"Life" = chemistry + physics + ?

The guy who sequenced the human genome is at it again. Now he’s created a virus (which doesn’t have its own metabolism or genetic material) from over-the-counter chemicals and is hot in pursuit of creating a bacterium–or at least the genome for one.

Vitalism is the name given to “the curiously persistent idea that there is something more to biology than mere physics and chemistry.” Well, where do you stand on that one? If you’ve studied quantum physics, it seems almost impossible not to believe that something else is going on. Or else how do we explain the mysteriously instantaneous equal and opposite reactions that occur in pairs of subatomic particles across unlimited amounts of space? How do you explain the fact that we look like solid bodies, but we’re made up mostly of empty space? How do you explain poetry? And laughter? Or even the miraculous actions of stem cells, for that matter?

Some physicists believe we’ve reached the end of our ability to explain anything else. Others say piffle, we can always delve deeper. Whichever position you take, I like to think of the quote from some famous person (just who, escapes me) to the effect that, “If we ever get to completely understand this world, chances are high that we’re not in it anymoreand have moved into some completely other world.”

Makes sense to me.