The Mystery of Life. If we find extraterrestrial life, will we recognise it as life at all?

How the Light Gets In Festival, Kenwood House

Full debate:


Life is strangely puzzling. Genetics and evolutionary theory have combined to give a seemingly watertight account of life on earth. Yet scientists remain uncertain – and theories abound – about just how it got started. We don’t even have an agreed definition of what ‘life’ is.

As we explore the planets of the solar system and look out at those beyond, researchers hope they will find evidence of life. But would it be like life on earth? Would we be able to identify it as life at all? Or is the wish to find other life forms a science fiction fantasy that serves Hollywood well but has little to do with reality?

The Panel

Biochemist and author of The Vital Question Nick Lane, Head of Future Missions at Airbus Ralph Cordey, and leading British space scientist Monica Grady grapple with the mysterious puzzles of life.