V. Systems Evolution: A 21st Century Genesis Synthesis
B. Evoinformatics: A Biosemiotic Quality
Expecting the Earth: Life/Culture/Biosemiotics.
London: Lawrence & Wishart,
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.
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)
Wheeler, Wendy. The Whole Creature: Complexity, Biosemiotics and the Evolution of Culture. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 2006. A Reader in English at London Metropolitan University situates this latest work within a grand historical revision about what kind of cosmos and nature we might abide in. Rather than the waning modernist machine, a postmodern alternative can view an innately organic milieu distinguished by dynamic, communicative systems which equally imbue biological and cultural evolution. In this new thinking and imminent synthesis, creative nets of interrelation and information join separate individuals and fragments into a viable social entity. But this well intentioned British sociological school labors within an ill defined “materialism” and verbose jargon not yet able to allow or envision a greater creation. (See also a review by John Pickering in the Journal of Consciousness Studies 14/2, 2007.)
This endeavor will involve, first, an encounter with the long revolution in human thought and scientific understanding which has gradually been building in the twentieth, and now twenty-first centuries: the revolution that is taking place in the scientific paradigm shift from ‘The Age of Reduction’ to ‘The Age of Emergence.’ (12) By drawing on developments in the sciences, particularly complexity science, I hope to show that sociality can be seen as firmly rooted in an account of evolution that sees it as a process of symbiogenetic co-operative communication (from the cell all the way up), with the consequent emergence of more complex levels of life. (13)
Wills, Peter. Genetic Information, Physical Interpreters and Thermodynamics: The Material-Informatic Basis of Biosemiosis. Biosemiotics. Online October, 2013. This latest edition by the University of Auckland physicist of his life project (search 2009) to resolve the dichotomy of regnant life and sapient beings and a physical substrate that it yet arose from and must be wholly continuous with is reviewed more in An Organic Cosmos.
Witzany, Guenther. Communication as the Main Characteristic of Life. Vera Kolb, ed. . Handbook of Astrobiology, 2019. The Austrian philosopher (search) continues his emphasis that cross-information and sign-sharing amongst and across all manner of fauna and flora from life’s cellular advent is a vital, definitive characteristic. The medium is the message from chemical and electro-sensory modes to gestures and grunts on to our loquacious language. The chapter courses through fungi, plants, genomes, bacteria, eukaryotes, viruses, insects, while finally reaching we peoples. Within this subject book, this essence of an animate semiotic ecosmos is suggested as a good guide for astrobiological surveys going forward.
Witzany, Guenther, ed. Biocommunication of Animals. Dordrecht: Springer, 2914. The Austrian biophilosopher gathers another volume about how flora and fauna across all evolutionary scales are distinguished by constant conversations, a natural talk show. Chapters span spiders, kangaroo rats, crows, wolves, catfish, elephants, ants, chimpanzees, nematodes, parrots and more. See especially How Corals Coordinate and Organize by Pierre and GW which about the presence of semio-physical symbioses, fractal self-similarity and modular networks.
Every coordination within or between animals depends on communication processes. Although the signaling molecules, vocal and tactile signs, gestures and its combinations differ throughout species due to their evolutionary origins and adaptation processes, certain levels of biocommunication can be found throughout such as environmental indices (temperature, light, water, etc.), trans-specific communication with non-related organisms, species-specific communication, and intraorganismic communication, i.e., sign-mediated coordination within the body of the organism.(Summary)
Witzany, Gunther. Uniform Catergorization of Biocommunication in Bacteria, Fungi and Plants. World Journal of Biological Chemistry. Vol.1/Iss.5, 2010. In addition to his novel insights on genome phenomena, (search) the Austrian natural philosopher here features the importance of constant semiotic exchange at life’s every stage. The three title domains are seen to employ communicative competences, semiochemical vocabularies, transorganismic and interorganismic dialogues, and so on as they live and learn. This new online journal comes from Beijing, a peer-reviewed Chinese edition akin to the American Public Library of Science or British Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
Until the last decade of the 20th century, the interactions within and between organisms have been investigated in a great variety of biological disciplines under the assumption of a rather mechanistic stimulus-reaction pattern, which in principle can be reconstructed by quantifiable and formalizable procedures expressed in terms like “machinery”, “apparatus” and “mechanism”. In the last decade, it has become undoubtedly clear that organisms interact by using signals as signs according to combinatorial rules (syntax), contextual rules (pragmatic) and content-specific rules (semantic) that cannot be reduced to one another but are crucial for successful communication processes. (160)