General introduction

Gerard A.J.M. Jagers op Akkerhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This book focuses on fundamental concepts in the life sciences, and how these can be defined. The reason of writing a book with this focus is that terms such as particle, organism, hierarchy, life and evolution form the basis of scientific communication, but frequently lack a consensus definition. For example the concept of 'life' currently has 123 different scientific definitions. The existence of different definitions is a source of confusion and frustrates smooth communication and the generalisation of theory. This is the reason why this book takes up the challenge of contributing to conceptual clarity. In relation to this goal, this introductory chapter discusses some subjects that are of general relevance. To begin with room is made for reservations people may have about attempts aiming at the creation of stringent definitions. Thereafter, it is discussed why the way mathematicians define their concepts can be used as an example of how definitions questions can be resolved in other branches of science. Additionally, a list of criteria is introduced that assist in deciding why of any pair of competing definitions one would prefer one definition over the other. Finally, short summaries are offered of why this book takes a special interst in the following topics: a modern ladder of complexity, Darwinian evolution, major evolutionary transitions, life and thermodynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolution and Transitions in Complexity
Subtitle of host publicationThe Science of Hierarchical Organization in Nature
EditorsG.A.J.M. Jagers op Akkerhuis
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783319438023
ISBN (Print)9783319438016
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'General introduction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this