was entitled “The Fate of All Men: Life, Death, and Creation in Mesopotamia.”