Exploring Biosemiotics: A Unified Perspective on Life and Evolution

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In summary, Biosemiotics is a branch of biology that views life not just from a molecular and chemical perspective, but also as a system of signs that are conveyed and interpreted by living organisms. It aims to bring together the findings of different disciplines in biology to understand the complexities of living processes. This perspective challenges traditional ideas of biology and the philosophy of biology, where life is seen as purely physical and governed by efficient causation. Biosemiotics also offers a possible resolution to the Cartesian dualism in philosophy of mind and may help explain higher forms of mind. However, there are doubts about its validity and its supposed refutation of neodarwinism, as it lacks a scientific theory that can be tested and falsified.
  • #1
PIT2
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Biosemiotics, as described by wikipedia, is:

To define biosemiotics as “biology interpreted as sign systems” is to emphasize not only the close relation between biology as we know it (as a scientific field of inquiry) and semiotics (the study of signs), but primarily the profound change of perspective implied when life is considered not just from the perspectives of molecules and chemistry, but as signs conveyed and interpreted by other living signs in a variety of ways, including by means of molecules. In this sense, biosemiotics takes for granted and respects the complexity of living processes as revealed by the existing fields of biology - from molecular biology to brain science and behavioural studies - however, biosemiotics attempts to bring together separate findings of the various disciplines of biology (including evolutionary biology) into a new and more unified perspective on the central phenomena of the living world, including the generation of function and signification in living systems, from the ribosome to the ecosystem and from the beginnings of life to its ultimate meanings.

Traditional biology (and philosophy of biology) has seen such processes as being purely physical and, being influenced by a reductionist and mechanist tradition, has adopted a very restricted notion of the physical as having to do with only efficient causation. Biosemiotics is an attempt to use the concepts from semiotics to answer questions about the biologic and evolutionary emergence of meaning, intentionality and a psychic world; questions that are hard to answer within a purely mechanist and physicalist framework.

Biosemiotics may help to resolve some forms of Cartesian dualism that is still haunting philosophy of mind. By describing the continuity between matter and mind, biosemiotics may also help us to understand higher forms of mind.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosemiotics

What are your thoughts on this?
Is biosemiotics a plausible perspective or not?

From what I've read so far, also in other sources, it is not opposed to neodarwinism and they can go hand in hand together. Yet I've also come across this paper which claims that when looked at life from a biosemiotic perspective, it disproves neodarwinism:

The first part of this article supports Margulis theory of symbiogenesis (Serial Endosymbiotic Theory) but questions the use of classical mechanistic language of natural science in describing highly complex interactions of symbiosis and, subsequently, of symbiogenesis. The alternative is to describe these as communication processes which are multi-leveled, regulative, constitutive and generative and whose success depends on sign processes which proceed in a rule-based manner.

The relation between organisms and matter is one of organisms structuring their non-biological environment according to biological principles.
The relationship to other organisms is a communicative one: their mutual behavior underlies changeable rules (within the frame of natural laws), more precisely (semiotic) rules of sign use with which the biological individuals interact, i.e. coordinate and organize. The relationship of sign users and sign interpreters to the rules of sign use is not strict and immutable, but rather is changeable, alterable and renewable, although it can ensure relative stability.

The organization of life depends on successful intra-, inter- and metaorganismic communication processes. Interestingly, rule governed sign mediated interactions are not only the basis for human communication and coordination but a true principle of life itself. As demonstrated, it is the main principle also in and between microbial as in higher eukaryotic organisms as well as between organisms of different organismic kingdoms.

The structure of the genome itself is a linguistic one, more analog in eubacteria, more symbolic in archaebacteria and (higher) eukaryotes. It obeys syntactic, semantic and pragmatic rules. Interestingly the neodarwinistic paradigm of chance mutations and selection is refuted nowadays through research results which identify a higher order regulation code in the non-protein coding regions of genome architecture. This higher order regulation code is subject/object to environmental influences which become hereditable, with the effect that a different use of protein coding core components leads to different genetic organization.
http://www.library.utoronto.ca/see/SEED/Vol5-1/Witzany.htm

This changes our perception about the function and sense of evolution dramatically: No longer are small steps involving chance mutations responsible for differentiating eukaryotic organismic kingdoms, whose phenotypes were then subject to selection pressure. What numerous researchers always surmised, i.e., that chance mutations could not have brought about the enormous complexity of intracellular processes or this astounding diversity of organisms, has proven true. The arguments of neo-Darwinism, that have vehemently defended this monistic (mutation/selection-)evolution over more than half a century, lose their validity. Mutations do occur, but they do not lead to a higher development of organisms, but rather to adaptational variants. They are fine-tunings and not originating factors for de novo evolution.

The SET consciously sets aside the explanation of the origin of the first life-forms or protocells. The true nature of evolution from the beginning, namely as a language-like structured and communicatively organized process, provides good reasons for the thesis that even the de novo origin of life itself coincides with the genesis of rule-governed, sign-mediated interactions.
http://triplec.uti.at/files/tripleC3(2)_Witzany.pdf
 
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  • #2
You have energy, matter, information. The "study of signs" falls within the area of study of variety of information, which is well developed via science of cybernetics. A "sign" conveys information, even a blank sign. Linkage between cybernetics and organic theory of evolution is well developed (here I suggest works of W. Ross Ashby). I suspect a link between the mystical ID folks and so-called biosemiotics, especially when I read that biosemiotics claims to falsify mechanism of evolutionary theory--yet offers no scientific theory in return that itself can be falsified.
 
