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KLI Brown Bag
Information, Meaning, and Semiosis in the Genetic System
Charbel EL-HANI (Institute of Biology, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil)
2005-07-01 14:15 - 2005-07-01 14:15
KLI for Evolution and Cognition Research, Altenberg, Austria
Organized by KLI

Topic description:
Terms loaded with informational connotations are often employed to refer to genes and their dynamics. Indeed, genes are usually perceived by biologists as basically "the carriers of hereditary information." Nevertheless, many researchers consider such talk as inadequate and "just metaphorical," thus expressing a skepticism about the use of the term "information" and ist derivatives in biology as a natural science. First, because the meaning of the term information in biology is not as precise as it is, for instance, in the mathematical theory of information. Second, because it seems to refer to a purported semantic property of genes without theoretically clarifying if any genuinely intrinsic semantics is involved. Biosemiotics, a field that attempts to analyze biological systems as semiotic systems, makes it possible to advance in the understanding of the concept of information in biology. From the perspective of Peircean biosemiotics, we develop an account of genes as signs, including a detailed analysis of two fundamental processes in the genetic information system (transcription and protein synthesis) which has not been made so far in this field of research. Furthermore, we propose an account of information based on Peircean semiotics and apply it to our analysis of transcription and protein synthesis.