The oft-repeated claim that life is ‘written into’ the laws of nature is examined and criticised. Arguments are given in favour of life spreading between near-neighbour planets in rocky impact ejecta (transpermia), but against panspermia, leading to the conclusion that if life is indeed found to be widespread in the universe, some form of life principle or biological determinism must be at work in the process of biogenesis. Criteria for what would constitute a credible life principle are elucidated. I argue that the key property of life is its information content, and speculate that the emergence of the requisite information-processing machinery might require quantum information theory for a satisfactory explanation. Some clues about how decoherence might be evaded are discussed. The implications of some of these ideas for ‘fine-tuning’ are discussed.
Copyright 2003 Cambridge University Press. Article originally published in International Journal of Astrobiology, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp. 115-120. The original article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1473550403001514.