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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
Table of Contents
Genesis Vision
Learning Planet
Organic Universe
Earth Life Emerge
Genesis Future
Recent Additions

V. Life's Corporeal Evolution Encodes and Organizes Itself: An EarthWinian Genesis Synthesis

C. Evoinformatics: A Biosemiotic Code Quality

Pattee, Howard and Joanna Raczaszek-Leonardi. Laws, Language and Life. Berlin: Springer, 2012. The book subtitle is Howard Pattee’s classic papers on the physics of symbols with contemporary commentary. As the lifetime corpus of the emeritus SUNY Binghamton physicist, biologist and logician gains 21st century currency, it became evident to the second author, a Warsaw University psychologist and linguist, that his work should be collected in one place from disparate academic journals. The 17 papers proceed from The Physical Basis of Coding and Reliability in Biological Evolution (1967) to Instabilities and Information in Biological Self-Organization (1987) to The Necessity of Biosemiotics: Matter-Symbol Complementarity (2007, search). A new introduction by HP summarizes and updates so to avow natural reality as linguistic and genetic in kind via common complements of a material basis (words, things) and symbolic content (informed narrative. JR-L concludes with her own chapter whence a third way unity of both archetypal modes is proposed.

Prosdocimi, Francisco and Savio Torres de Farias. Life and Living Beings under the Persepctive of Organic Macrocodes. Biosystems. May, 2021. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and Universidade Federal da Paraiba, Brazil finesse and advance Marcello Barbieri’s conception (search) that life and evolution is most distinguished by an effective array of specific code. Our comment is that if every creature including us is suffused by such genetic, metabolic, neural “codes” at every moment, then it would seem that life’s entire evolutionary development should similarly possess its own, distinct informative codification. See also Organic Codes: A Unifying Concept for Life by the authors in Acta Biotheoretica for July 2021.

Among biologists, accepted views define life by a top-down strategy and shared characteristics in all cellular organisms. This is often highlights (i) autonomy and (ii) evolutionary capacity as fundamental traits. For the present work, we take a code biology perspective such that life arose with the emergence of the first organic code by self-organization. We propose that life’s conceptual structure should be reallocated from the ontology class of Matter to its sister aspect of Process. Living beings appeared when nucleic acids with coding properties became encapsulated, which led to viruses and of cells. Thus, life appears with the self-assembly of a genetic code and evolves by the emergence of a variety of overlapping codes. (Abstract excerpt)

Raczaszek-Leonardi, Joanna. Complementarity of Description and the Promise of Semiotics.. Biosemiotics. December, 2021. The University of Warsaw linguist and editor of the Howard Pattee (search) comments on Terrence Deacon’s October paper How Molecules Became Signs in this journal with a strong endorsement of a universal presence of coincident, archetypal opposites.

Here I wish to underscore that this general principle of complementarity, demonstrated by Deacon at the level of molecular biology, pertains to all levels of organization engaged in the process of adaptive complexification, and thus has profound consequences for other domains of cognitive and language science. (3)

Romanini, Vinicius and Eliseo Fernandez, eds. Peirce and Biosemiotics: A Guess at the Riddle of Life. Netherlands: Springer, 2014. Volume 11 in the Springer Biosemiotics series considers roots and relations between a new 21st century emphasis on organism and evolutionary communications and Charles Peirce’s (1839-1914) 19th century logical philosophy of semiotic significance. We note The Intelligible Universe by Nathan Houser, Semeiotic Causation and the Breath of Life by Menno Hulswit and Vinicius Romanini, and The Life of Symbols and Other Legisigns by Winfried Noth. The consensus could be a bio-cosmo-semiotics, an essential textual narrative of an organic genesis uniVerse.

This volume discusses the importance of Peirce´s philosophy and theory of signs to the development of Biosemiotics, the science that studies the deep interrelation between meaning and life. Peirce considered semeiotic as a general logic part of a complex architectonic philosophy that includes mathematics, phenomenology and a theory of reality. The authors are Peirce scholars, biologists, philosophers and semioticians united by an interdisciplinary endeavor to understand the mysteries of the origin of life and its related phenomena such as consciousness, perception, representation and communication.

