Sorry for the late response; I've been camping with the Cub Scouts.
***So you think that life is fundamentally different from inorganic matter?***
Yes, I do. I guess that makes me one of the few remaining Vitalists.
***That is, it isn't bound by ALL the rules that dead stuff is?***
No, I didn't say that. I think that life IS bound by all the rules that dead stuff is. As I think I have told you before, I think that the rules of physics allow a certain amount of wiggle room. In particular, when you get small enough, there are actions that appear to be random, or acausal, from the standpoint of the rules of cause and effect.
I believe that this provides the wiggle room for some conscious entity to set up and set off a chain of causal events that leads from an idea, which is strictly non-material and very mysterious, to a coherent pattern of these very small, seemingly random, events. From that coherent pattern, obeying the strict causal laws of physics, some pattern of neurons in a brain are thereby caused to fire, and from that, some muscle action is caused that pushes a specific control lever on a bulldozer which makes a more or less permanent scar on the landscape.
None of the rules for dead stuff is broken in this scenario, yet pure thought has caused significant, and highly improbable, change in the material world. The "conscious entity" I mentioned, has thus exercised the capability of free will.