Act 2: Tapestry
To help us answer this question, our producer Helena Okolicsanyi asked an expert. She sat down with Dr. Rick Potts, a paleoanthropologist and director of the Human Origins program at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. As someone who studies humans from their basic origins, he was the perfect person to help begin our search.
Act 3: Anthropomorphism
While Dr. Rick Potts got our wheels turning, we knew we needed another perspective. So we reached out to Adam Waytz, a social psychologist and assistant professor at Northwestern University where we delved into the word: Anthropomorphism. Adam says we measure the world around us using our own selves, which when trying to define life can make it a little difficult. He believes that what really matters is how people perceive life.
Act 4: Sleep in Heavenly Peace
When we talk about living, what happens when your own son is teetering the line between living and non-living? We take a drive to Pennsylvania, where we sat down with Raymond Will. A simple, humble man Raymond and his wife lost their son, Mark. He had an accident at work that left Mark in a coma. For over four years, Mark was in a persistent vegetative state. Mark was alive, but he also wasn’t. At what point does a father make the decision that his son no longer is living?
Act 5: Keep Searching
With everything we’ve learned, we knew we needed one more person to help us dissect it all, so we sat down with Joe Brisendine, a science writer and biophysics researcher at the City College of New York. Brisendine says, we’ve been going about it all wrong. Life isn’t things you can check off a list and he suggests that maybe our language isn’t adequate for describing it at all. Maybe, he says, there’s more to life than we really know.