Sharov, Alexei. Evolutionary Biosemiotics and Multilevel Construction Networks. Biosemiotics. Online August, 2016. The Russian-American, National Institute of Aging (NIA/NIH), research theorist (see third quote) continues his natural philosophy of a creative, lively cosmos which seems to be evolving, developing, and organizing itself by way of communicative qualities. Life’s emergence is seen to proceed by a series of major metasystem transitions (V. Turchin) from coenzyme biomolecules to civilizations. On the author’s website can be found a steady flow of essays since 1977, along with his scenic watercolor paintings.

The analysis of sign dynamics requires constructivism (in a broad sense) to explain how new components such as subagents, sensors, effectors, and interpretation networks are produced by developing and evolving organisms. Semiotic networks that include signs, tools, and subagents are multilevel, and this feature supports the plasticity, robustness, and evolvability of organisms. The origin of life is described here as the emergence of simple self-constructing semiotic networks that progressively increased the diversity of their components and relations. Semiotic networks are based on sequential and recursive construction, where each step produces components (i.e., agents, scaffolds, signs, and resources) that are needed for the following steps of construction. Multilevel semiotic networks reshape the phenotype of organisms by combining a mosaic of features developed via learning and evolution of cooperating and/or conflicting subagents. (Abstract)

Constructivism is a valuable addition to biosemiotics because it emphasizes the activity of agents in self-construction, self-reproduction, and development of sign relations. New sign relations emerge as modifications of older sign relations and employ already available tools, resources, and subagents. New levels of semiosis emerge via functional integration of interacting agents (meta-system transition). Multilevel semiotic networks are needed to support the plasticity, robustness, and evolvability of organisms. They coordinate the appearance of features developed via learning and evolution of cooperating and/or conflicting subagents. Principles of multilevel semiosis may appear useful not just in biology but also for managing cooperating activities of humans. (15)

I started my career as an entomologist and ecologist, but soon realized that I have to answer more fundamental questioins: what is life, how it evolves, learns, and functions. Thus I got involved in the Research Group on Theoretical Biology at Moscow State University, and started publishing theoretical papers. Later I organized a seminar and two conferences on Biosemiotics, which is a synthesis of biology and semiotics, a theory on signs and meanings. Since 2002, I work in molecular biology and bioinformatics, and this new field helped me to advance further in the area of theoretical biology and biosemiotics. (AS website)

Svorcova, Jana and Anton Markos. Closures as a Precondition of Life, Agency and Semiosis. Biosemiotics. February, 2023. Charles University, Prague philosophers (search) provide some latest insights about how a communicative facility ought to be given more significance as live evolves, develops, and talks to itself.

In this paper, we seek to orient and explain the evolution of life by way of cellular and supra-cellular closures as distinct boundary against the surroundings. Such compartments are a precondition of organisation, semiosis, and agency. We contend that dynamic, second-order closures (cell communities) also exist. These second-order closures further organise and form the core bonds that hold the biosphere together. We provide examples of many relationships and point to an elaborate network connecting all denizens of Earth’s living, well informed systems.

Swan, Liz Stillwaggon and Louis Goldberg. Introduction: Mentis Naturalis. Biosemiotics. Online March, 2013. Noted more in Intrinsic Consciousness and Intelligence, this special Origins of Mind issue follows a book with the same title edited by LS (search), to explore how the emergence of knowing sentience in entities and nature need be grounded in, indeed requires, a creative mind-suffused cosmos to arise from.

Taborsky, Edwina. Rational Decision Making in Biological Systems. Biosystems. April, 2022. The veteran Canadian semiotics theorist (search) provides a latest integral articulation of life’s deeply encoded, communicative, textual essence. See also How an Information Perspective Helps Overcome the Challenge of Biology to Physics by Keith Farnsworth in this same journal and month as another example of this narrative nature appreciation.