  • #3
Rade said:
You have energy, matter, information. The "study of signs" falls within the area of study of variety of information, which is well developed via science of cybernetics. A "sign" conveys information, even a blank sign. Linkage between cybernetics and organic theory of evolution is well developed (here I suggest works of W. Ross Ashby). I suspect a link between the mystical ID folks and so-called biosemiotics, especially when I read that biosemiotics claims to falsify mechanism of evolutionary theory--yet offers no scientific theory in return that itself can be falsified.

I doubt it has anything to do with ID, not that it matters. The labelling trick isn't a good way to judge what people have to say. First we label creationism as evil. Then we label ID as creationism. Then we label the falsification of neodarwinism as ID. It leads nowhere. Something can be falsified purely by observations, without the need for any new theory to make the falsification true (not that I am saying it is the case here, because i don't fully understand what he bases his claims on).

As for a scientific theory offered, there is "symbiogenesis" and "Serial Endosymbiotic Theory (SET)".

Symbiogenesis and SET can be read about here and http://131.220.103.188/ahlavacka/AG-Volkmann/plantneuro/show_abstract.php?author=witzany
 
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  • #4
"Biosemiotics is an attempt to use the concepts from semiotics to answer questions about the biologic and evolutionary emergence of meaning, intentionality and a psychic world; questions that are hard to answer within a purely mechanist and physicalist framework."

The perfect solution to a non-existent problem --- smells like a rehashed "god of the gaps."
 
  • #5
Bystander said:
"Biosemiotics is an attempt to use the concepts from semiotics to answer questions about the biologic and evolutionary emergence of meaning, intentionality and a psychic world; questions that are hard to answer within a purely mechanist and physicalist framework."

The perfect solution to a non-existent problem --- smells like a rehashed "god of the gaps."

So we already know how 'meaning, intentionality and a psychic world' emerged? I doubt it. Exactly as the quote above says, these questions are rather 'hard to answer within a purely mechanist and physicalist framework'. Calling biosemiotics a "god of the gaps", is the same as calling evolutiontheory a "gap of the gods". Let's just face that the explanatory gaps exist and not bring any god into it.

What I've gathered so far is that biosemiotics has nothing to do with ID or god, and that it is a respectable and scientific study of signs in living systems which attemps to answer the questions mentioned above. This is why i was surprised to see that this person Witzany talked about biosemiotics and the refutation of neodarwinism.

Here is a good site with info about biosemiotics:
http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Abstracts/Hoffmeyer_97.html

Also:
http://www.ento.vt.edu/~sharov/biosem/biosem.html#topics
 
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  • #6
PIT2 said:
So we already know how 'meaning, intentionality and a psychic world' emerged?(snip)

Yes. Graham Hanquack, or some other egotistical, mystic bullsh*tter, intuited that reductionism can't possibly explain his/her superior brain function and intellect, and, "by intention, formed" the hypothesis that everything leading to his/her existence had to have been intentional.
 
  • #7
Bystander said:
Yes.

No.

One may have great faith in reductionism, but one shouldn't confuse faith with facts.
 
  • #8
PIT2 said:
As for a scientific theory offered, there is "symbiogenesis" and "Serial Endosymbiotic Theory (SET)".
Thank you for links--but neither of these concepts offer a scientific falsification of organic theory of evolution--in fact, both are well explained by evolutionary processes. So, I still look for some information about how Biosemiotics falsifies organic theory of evolution. For example, how does Biosemiotics predict the appearance of the horse on earth--what exactly is the mechanism--and where is the evidence (the signs) of the mechanism ? Of course, organic theory of evolution offers both mechanism and evidence (it calls the signs fossils)--thus I wish to compare suggested sign mechanism of Biosemiotics to well studied sign mechanism provided by organic theory of evolution.
 

Related to Exploring Biosemiotics: A Unified Perspective on Life and Evolution

1. What is biosemiotics?

Biosemiotics is an interdisciplinary field that studies the communication and meaning-making processes in living organisms. It combines concepts from biology, linguistics, and semiotics to understand how living systems interact with their environment and other organisms through signs and symbols.

2. How does biosemiotics relate to evolution?

Biosemiotics provides a unified perspective on life and evolution by considering both the physical and informational aspects of living systems. It argues that evolution is not only driven by natural selection and genetic variation, but also by the dynamic interactions between organisms and their environment.

3. Can biosemiotics be applied to all living organisms?

Yes, biosemiotics can be applied to all living organisms, from single-celled microorganisms to complex multicellular organisms. It recognizes that all living systems possess the ability to sense, interpret, and respond to their environment in meaningful ways.

4. How does biosemiotics contribute to our understanding of the mind and consciousness?

Biosemiotics offers a unique perspective on the mind and consciousness by considering the role of signs and meaning-making in living organisms. It suggests that the mind and consciousness are not exclusive to humans, but are present in all living systems to varying degrees.

5. What are the practical applications of biosemiotics?

Biosemiotics has various practical applications in fields such as biology, ecology, psychology, and linguistics. It can help us better understand and manage ecosystems, improve our communication and relationships with other species, and even inform the development of artificial intelligence and robotics.

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