Life as a phenomenon

«The fact that we find it difficult to give precise definition of complex phenomena does not mean that they do not exist».

The occasion for this article was my viewing the recent publications of Libb Thims in his Encyclopedia (EoHT).

After the publication of the articles «Life: a Defunct Scientific Theory? » by Libb Thims [1], I tried to support his apparent good intentions. I made an observation that in science there is no such "the defunct theory of life". This was the beginning of a long correspondence between him and me, according to the said Libb – “the discussions” [2].

After a while I realized that this debate was inefficient and, in my opinion, was pointless. I stopped to present and add any comments to “the discussions”. However, I was hoping that Libb Thims would modify his views in favor of science.  After reading his later articles, I realized that the position of Libb Thims had not changed. Moreover, he presented a huge number of "objections" and all sorts ofconsiderations (reasons), allegedly unequivocally confirming his "ancient" point of view.

At this juncture, I would like to express my opinion about many new big publications of Libb. I do not want to have any relation to the manifestly absurd notions about "non-existent theory of life" and the widespread use of the term "molecule". Sometimes the notion "molecule" is applied by some authors to objects of different nature. I mean authors who forget about the "figurative or allegorical" sense of the term "molecule", which is sometimes applied to the particles (objects) of different nature. In addition, some researchers have, unfortunately, begun to try to use my theory to confirm the viewpoints of Libb. This is due, apparently, to the fact that the readers have not spent time to review my numerous publications such as [3-6]

Consideration of terms that associated with the words "life", "live" and the like (on the pages of EoHT) is connected with many discussions among scientists, enthusiasts and amateurs of science. For example, Libb Thims writes: "In science, the defunct theory of life is the position", first stated in 1915 by Serbian-born American electrical engineer Nikola Tesla" [2]. For the proof of this view, he refers to the statements of famous scientists of the past such as Charles Scott Sherrington, Francis Crick and others. Of course, these scientists were great experts in specific areas of knowledge. Moreover, Libb Thims does not take into account that these eminent scientists lived in a time when there were no knowledge that accumulated by modern science.

 In our time, scientists have found many new phenomena and have created new theories. For example, the principles of hierarchical thermodynamics have been created on the solid fundament of the most rigorous physical theory of J.W. Gibbs [3-7].

Hierarchical thermodynamics and new experimental data [6, 7] suggest that it is reasonable to represent life as a phenomenon or a set of hierarchical processes. Considering the similar set of processes, one may talk about the general process of life, or, simply, - the process of life. This process is associated with the appearance and decay of labile chemical substances in certain intervals of changing the physical parameters and characteristics of the environment. Life as a process is also associated with the flow of energy. Life is described by the laws of thermodynamics at all hierarchical levels of physical structures in which life processes take place and react to the physical forces from the environment. Hierarchical thermodynamics sculpt living objects. A special role played by the "principle of substance stability". It is important to note that origins and developments of life are results of a myriad of non-spontaneous and spontaneous stages - the process of life. Due to the complexity of life, as a phenomenon, it is impossible to give an exact and general definition for it. The various definitions of life have depended on the points of view of the researchers that have examined this phenomenon. In recent years, the author of this article has investigated many of the details of modern physical-chemical aspects of life in some works devoted to the hierarchical thermodynamics of living systems [6, 7, 8].

Thus, from the foregoing perspective, the term "life" is defined as a phenomenon or process that is observed in the specific conditions of “existence renewing” and evolving biological matter. The term "living" refers to an object (or a system) in which the life process takes place. By speaking of "living matter" we are talking about objects (systems) in which the processes of life take place. According to the point of view presented in this article it is now easy to interpret all the terms and definitions containing the noun - "life", the adjective -"living", the verb - "life" and so on.

The death of an object means stopping in it the life processes. Death is the termination of life.

Here, too, it is worth noting that Libb Thims' concept about generalized term "molecule" is devoid of common sense for many reasons. For example, I can mention about two indisputable, in my opinion, circumstances. Using "the imagination of Libb" it is not possible to describe the hierarchical stages of chemical and biological evolutions (evolution of matter) by mathematical methods. Mathematics "likes" the study of interactions or conversions of similar objects (same type's objects).As is well known, about this fact has been said by Henri Poincare, J.W. Gibbs, D.I. Mendeleev and other creators of science. Moreover, the concept of Libb Thims renders meaningless existence of the phase rule of J.W. Gibbs and other laws and rules of physical chemistry.This fact does not even need any comments. I can say that these are Libb Thims’ fantasies.  I can say that the ideas of Libb bring us back into the past centuries.

I believe that the "irresponsible statements" and proposed "terminology Libb Thims' separates us from solving the problems related to the application of thermodynamics (and science in general) to the life of human society. Libb Thims, beginning the study of many important tasks, stopped at the beginning.He uses the eclectic approaches and logically unfounded conceptions. He has confused the situation in developing an interesting area of knowledge. It is a pity that being on the threshold of a new understanding of the living world, he neglects the simple common sense and the many achievements of classical science.


I am grateful to Prof. V.V. Sychev and Dr. Jeffrey Tuhtan for systematic fruitful discussions and valuable advices.



1. Libb Thims. Letter.  «Life: a Defunct Scientific Theory?». Journal of Human Thermodynamics 2009, 5: 20-21.

2. Libb Thims. Defunct theory of life

3. Gladyshev Georgi P. Thermodynamics Theory of the Evolution of Living Beings.- Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.- 1997.- 142 P.

4.  ГладышевГ.П. Термодинамическаятеорияэволюцииживыхсуществ. М.: Луч,1996. -86с.

 5. Гладышев Г.П. Супрамолекулярная термодинамика – ключ к осознанию явления жизни.   Что такое жизнь с точки зрения физикохимика. Издание второе. – Москва – Ижевск: Институт компьютерных исследований. «Регулярнаяихаотическаядинамика» 2003, – 144 с. Gladyshev G. P. Supramolecular thermodynamics is a key to understanding phenomenon of life. What is Life from a Physical Chemist’s Viewpoint Second Ed. – Moscow-Izhevsk: “Regular and Chaotic Dynamics”, 2003. – 144 p.

6. Г.П. Гладышев. Термодинамическая теория эволюции и старения. Успехи геронтологии. 2012. Т. 25. № 3. С. 373–385 

Перевод на английский: Advances in Gerontology, - 2014.

7. G.P. Gladyshev. Articles in Internet (2011-2013)

8. Georgi Gladyshev. Life as a Phenomenon. IJALSE,Vol. 1 (1), 97-98. 2014.