This article presents an outline of biological systems that understands them as self-organizing informational or semiosic systems operating pragmatically and therefore intelligently with their environments. Peircean semiosis, a key analytic method, is a triadic networking function which can be seen as a fundamental natural process within the universe of energy, matter, and mind. In this regard, it generates all morphological forms, both material and conceptual, as they enable adaptation and evolution. (Abstract)

Semiosis is a transformative process of informational dynamics which operates within the physico-chemical, biological and conceptual realms. Semiosis functions as a complex network that enables adaptive morphological formation or spatiotemporal modes of existence. That is, my view of biological systems is that they are capable of self-description and self-measurement on themselves and their immediate environments. This defines them as complex adaptive systems such that they function within a tacit system of rational, self-organized, goal-directed and adaptively functional information processing. (15)

Tournebize, Remi and Cedric Gaucherel. Language: A Fresh Concept to Integrate Syntactic and Semantic Information in Life Sciences. Biosystems. 160/1, 2017. CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) ecologists propose novel insights and clarifications for organisms and environments by the presence of an intrinsic linguistic activity. This additional quality then need be seen as composed of two complementary aspects. As the quotes cite, a syntactic mode tends more to “what” entities, while semantics allows a “where/why” capacity. And we further note that these tendencies well match cerebral left/right, ventral/dorsal reciprocities (Grossberg, et al). See also, e.g. Towards a Landscape Language by C. Gaucherel in PLoS One (7/9. 2012).

Several fields in biology tend to view the concept of information from one or the other of two extreme positions. Exclusionists base their stance of total rejection on gene-centrism and gene-determinism, typified by the recently-established endo-Darwinist school of life sciences. At the other end of the spectrum, there is total acceptance, as in the newly developed information-centered paradigms that populate biosemiotics. We propose in this paper to split the informational concepts into two irreducible (but linked) poles: the syntactic (concerned with the quantification of the information structure or complexity in a system), and the semantic (concerned with the organization rules and causality weights of interactions in a system). We claim that the past and present uses of the concept could then be classified as various degrees of oscillation between the two poles. The concept of language presents itself as a good tool with which to bridge the syntactic and the semantic poles, combining as it does the form-related and the meaning-related aspects of information, while methodologically supporting formal grammatical models in life sciences.. (Abstract)

We define syntactic information as a pattern-oriented quantification of a system structure. The theoretical developments centred on syntactic information have in common to quantify information to further understand relationships between the state/structure of a signal-emitting system and the state/structure of a receiver system. For example, the syntactic information in genetics may be found in the linear arrangement of DNA nucleotides as well as in the reading system, such as ribosomes. In population genetics, the fixation of a specific allel under a selective pressure precisely corresponds to the calculation of syntactic information on the DNA sequence samples. (3)

In a living system, we define semantic information as the pole of the total information concept relating to the causative power of the rule associating some elements or structures over other elements or structures. Theoretical and philosophical developments which fall under the “semantic information” umbrella have in common to define information in terms of prescriptive rules or “instructions.” The semantic information is process-oriented since it considers the causality involving the oriented and effective relationship between elements of a living system within itself and its environment. In contrast to syntactic information, the semantic information focuses on the “meaning” of its content relatively to an agent. (4)

Velmezova, Ekaterina, et al, eds. Biosemiotic Perspectives on Language and Linguistics. International: Springer, 2015. With coeditors Kalevi Kull and Stephen Cowley, a collection to join this growing sense of natural origins for life’s communicative qualities with our human propensities to speak and write. Among chapters are Language and Biosphere by Anton Markus, Deep Congruence between Linguistic and Biotic Growth by Jamin Lelkey, Before Babel: The Evolutionary Roots of Human Language by Piera Filippi, and Language as Primary Modeling and Natural languages by Susan Petrilli.

Without biosemiosis, there could be no human language. The volume presents international perspectives that have been inspired by this simple idea. The contributors open up new methods, directions and perspectives on both language in general and specific human languages. Many commonplace notions (language, dialect, syntax, sign, text, dialogue, discourse, etc.) have to be rethought once due attention is given to the living roots of languages. Accordingly, the contributors unite “eternal” problems of the humanities (such as language and thought, origin of language, prelinguistic meaning-making, borders of human language and “marginal” linguistic phenomena) with new inspirations drawing from natural science. Biosemiotics connects the sciences with the humanities while offering a new challenge to autonomous linguistics by pointing towards new kinds of interdisciplinary fusion.

Westling, Louise. The Logos of the Living World: Merleau-Ponty, Animals and Language. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014. Reviewed more in Rosetta Cosmos, the work is a perceptive synthesis of French phenomenology and current semiotic views.

