Jonathan Dowling

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In existographies, Jonathan Dowling (0-65 AE) (1955-2020 ACM) (IQ:175|#250) (CR:2) (LH:3) was an American theoretical physicist, with focus in quantum electrodynamics and quantum computing, noted for 1998 to 2004 view that "there is NO such thing as life" (see: defunct theory of life debate) and that the difference between a "chemical reaction" such as Stephen Hawking, mentally growing in Cambridge, and a salt crystal, growing in a glass of salt water, is that the former is "more interesting" as compared to the latter; views which he formerly published in his 2013 Schrödinger's Killer App;


A photo of Dowling (2013) holding a copy of his Schrodinger's Killer App, in which (pgs. 429-30) he describes his abioism position, namely that things such as: Stephen Hawking, DNA, viruses, prions, and crystals are each different types of interesting chemical reactions, and that to draw some "arbitrary line" in an attempt to call one class "alive" and the rest "nonliving" is but a case of "metaphysical silliness".

In 1998 to 2004, Dowling, while working at NASA, began to float the idea to his colleagues that, from the point of view of atoms, DNA and entropy, “there is NO line” that separates what we have been accustomed to distinguish as “living” from “nonliving”, particularly when it comes to the measured search for so-called “extraterrestrial” life and theories about making "life-detection systems".

In 2013, Dowling, in his Schrödinger's Killer App: Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer, eventually published a note on his so-called "there is no line" view:

“When, in 1998 to 2004, I was at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, we would have endless discussions on the definition of life. What is life? The discussions were always hinged on the metaphysical and religiously-infused idea that there should be a ‘line’ [?] — things on one side of the line were alive and things on the other were not. The game was to "find that line". People argued and continue to argue about this endlessly. Should it ‘reproduce’, ‘reduce the entropy’ of its environment, ‘have DNA’, or what? For example, viruses are infectious, reproduce, and have DNA and most vote they are alive (but some not). Prions[1], which cause mad cow disease, are malevolent proteins that reproduce, are infectious, but have no DNA. Most say they are not alive and say we should draw the line of life between prions and viruses.
My response to these discussions was, there is no such thing as life! There are interesting chemical reactions, like Stephen Hawking, and less interesting chemical reactions, like salt crystals growing[2] in a glass of salt water. There is no line, no ‘breath of life’ separating living from nonliving. That is a metaphysical bit of silliness. We should focus on interesting over boring chemical reactions and forget about this line that does not exist except in our own minds.”
— Jonathan Dowling (2013), Schrödinger's Killer App: Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer (ref. #88, pgs. 429-30) [3]

This classifies Dowling with the other known independent "abioists", namely: Libb Thims, Alfred Rogers, and Ferris Jabr.

End matter


  1. Prion – Wikipedia.
  2. Crystal model of life – Hmolpedia 2020.
  3. Dowling, Jonathan. (2013). Schrödinger's Killer App: Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer (ref. #88, pgs. 429-30; soul, pgs. 11, 398; god, 12+ pgs). CRC Press.

Further reading

  • LaValle, Mimi. (2020). “LSU Mourns the Loss of World-Renowned Professor Jonathan P. Dowling” (Ѻ), LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics News, Jun.
  • Aronson, Scott. (2020). “Jonathan Dowling (1955-2020)”,, blog.

External links

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