Wheeler, Wendy. Expecting the Earth: Life/Culture/Biosemiotics. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2016. This latest contribution from the emeritus London Metropolitan University literature and culture scholar builds upon and crowns her erudite endeavor of deep research and insightful synthesis. In July the book was Amazon’s #1 New Release in General Library & Information Science, a good category because it envisions an evolutionary development of organisms and societies as distinguished by a dynamic communicative quality grounded in the new sciences of complex systems. I include a quote for her 2006 book The Whole Creature for the complexity turn she saw then has presently attained a robust fulfillment. A prime reason, it is explained, is a scientific advance beyond mechanical substance to equally real network inter-relations, which altogether proceed with informative discourse. The world, it turns out, is full of meanings, interpretations, purposes and teleologies. (59) By these lights, a physical cosmos gains a biosemiotic essence via John A. Wheeler’s It to Bit observance and Frank Wilczek’s quantum embodiment, with Andreas Wagner biological evolution resembles a library, ecosystems take on a “biosemiosis of natural poetry,” and with Gilbert Simondon human selves partake in an ontogenesis individuation.

To report this significant movement, we have added A Biosemiotic Essence section to the Systems Evolution chapter. Wendy Wheeler is a leading advocate, and emailed me that she was to speak in July at the University of Kansas. It occurred that one might say “Evolution is not in Kansas anymore.” While a state policy has been to question the theory itself, the problem is not with the science, but a vested reductive paradigm that misses a generative source, an embryonic emergence, and this semiotic essence. A closing section muses about a New Animism to better convey life’s procreative conversation. A task remains, if one may, to inquire what natural language is a vital, woman’s, family cosmos is actually written in, which phenomenal peoples seem meant to learn, read, and write. A surmise of this site is that it is a genetic narrative of DNA/AND, entities and empathy, yang and yin, masculine and feminine archetypes from cosmome and quantome to human epitome.

The richly thoughtful essay, as the title conveys, is graced by a vivifying, maternal metaphor. In some way, from our late retrospect, biosphere and personsphere is expectant of its creaturely gestation unto a worldwise humankinder at Earth’s hour. As life evolves complex bodies, better brains, remembered content, an episodic scale is traversed, which now rises to linguistic cultures. The Earth bears us, and we in turn give birth to it. (245) The theologian Gloria Schaab (search) also alludes to an evolutionary gestation unto nativity, which she says women are more familiar with. As this site reports (search Karin Schwab) upon a birth process the fetus awakes from a state of dream sleep to self-consciousness. By such perceptive, synoptic works as this, might a personal and planetary awakening dawn, so a better peaceful, sustainable future for children might happen.

The age of gene-centrism and mechanism is slowly passing. In its place, the biological sciences increasingly recognize that life isn't simply a genetically determined programme but is centrally a matter of information and communication systems nested in larger communicative systems. The latter include both internal and external, and natural and cultural, environments. Accordingly, a new interdiscipline, biosemiotics, has grown up to study the ontology of sign relations in biological, aesthetic and technological ecologies. From the Greek bios for life and semeion for sign, biosemiotics is the study of these intertwined natural and cultural sign systems of the living. Expecting the Earth draws on the semiotic philosophy of the American scientist and logician Charles Sanders Peirce, the semiotic ethology of Jakob von Uexkull's Umwelt Theory, Gregory Bateson's cybernetic ecology of mind, Jesper Hoffmeyer's development of biosemiotics, and briefly upon philosophical precursors such as Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari and Gilbert Simondon, as well as the growth of ecological developmental biology more widely. In this book, Wendy Wheeler formulates a history and theory of biosemiotic and proto-biosemiotic thinking in order to open up new possibilities of contemporary social, philosophical, aesthetic and technological engagement. (2016)

Drawing on the new field of complex adaptive systems and biosemiotics, this groundbreaking synthesis of evolutionary and cultural theory argues that—far from being opposed to nature—culture is the way that nature has evolved in human beings. This major contribution to both cultural studies and ecocriticism shows how complexity and biosemiotics forge the link between nature and culture, and provide a new and better understanding of how the whole human creature operates as both a social and biological being. (2006)

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